Mt. Mulhacén (Spain) – June 19th, 2016
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” – Steve Jobs
Why This Mountain?
I chose Mt. Mulhacén for two reasons: 1) It was geographically close to the El Caminito del Rey trail which I desperately wanted to do, and 2) It was the highest mountain in the Iberian peninsula and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I also very much liked that the mountain range was the Sierra Nevadas which is also the name of the mountain range in northern California that is home to Mt. Whitney (the highest point in the contiguous United States). I will hopefully be summitting Mt. Mulhacen on Father’s Day which will make this mountain extra special for me in memory of my father.
Mountain & Route Facts
Jutting up above the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains, Mulhacén Peak is the highest mountain in continental Spain and in the Iberian Peninsula and may just be the final resting place of a 15th century king. It is named after Abu l-Hasan Ali, or Muley Hacén as he is known in Spanish, the penultimate Muslim King of Granada in the 15th century who, according to legend, was buried on the summit of the mountain. Mulhacén is the highest peak in Europe outside the Caucasus Mountains and the Alps.
The peak is not exceptionally dramatic in terms of steepness or local relief thus the path to Spain’s tallest mainland peak is not actually too challenging, gently rising along the back of the mountain, but the view from the top is nonetheless breathtaking. Despite the peak’s relative ease, a group of three British hikers perished on the slopes in 2006 from hypothermia and a commemorative plaque now remembers them at the summit.
The peak can be climbed in a single day, but we opted to spend a night on the mountain and stay at the Poqueira Refuge in order to get a flavor of the hut system that is so common place in European hiking. Our guide will be Martin Riley from the Sierra Nevada Guides Company.
Historical and Cultural Information
Mt. Mulhacén is located near Granada in the Andalusia region of Spain. Andalusia is a south-western European region established as an autonomous community of the Kingdom of Spain. It is the most populated and the second largest in area of the autonomous communities in Spain. The capital of Andalusia is Seville.
Andalusia has been a traditionally agricultural region, compared to the rest of Spain and the rest of Europe. Many cultural phenomena that are seen internationally as distinctively Spanish are largely or entirely Andalusian in origin. These include flamenco, bullfighting, and certain Moorish-influenced architectural styles.
The geostrategic position of Andalusia in the extreme south of Europe, providing (along with Morocco) a gateway between Europe and Africa, added to its position between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, as well as its rich deposits of minerals and its agricultural wealth, have made Andalusia a tempting prize for civilizations since prehistoric times.
Several theories postulate that the first hominids in Europe were in Andalusia, having passed across the Strait of Gibraltar; the earliest known paintings of humanity have been found in the Caves of Nerja, Málaga. The first settlers, based on artifacts from the archaeological sites at Los Millares, El Argar, and Tartessos, were clearly influenced by cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean who arrived on the Andalusian coast. Andalusia then went through a period of protohistory, when the region did not have a written language of its own, but its existence was known to and documented by literate cultures, principally the Phoenicians (Gadir, Malaka) and Ancient Greeks. During the second millennium BCE, the kingdom of Tartessos developed in Andalusia
With the fall of the Phoenician cities, Carthage became the dominant sea power of the western Mediterranean and the most important trading partner for the Phoenician towns along the Andalusian coast. Between the First and Second Punic Wars, Carthage extended its control beyond Andalucia to include all of Iberia except the Basque Country. Andalusia was the major staging ground for the war with Rome led by the Hannibal Barca. The Romans defeated the Carthaginians and conquered Andalusia, the region being renamed Baetica. It was fully incorporated into the Roman Empire, and from this region came many Roman magistrates and senators, as well as the emperors Trajan and (most likely) Hadrian.
The Vandals moved briefly through the region during the 5th century AD before settling in North Africa, after which the region fell into the hands of the Visigothic Kingdom. The Visigoths in this region were practically independent of the Visigothic Catholic Kingdom of Toledo. This is the era of Saints Isidore of Seville andHermenegild. During this period, around 555 AD, the Eastern Roman Empire conquered Andalusia under Justinian I, the Eastern Roman Emperor. They established Spania, a province of the Byzantine Empire from 552 until 624. Though their holdings were quickly reduced, they continued to have interests in the region until it was lost altogether in 624.
