29 Mar 2012

Hiking the Snow Well route from Ibi to Alcoy

I believe I mentioned last Fall that the Diputación (Provincial Government in Alicante aka representation of the National Gvmt) organises hikes on Sundays... They fill up a bus, and since it's subsidised it's quite a bit cheaper than other groups that take you out by bus... which means there's a very high demand to get a spot! In fact, if you don't send in your e-mail requesting a spot for a Sunday hike at precisely 9 a.m. the previous Monday... then forget about it! I tried 3-4 times between last Spring and Fall and only got in once! So when I saw that they were starting up again this past weekend, I set an alarm on my cellphone to go off last Monday at 8h55 to remind me to go into my e-mail draft folder and get ready to send the e-mail (already prepared with the necessary attachments) as soon as the clock struck 9! And 10' later I had an answer confirming I had scored a spot for myself and a friend, YAY! :o)

The group in charge of the Spring hikes is quite a bit more hard core than the one in the Fall. Those were all "easy" to "moderate". The hikes programmed for this next month are all "difficult"! Sadly because of budget cuts (damn never-ending crisis!) only 5 outings have been authorised (i.e. financed), which is a pity because the guides were telling us they had put together a fascinating programme which would have involved crossing the whole Province of Alicante, from north to south, in 20 days of 5-6h hikes! Now there's something I would love to do! But it wasn't meant to be... another year perhaps? 

So they just kept 5 hikes from their original list, and last Sunday (Mar 25) was a 16.4 km (10.2mi) hike from the town of Ibi to the town of Alcoy, crossing the mountain that separates the two (which meant a climb of about 554m - 1818ft - followed by a descent of 740m - 2428ft -). We pretty much followed the PR-26 from Ibi to the summit of the Menejador, in the Natural Park of the Font Roja, and then followed the PR-160 down towards Alcoy until we reached the river Polop, which we followed until the Vía Verde de Alcoy and walked along that until we got into town. I wasn't able to find a map online with this exact route charted, so I adapted one (all hail powerpoint!). The purple arrows show the way! ;o)

I'm not a morning person, so getting up (indecently) early to go on all these Sunday hikes hasn't been easy... and it was a lot harder last Sunday because we lost an hour the night before! Oh well, at least when we started out from Ibi at 9h30 we had gorgeous blue skies and warm sunshine. :o)

As we climbed up the mountain on a steep zig-zaggy path (those rocks are definitely tough on the feet!),

occasional stops to catch our breaths (or peel off a layer) gave us lovely views of fields of now flower-less almond trees, and the Maigmó in the distance (my previous "climbing" hike!).

It took us about an hour and a half to reach our first snow well, the impressive Pou del Canyo which has been beautifully restored by a local landowner.

Since this was our mid-morning break I had plenty of time to look around, it's definitely the best preserved snow well I've seen to date! It was apparently built in the first half of the 18th century, with a circular design and tile roofing. It's only got two doors, one facing north and the other south.

Pou del Canyo

The diameter is 9.8 m (321.5ft), the height to the door (inside) is 10.3 m (338ft) and it has a storage capacity of 770 cubic meters!

I loved the fact that there was snow around it in some spots, courtesy of a major storm we had on the first day of Spring and which left a new snowfall in the mountains! :p

After our break we continued climbing until we reached the next snow well, the Cava Simarro:

Built in 1750, apparently it was the snow well with the greatest storage capacity in these mountains! Now it's being taken over by the vegetation...

From there it was downhill until we crossed the Zorras ravine and started climbing up again towards the peak of the Menejador. And ta-dah! Another snow well! This one didn't have any signs with its name, but from what I've been able to figure out I think it's the Pou de la Noguera.

Not much left to look at, but great views behind it! :o)

One final effort to the top of the ridge,

and then we headed on down the other side, ignoring the path to the peak of the Menejador. Normally that would have frustated me, but since I already hiked up there last October, no worries! So we just mosied on down the path known as "Las Carboneras", through the forest of the Font Roja, until we reached the Sanctuary (which was the start/end point of that Oct hike) we can see down below in this next shot (also in the centre the Sierra de la Mariola whose peak the Montcabrer you'll remember I climbed a month ago, fighting with ice and hurting my thumb!):

view of the Santuario de la Font Roja and the Sierra de la Mariola

We continued on down towards Alcoy following the road for a bit,

then forest paths,

crossing fields from time to time.

