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Written by Olivier & translated by AnnaBeth

 As winter approached Anna talked about getting snowshoes. She studied the European style raquetas de nieve and the differences between her beloved, classical Tubbs, Atlas and Sherpas and the outer-space looking European versions. Research completed, she grabbed a serious pair of Tubbs on Ebay and we ordered a couple pairs of the European models. It was clear: her birthday would include snowshoeing in one of the Andalusian mountain chains.

 

 

The week before Anna’s birthday we watched the mountain weather forecast closely for heavy snow fall. It became apparent that the snowiest slopes would be found in those powerful, mysterious mountains of southern Spain, the Sierra Nevada.

We discovered that almost all the villages of the region are located on the outskirts of the mountain chain. Only two communities, the Sierra Nevada ski resort and the village of Trevélez are situated deep in the mountains.  We headed for Trevélez for a long weekend.

 

 

 

 The Sierra Nevada mountains stretch wide from east to west and include the highest European peaks west of the Alps, the Mulhacen and the Valeta at over 11,000 ft. Apparently, on a clear day one can see the coast of Africa from the mountain tops.

This region has a long history of isolation and much of the Sierra is still inaccessible by car. We would be arriving from the north but to reach Trevélez we would need to enter the mountains from the southern side of the chain. We decided to take the only road that traverses the Sierra, running north-south through the Puerto de la Ragua (Ragua Pass) at 7,000 ft of altitude. From the south side of the Sierra, we would then head west and loop back north into the mountains via the narrow road that ends in Trevélez. The trip would take three hours.

 

 

 

The morning of our trip a light snow fell on Galera, where we are living. (We'll be writing about Galera soon.) We woke up to fields sprinkled with white outside our door, not enough to snowshoe but a positive omen for Anna’s birthday!

 

 

We drove south later that day in search of deep snow. Approaching the snowcapped Sierra Nevada as night fell, our excitement grew. As we turned onto the narrow mountain road leading up to the Col de la Ragua we were confronted with a large sign posting weather conditions. The Ragua Pass was closed due to snowfall!  Oops! We had not checked before leaving. Snow was such an exotic event that we had not considered the possibility of too much snow.

The best option was to circle west all the way around the mountains. The drive alongside the Sierra Nevada is beautiful in daytime but in darkness the winding road was long and tedious.

 

 

Along the mountain range we pass through the pueblos blancos (white villages) whose churches are illuminated at night in soft golden hues.

 

 

Trevélez is situated deep in the valley where the Rio de Trevélez emerges from a chasm in the mountains. The last segment of the road does some serious twisting and requires concentration. At last the lights of Trevélez reveal themselves and offer a remarkable view on arrival. The village is compact, all white, and climbs up the terraced mountain slope.

 

Trevélez in daytime under cloud cover.

 

 

 We have booked our stay at the Apartamentos Balcon del Cielo, a lodge on a hillside just outside of Trevélez, but according to the owners Pilar and Ramon, snowfall is expected to create hazardous conditions for descending the steep hill that leads to their property. Ramon is away in Granada and Pilar has babies to care for so they will plow the road tomorrow. In the meantime, we’ll spend our first night in the very heart of the village.

We arrive in Trevélez at 10 pm. Silence. Not a soul seems to live here. Winding our way uphill through the narrow, empty streets to our hotel, we notice names of family businesses painted in massive black letters across white walls of three-storied warehouse-type buildings. The family names are followed by the word jamon (ham). One name stands out most often: Antonio Alvarez Jamon. It seems he might own the whole village.

Everything is dark apart from a few random windows of houses and a couple of bars; any self-respecting mountain village has a late night bar offering travelers a chance to warm up on a chilly night. Everyone in Trevélez seems to have gone to bed except our hotel host, who invites us into his tiny bar and jovially offers us drinks and tapas.

 

 

If you look closely you can see cured ham thighs hanging in the window on the left.

 

We introduce ourselves and discover that our host is indeed the Antonio Alvarez. He tells us about his horse farm up the road above the village and proudly announces that his hotel is updated and equipped with underfloor heating. He wants us to change our plans and stay at his place for the weekend so we explain that we’ve already paid for our stay on bookings.com. He is not so familiar with the world of internet reservations but he gets the idea and switches to encouraging us to stay with him next time. He insists that we will regret our new lodging tomorrow, as we will forfeit the comfort of underfoot warmth. We smile, hoping he is wrong.

We sit at the dark wooden circular bar, some twenty legs of air-dried, cured jamon serrano hanging above our heads. After the hours of mountain driving, this break is welcome. I have a glass of wine and Antonio prepares his tapas of ... jamon, of course. Anna has a café descafeinado. She pulls out her snack of rice cakes and I munch on slices of dried pig.

Because our visit was primarily motivated by our pursuit of deep snow, we had not informed ourselves about the actual village of Trevélez. And sometimes it’s more fun to travel that way. We quickly discover that the village’s commerce is based in the business of cured ham. The mountain air and high altitude make it possible to air dry the ham, producing an especially prized regional specialty.

