Monday, 8 July 2013

Barbara and Magina

Whereas the Parque National/Natural Sierra Nevada is a clear honeypot, busy 7/7, there are other parques natural in the region that are very much less frequented.

It felt like I had the Parque Natural de la Sierra Baza to myself. During the long drive in and out of the park on typically unpaved roads I did not see anyone – and no-one drove past whilst I bagged the highest point, Santa Barbara – a Major P1155, the 14th most prominent mountain on the Iberian peninsula, 2271m high marked with a trigpoint at the unambiguous summit at N37.38052 W2.84203.
I left the motorhome in the shade of some trees on the wide Collado de la Mina at N.37.37493 W2.85077 (1970m). There is a narrow track that heads east. 


I turned left at a ruin on an old miner’s road up to a slag heap and the first of many mine workings for iron, copper and mercury abandoned in 1960. Not always a nature park, then. There are a number of unprotected shafts and levels in the hillside – H&S reps would have apoplexy if they were to see them.

Mine level
Mine entrance
Santa Barbara's trigpoint
There is no need for me to describe the route I took up as there are numerous options available. Just walk up until you get to the top – however, be careful you don’t fall into a mineshaft, could be fun if covered with snow. The summit is mercifully free of masts and the view is good, if a little hazy. I descended by a different route – I would have been hard-pressed to identify my ascent route. 
Mine shaft - a chough's ideal home?
Two black choughs with crimson beaks got quite agitated as I approached a mineshaft they were presumably nesting in. One flew off to distract me, the other squawked angrily and disappeared down the shaft. I found a way through the trees directly back to the motorhome
3.88km, 389m ascent

Santa Barbara
Overnight in the centre of the town of Huelma, Jaen Province (967m) next to the town brass band’s practice room. They seemed to be practicing the same tune all evening with no audible improvement – a barking dog added counterpoint.
Magina teeth
Sierra Magina
The sign indicated no two-wheeled vehicles, but nothing about four-wheeled ones as I turned left off the A324 road from Huelma – a few hundred metres after the Mata Bejid visitor centre. The unpaved road was in a poor state and I dreaded what was to come as it crossed the Sierra Magina to the town of Torres on the other side. I was hoping and wishing it would improve and not get worse when I rounded a bend and found myelf behind a bulldozer levelling the road. I had visions that Pico de Magina was not going to be bagged that day. However, after a kilometre the driver pulled over to one side and I had a ‘conversation’ with two workmen in which I only understood about five word they used. However, I think the gist of what they were saying is that I could carry on up the road – but I would not be able to get back the same way later on. I think I also understood that the road to Torres, the northern ‘salida’ was open – but I wasn’t totally sure. We shook hands and I proceeded. Later on there were signs up saying the ‘camino’ was ‘cerrado’ because of ‘obras’ back to the south – confirming what I had thought. The good news for anyone wanting to get there in the future, the unpaved road will be in good condition for a year or so.
Pico de Magina is yet another Major, P1137, the 18th most prominent hill on the peninsula, 2167m high and marked by a trigpoint at N37.72598 W3.46412. The original plan was to drive a close as possible and do a quick morning bag with the hope of getting to Sierra Sagra in the afternoon. However, Magina turned out to be more challenging and, importantly, more interesting to be treated as a shabby ‘bag’.

The ‘sendero normal’ I think starts from a point on the main unpaved road at Cortijo de los Prados at approximately N37.72120 W3.49770 (1380m). However, I had driven past this point, as part of my original plan and discovered a side road to the right at N37.73050 W3.48870 (1580m). This road is eventually blocked by a gate and a ‘prohibido’ sign – I turned round to find space off road with tree shelter at N37.73388 W3.47566 (1720m). I walked back to the gate – that had a fence running up the hillside (I will mention this fence again) and carried on to N3773414 W3.47150 where there was a trace of a path through the vegetation. From there I kept finding, and losing, tracks presumably made by Ibex goats until I ended back by the aforementioned fence. It would probably been as easy just to follow the fence up from the gate. I kept with the fence for a while and then ended up doing some interesting weathered limestone scrambling, which I could have easily avoided. I reached an obvious gap on the skyline at N37.72775 W3.46889 (2086m) to find myself on the edge of a wide sinkhole.
View from the gap
I wandered around a bit looking at interesting features before finding a well used path to the summit – which is probably the least interesting bit of the overall ridge.

There are lots of other tops, a snow-well and scrambly bits to play on. I decided to follow the ridge west as far as the Pena de Jaen (the sadness of Jaen?) which is marked with a boring cross at N3772455 W3.47625 (2135m).

You will see from the above picture why I realised after a short while that there was not an easy way off the end of the ridge back to the motorhome. I made my way back to N37.72515 W47356 (2050m) where I picked a well used groovy path that is presumably a way for pilgrims to the cross. I eventually abandoned this pilgrim’s way ( a case of amazing disgrace, you might say) at N37.72935 W47752 (1840m) so I am not sure where it meets the road. However, finding a way to the amazing disgrace point from anywhere on the road would be simple, vegetation allowing. My variant of the pilgrim’s way ended at N37.73293 W3.47689.
7.67km 731m ascent
Magina from the north
Later, I drove along what the authorities have named the route of the olives. The reason is obvious, the smell of olives is overpowering and the cicada were so loud they drowned out my car audio. I just hope that scientists don’t discover that olives are carcinogenic or anything as the local economy of Jaen would flatline. Cashcrop craziness.

Overnight in the centre of the town Huescar – I like my towns of different hues.

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