Cultivated fields would have meant lovely almond trees a few weeks ago, but now we got a couple gorgeous cherry trees in full bloom! :o)

Check out how laden with flowers those branches are! Should be lots of cherries in May/June! :D

Pol wanted to take this home with him but I refused...

Another impressive tree we came across was this massive "carrasca" (Quercus ilex), a member of the oak family which gives its name to the Natural Park we were crossing (Carrascal de la Font Roja).

Hey! Someone tell Shrek he can stop searching, I've found Donkey! :p

Down, down, down... we need to reach that bridge in the distance:

But first we reach our lowest point in a beautiful spot called "Els Canalons - Racó de Sant Bonaventura",

where the river Polop falls down a lovely little waterfall!

Complete surprise for me, and I loved it!

Would have been the perfect spot for lunch, but I guess that's the problem when you go on an "official" outing, they wanted to keep to a schedule (grrr).

So just a short stop to admire the falls and then we were off again following the river,

until we reached the "Puente de las Siete Lunas" (7 Moon Bridge):

Of course getting up there in one short stretch meant a VERY steep climb! Thank heavens for trekking poles and tree branches to pull oneself up with! :p

We left the bridge behind us and continued along the "Via Verde de Alcoy" for about 45'. Which were 45' of torture for me thanks to my new boots... I was fine throughout the whole hike until we reached the river, then my feet slowly started hurting more and more, and by the time we hit that bike path I was definitely "walking funny" and a lot more slowly than usual. *sigh*

The vía verde is a walking / cycling / horseback riding route from Alicante to Alcoy that follows along what used to be the tracks for a narrow train which was never actually used! In this stretch alone we crossed through a dozen or so tunnels (I lost count), some of them so long that lighting was installed inside!

come into the light...

We finally reached the municipal sports installations in Alcoy at 15h30, 6h and ~ 16.5km after beginning our hike. And I was both starving and desperate to put my feet up! A tuna sandwich solved the first problem, and a nice soak in the tub the second one when I got home! :o)

Despite my footwear issues it was a gorgeous hike, and I really wish they could organise that whole "crossing the Province of Alicante" thing!

And hey! I just realised I got this post out within a week of the hike! Yay me! :D


  1. Hey, Cris! I'm popping in to let you know that we've granted you the Versatile Blogger Award over on our blog! :D Congratulations!


  2. You know, it's probably NOT a good idea to break in a new pair of hiking boots with a ten-mile hike, Cris! I simply LOVE that picture of Donkey, he's a perfect match... Congratulations on a very wonderful hike. I think I could smell those beautiful blossoms.

    1. I did know that DJan, in fact I wore them all day long every day for over two weeks! I had hoped they were broken in enough for this hike... we'll see how they go tomorrow. *gulp* I'm going to try an anti-blister tip recommended to me by several hikers in various groups: vaseline on my feet! :p

      I tried to get video of Donkey too, but the only time he brayed was when we first met him, as a hello. Then it was the silent treatment!

  3. Another great hike! The snow wells fascinate me and they would be very cool to see in person. Loved the photo of Pol in the cherry blossoms. Hope you get that boot issue taken care of.

    1. The snow wells fascinate me as well Kim!

      Boots felt much better on yesterday's hike! Although I still got a blister, but at a different spot and probably do to the rocky terrain we were walking on. The trails around Alicante are really tough on one's feet! :s

  4. Though the hike was a bit structured, it sounded like you still had fun! And how about those snow wells?! Those are amazing structures! I've got a bit of an obsession with historical buildings, sites, and places, so naturally I'd love to see one of these in person!

    1. Around here it's pretty much impossible to do a full day's hike that doesn't involve some kind of historical structure! And yeah, most of the hikes are very structured, we don't have any big National Parks or Forests we can just get lost in... *sigh* One of the things I miss about the US!

      I LOVE snow wells!!! :o)


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