21 Feb 2012

Cold and windy hike along the Sierra Els Plans... a.k.a. my first "3000m" climb!

Ok, so not really a climb up a single 3000 m (9842 ft) peak, but we did make it to three different peaks that were each over 1000 m above sea level and 3*1000 = 3000, right? ;o) Yeah, yeah, I know... not the same! Particularly since we didn't climb up 1000 m each time (the whole hike had an approximate cumulative climb of 900 m - 2952 ft.) But it was our running gag for the day, how we were these fabulous mountain climbers making it up our first 3000m! lol! :D

We (the Centro Excursionista de Alicante) started out at 788 m above sea level from the town of Torremanzanas, whose name is a bit of a cheat since in English it would translate as "Tower of Apples" but there is no tower and there are no apples! It's an erroneous Castilian transliteration of the Valencian/Catalan name La Torre de les Maçanes (which probably means the Maçanes -name of some family?- Tower, but if there ever was a tower, it's gone!). The town is kind of surrounded on its northwestern side by the Sierra Els Plans which is part of the climatological frontier between the greener (i.e.*slightly* rainier) interior and the more arid coastal part of the province of Alicante. Our objective was to climb to the highest peak Els Plans (1330m), then walk along the (wide) ridge to the secondary peak called La Xamarra (1224m) then head back down into the valley and up a neighbouring third peak the Montagut (1081m). And for once I've got an altitud/distance profile of the hike to share!

Oh, and as the title of this post implies... it was COLD!!! It was the first day of a Siberian weather front that stayed with us for another 3 weeks (leaving snow in some of the local mountains) and which still hasn't quite decided to leave, a full month later! It was barely above freezing when we started out, it did get warmer throughout the day thanks to the sun, but there was a constant breeze/wind that had me wishing I had brought a pair of thermal pants to wear under my hiking pants! BRRRRR!!! First time in Alicante I've hiked with so many layers...

We exited the town following the signs for the P.R.V.-232 along a dry ravine and then across the road to start climbing the path that would take us up to the Sierra Els Plans. Right out of the town I saw a lovely blooming almond tree in a field which I took to be a sign of good things to come.

lonely almond tree cheering up the place
heading up!

Like I said, despite the cold it was a gloriously sunny day, and it felt really good to be out in it, particularly surrounded by such fascinating geological features as these rocks walls which seemed to close in the valley leading down from the mountain:

We just kept going up, up and up. 

We were aiming for our first mid-morning snack stop at the Pou (Pozo) del Rentonar a magnificently well-preserved 18th century snow well (I really need to do a post these old on snow wells one day! They were used to store snow which was later sold as ice to towns, a lucrative business between the 16th-19th centuries). Can you make it out in this next shot? They blend really well in to the landscape...

Pou del Rentonar and the peak of Els Plans above it

Here I am in front of one of the two main entrances, near the top:

and looking down inside:

I walked around to find that second entrance:

and when I looked in I could see a third entrance at the ground level that looked to be little more than a drainage hole (but I've been told that's how they entered in the off season to clean it out):

Could you make out the access point down there? Roughly between 2-3 o'clock (if it were a watch), a dark spot... Let's come back out into the light 

and look for the corresponding exterior access point. Had to climb down a ways for that since the well is 13m (46.6ft) deep. Here it is, at the base of the structure (apparently it's 50*70 cm and 29 m long until you reach the interior of the well, not for me thanks!):

Enough dilly-dallying! After that bit of exploring I quickly ate my snack and then we were off again to reach the summit, albeit by a roundabout path heading south instead of climbing straight up...

At least this gave me my first clear view of Alicante and the bay!

After about 15' of walking in what seemed like the wrong direction the path finally looped back and headed towards the peak. Although all this looping around helps reduce the steepness of the climb, there were still some stiff parts to deal with!

But the views from the top made it all worthwhile (as usual!). Check out this spectacular view towards the north of the Puig Campana (furthest right, my pre-Christmas climb) and the Aitana (centre), Alicante's second and highest peaks respectively:

Definitely gave me that "top of the world!" sensation. :o)

For all of us! 

You can tell it's cold and windy just by looking at us all in that shot! :p

So a short stop to enjoy the views, then it's off along the ridge (which included a bit more going down and up than I had anticipated) 

until we reached the peak called the Raçó de la Xamarra

from whence I had an even better view of Alicante (silhouetted against the Mediterranean since the sun was in that direction). If you know the city as well as I do you can easily identify the major landmarks in this shot, I can even make out my parents' apartment building! :o)

From there we wound our way down the mountain,

until we reached the remains of the old Corral de Els Matets (remains of brick walls outside a cave in the mountain, space for the shepherds and their flock).

Then it was through the woods a ways,

until it was time to start climbing again.

Up, up, up and UP! I called it the never-ending climb 'cause each time I thought we'd reached the top I'd discover the trees had been blocking my view of yet another stretch we had to climb up!

You can bet I was really happy to dig into my sandwich by the time we reached the top! :p

After a while enjoying our lunch, the sun, the views... we headed back down through the woods,

and then came to the cultivated lands...

with almonds trees!!! :o)

Is it obvious how much I enjoy these trees when they're in bloom? (it has nothing to do with how much I like almonds and almond-based products like turrón, I swear!)

 Such gorgeous flowers... and so short-lived!

Walked back into town... and voilà! 

Our story ends there. With a warm friendly drink in a local bar and then a ride home to soak in the tub for a while (to warm up!).


  1. No, it's not the same as ONE entire 3,000 peak, but it's certainly nothing to sneeze at, either. LOVE the pictures of the blue sky and the beautifulpink flowers!

    1. I know... but since we don't have any of those around here (and the Pyrenees are a bit far away), we have to improvise! ;o)

  2. Wonderful hike, really interesting about the snow wells! Love the photo of you with the almond tree.

    1. lol! there's a whole series of shots with that almond tree! a couple of flowery branches were on the ground next to it and I had FUN! ;o)

  3. I like the picture of you in your winter outfit – I hope you stayed warm as it sounded like a pretty cold hike to me. I admire your strength.

    1. It was only really cold on the peaks or when we stopped for a break. Hiking our bodies heated us up just fine! ;o)

  4. Lol. Trust me, in seeing your pictures, I live vicariously on these hikes. MOAR ALMOND TREES!!!

    On a side note: I suddenly want to see an actual tower made of apples. :P


    1. I promise to keep my eyes peeled for any towers made of apples! But I'm afraid we may soon be running out of almond trees in bloom... short flowery season! BUT... the cherry trees are starting this month! ;o)


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