Anna does not eat pork and this makes for an interesting challenge when traveling in Spain. The next day we discover this village monument.

 

 

It turns out that it did not snow in or around Trevélez. In fact, there is no snow here at all. In the morning light, we can see patches of white on the mountain tops above. We ask around and decide to head up to the Col de la Ragua, the mountain pass that was closed last night. The locals agree that the pass is probably open from the south. I call the Ragua Pass information line and get no information. We make a guess that "nothing to report" means it’s open.

 

 

 

First we stop off at our weekend apartamento where it did not snow either. Anna and I note that indeed, the road down to the lodge could be treacherous in inclement weather. Our new abode is plum in the middle of nature, surrounded by ravines, with the gurgle of water wafting up from deep down in the gorge. Inside, the place has wood floors and will warm right up with a good fire. If the bathroom tiles are cold we will wear slippers. Comfortable though it was for one night, we’re not going to miss the heated floor at the village hotel of Antonio Alvarez.

 

 

We pack up our snowshoes, snacks and thermos of hot tea. We're headed for the Puerto de La Ragua in search of a snow covered mountain.

Read our next post for Part 2 of this story!

 

 

Comments  

0 #14 DIANE wenger 2017-07-01 03:51
Fantastic pictures of the area! Makes me dream of being there. Thanks for sharing the spectacular views!
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0 #13 AB 2017-04-01 02:43
Quoting maddy bergis:
Bravo Annabeth, Nous suivons tes récits avec joie;
Les photos sont très belles ainsi que les commentaires
mais nous n'irons pas vous voir car nous sommes un
peu rouillés maintenant et nous devons nous contenter
de nos séjours en Tarn et Garonne !! Je fais suivre tes
récits à un ami qui aime l'Andalousie.
Merci et continues. Bisous :P

C'est super, Maddie, que vous lisez nos récits. La version française du dernier article va être publiée demain. Vous pouvez le suggerer à vos amis non-Anglophones. (Ils peuvent aussi s'inscribe pour les recevoir directement.) Je suis desolée qu'on ne vous vera pas ici, mas je suis très contente de partager un peu de ma vie avec vous quand-même! Le bonjour à Jean Louis!
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0 #12 maddy bergis 2017-03-31 22:43
Quoting maddy bergis:
Bravo Annabeth, Nous suivons tes récits avec joie;
Les photos sont très belles ainsi que les commentaires
mais nous n'irons pas vous voir car nous sommes un
peu rouillés maintenant et nous devons nous contenter
de nos séjours en Tarn et Garonne !! Je fais suivre tes
récits à un ami qui aime l'Andalousie.
Merci et continues. Bisous :P

:P :P
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+1 #11 maddy bergis 2017-03-31 19:06
Bravo Annabeth, Nous suivons tes récits avec joie;
Les photos sont très belles ainsi que les commentaires
mais nous n'irons pas vous voir car nous sommes un
peu rouillés maintenant et nous devons nous contenter
de nos séjours en Tarn et Garonne !! Je fais suivre tes
récits à un ami qui aime l'Andalousie.
Merci et continues. Bisous :P
Quote
+1 #10 AB 2017-03-14 23:57
Hello Everyone, Thank you for your wonderful responses - Part 2 is on its way soon!
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+1 #9 Karen 2017-03-14 20:31
Excellent photos and well written, should submit it to a travel journal. Keep it up, I am looking forward to see what you do for the Galera post. I hope it inspires all those laid back Galereans to get up and go, explore. You are fortunate not to have the place swarming with tourists, beauty on your doorstep. An inspiring post.
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+1 #8 Josh 2017-03-13 22:53
Love the pictures of Trevelez, by day and by night.
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+1 #7 Arielle Perla Zack 2017-03-11 21:05
Annabeth and Olivier, I am so glad that I will be heading to Europe next month and getting to do some exploring of my own with my husband--your stunning photos and descriptions only add to my growing excitement! Wish you'd still be there when we arrive, but hopefully I will be able to see you, Annabeth, in Florida when you're there soon. Please let me know if that will work out when you have a moment away from your diligent trekking and self-expressing. Wishing you both caves full of Love!
Ar
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+1 #6 Ninah 2017-03-10 19:19
What an adventure. Your descriptions are so vivid I feel like I am along on the journey.
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+1 #5 joan 2017-03-09 17:43
So enjoyable to read and to share in the adventure. xoxo
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+1 #4 Cecilia 2017-03-09 01:17
Will AnnaBeth and Olivier get to use their snow shoes....?
xoxoxo
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+1 #3 Jineen 2017-03-08 16:06
I love hearing about your adventures and seeing photos that capture the feel of what your are up to. The photo of the snow shoes made me want to have a pair, even though I definitely don't need them here in Florida.
I love your blog- thanks for sharing and for the inspiration.
Blessings on your journey.
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+1 #2 Inge Karson 2017-03-08 12:07
Wonderful! I enjoy it every minute.
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+1 #1 Lynn 2017-03-08 01:16
Awesome! Love reading about your adventures.
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