The Visigothic era came to an abrupt end in 711 with the Umayyad conquest of Hispania by the Umayyad general Tariq ibn Ziyad, an Islamic Berber. Tariq is known in Spanish history and legend as a formidable conqueror who dared and bore the nerve to burn his fleet of ships, when he landed with his troops on the coast of Gibraltar – an acronym of “Jabel alTariq” meaning “the mountain of Tariq”. The Muslim conquest—by the Umayyad Caliphate—of the Iberian Peninsulain 711–718 marked the collapse of Visigothic rule and the establishment of the Islamic Empire era. Andalusian culture was fundamentally influenced by over half a millennium of rule by many Muslim caliphates and emirates. In this period, the name “Al-Andalus” was applied to a much larger area than the present Andalusia, and in some periods it referred to nearly the entire Iberian peninsula.
The Moors ruled parts of Andalucia from the early 8th until the late 15th centuries – 800 years of history. Their legacy, especially in terms of what we can see today, was considerable, with two of the region’s most important and most-visited monuments – the Alhambra and the Mezquita – dating from Moorish times. Both are UNESCO World Heritage sites.
By the 10th century, the Christians of northern Spain had begun what would eventually become the Reconquista: the reconquest of Spain for Christendom. Caliph Abd-ar-Rahman suffered some minor military defeats, but often managed to manipulate the Christian kingdoms to act against each other’s interests. Al-Hakam achieved military successes, but at the expense of uniting the Christian kings of the north against him.
After the conquest of Toledo in 1086 by Alfonso VI, Christian rule dominated the peninsula. The main Taifas therefore had to resort to assistance from various Muslim powers across the Mediterranean. A number of different Muslim dynasties of North African origin—notably Almoravid dynasty and Almohad dynasty—dominated a slowly diminishing Al-Andalus over the next several centuries.
After the Muslim victory at the Battle of Sagrajas (1086) put a temporary stop to Christian expansion, the Almoravid dynasty constructed a unified Al-Andalus with its capital in Granada, ruling until the mid-12th century. The various Taifa kingdoms were assimilated. the Almohad dynasty expansion in North Africa weakened Al-Andalus, and in 1170 the Almohads transferred their capital from Marrakesh to Seville. The Christian victory at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212) marked the beginning of the end of the Almohad dynasty.
The fall of Granada in 1492 put an end to Muslim rule in the Iberian peninsula. The last Nasrid (Moor) ruler, Boabdil, was exiled briefly to the Alpujarras before finally leaving Al-Andalús for Fez in Morocco.
On 3 August 1492 Christopher Columbus left the town of Palos de la Frontera, with the first expedition that resulted in the Europeans learning of the existence of America. Many Andalusians participated in the expedition that would end the Middle Ages and signal the beginning of modernity. Contacts between Spain and the Americas, including royal administration and the shipping trade of Spanish colonies for over three hundred years, came almost exclusively through Andalusia. As a result, the region became the wealthiest and most influential in Spain and one of the most influential in Europe. However, Habsburg ambitions elsewhere in Europe diverted much of the colonial wealth to war. Discontent with this situation culminated in 1641, when the Andalusian nobility staged an unsuccessful conspiracy to gain independence in 1641 from the provincial government of the Gaspar de Guzmán, Count-Duke of Olivares.
In the first half of the 16th century plague was still prevalent in Spain. An epidemic started in 1505 and by 1507, about 100,000 people had died in Andalusia alone… Andalusia was struck once again in 1646. For three years, plague haunted the entire region, causing perhaps as many as 200,000 deaths, especially in Málaga and Seville.”
In 1810-12 the people strongly resisted the French occupation during the Peninsular War (part of the Napoleonic Wars).
Andalusia profited from the Spanish overseas empire, although much trade and finance eventually came to be controlled by other parts of Europe to where it was ultimately destined. In the 18th century, commerce from other parts of Spain began to displace Andalusian commerce when the Spanish government ended Andalusia’s trading monopoly with the American colonies. The loss of the empire in the 1820s hurt the economy of the region, particularly the cities that had benefited from the trade and ship building. The construction of railways in the latter part of the 19th century enabled Andalusia to better develop its agricultural potential and it became an exporter of food. While industrialisation was taking off in the northern Spanish regions of Catalonia and the Basque country, Andalusia remained traditional and displayed a deep social division between a small class of wealthy landowners and a population made up largely of poor agricultural labourers and tradesmen.