Hard Going on the Tozal del Cartujo ridge

A tough return for me to high mountain scrambling on this mountaineering ascent of the north ridge of Tozal del Cartujo in Spain's Sierra Nevada

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Hard Going on the Tozal del Cartujo ridge

First of all, a video of the trip.

This is one of my favourite mountaineering adventures but it had been some time, a heart attack and a pacemaker implant, since I had last attempted this magnificent route. I decided that I should attempt the route over two days, well two half days actually. We would ascend to overnight camp at Lagunillo Misterioso in the afternoon and do the route early on day 2.

Afternoon of Day 1

We cheated and got the National Park bus to los Posiciones del Veleta. Worth the €7 one way cost as it meant it was all downhill to the campsite at Lagunillo Misterioso. Lazy eh?

We skirted Laguna las Yeguas on it's western side and found a way through a low band of easy slabs to pick up a path that traversed to the lake.

Summer River Walks near Granada

The lake really is hidden away and well named "Lagunillo Misterioso". You can't see the lake until you are almost falling in it!

We spent a lovely few hours by the gentle waters of the lake before taking up position on a large boulder to watch the setting sun. Below "The last ray of the sun".

The last ray of the sun

Morning of Day 2

We left camp at 7am. Traversing the mountain to find the start of the true north ridge wasn't easy. Sometimes there is a faint track, but mostly it is rough and pathless. It's a gentle ascending traverse that is required, always looking for the easiest line and terrain. A few cairns help.

Arriving at the ridge proper its evident the scrambling starts much higher. At this point it's a broad ridge, easily to ascend but boring. Ahead lies the promise of better things to come.

The better things arrive and the hands need to leave the pockets. Passing just right of a rocky slab brings you straight away onto very exposed terrain. There is no time for a warm up! The exact route is hard to describe, just keep to the ridge crest as much as you dare and enjoy the spectacular situations (Scrambling Grade 3S).

Escape can be found to the right for the nervous, but the best line is almost always direct. You arrive at a big chimney to the right which looks harder than it is.

The upper part of the chimney has possibly the most exposed moves but can easily be protected by a sling and Italian Hitch from the rocks above.

Through a gap and up to the next summit on the ridge. At this point you have two choices

  1. Keep to the ridge which requires a 10m abseil and a climb of a Climbing Grade 4+ chimney
  2. Drop down to the right and traverse across to pick up a section of easy slabs (Scrambling Grade 1)

We chose the latter option as we didn't carry enough rope and protection equipment for the former. The slabs were easy, but tiring. Above the slabs came the hardest part of the day for me. The adrenaline from the exposure had gone and it was a tough trudge at altitude up to the summit of Tozal del Cartujo (3152m).

From the summit we did the ridge to the Refugio Elorrietta and then easily down and then through the deserted ski debris back to the Hoya de la Mora. 7 hours total.

It was a tough day. I was totally knackered! Amazing scenery. Won't be posting our efforts on Strava etc as it took us the first four hours of the day to cover just 2km.

Anyway when the aches and pains have gone in the next few days (weeks?) I will look back on this day as one of the really excellent ones. Thanks to Alistair, Kath, Graeme, Kiersten and Michael for coming along.

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