If the shoe fits.

If the shoe fits.
This is tough!

If I said we are going snowshoeing, what image would you conjure up? Perhaps a fairy like adventure skipping through a fluffy cloud like landscape where snow flakes float off the tips of pine needles from a forest of pine trees that repeat themselves off into the far distant horizon.

After making our first tentative snowshoe steps this week, I now know this fantasy only lives in the glossy brochures and magazines offered to the romantics among us.

Firstly, living off grid in the Alpujarra is always an adventure, especially in winter. Most mornings I get up just after sunrise, ok, most days the sun has been up for a while. Regardless, I stumble out into the new day and make my way to the chicken pen in my well worn thongs (aka flip-flops, pluggers or jandals) not the other type of thongs. I do so by crushing the hopes of the frost still clinging to the grass and weeds within our lawn. Yes it gets cold. Sometimes I worry that our fresh eggs are being offered to us as frozen eggs, but to date, our yokes still wobble upon closer inspection.

On our snowshoe outing we rose to a brisk 0.7 degrees centigrade, not the coldest we have awaken too but cold enough to question our motivations especially when we need to get up before the sun rises over the Contraviesa to our south.

As we are the newest members of the Alpujarra Nomads, making the meeting point at 9:00 am in Lanjaron is not a maybe, it is a necessity. Being an Australian will get you into some parties, but as there are many expats wanting to be part of this illustrious group of well aged hikers, we need to ensure we are not giving them any reason to say, 'sorry it's not you, it's us'.

To make the 9:00 am start, we need to factor in the 15 minute drive to cover the 5 km track to town plus enough time to pack our daily rations and kit for the day ahead. I always pack more then I need and get hassled for it by the ultra light hiking fraternity among us. But you never know what the day ahead will turn into. I'm sure the hikers who were recently lost in Sierra Nevada didn't plan to get lost for 3 days but, The 5 P's always trumps weight worries.

The road to the Sierra Nevada ski fields is pretty good by any standards. Most of it is on the A-44 motorway (aka Autovia de Sierra Nevada-Costa Tropical) which will ultimately get you into Granada but at the start and end it is bookended by two serpentine-like roads that have more curves than a periwinkle. So those among us who need to concentrate on wiggling their toes on roads like this, best volunteer to drive. Just as luck would have it, it was our turn to drive and Lonnie our Landrover Defender was perfect for the snowy conditions.

Lonnie in his element as the snow falls around him

After negotiating our way through the kamikaze kids on fluoro sleds, we headed up past the Spanish Armed Services' Alpine base walking in parallel with a group of about 30, until we broke our connection with the ski village and dropped into the off piste area of the San Juan Valley.

Most of the hike was a white out so we could only follow each others steps in the snow and wonder at the peace and tranquility that surrounded us. All we heard was the wind whistling around our exposed ears and the squelch as each snowshoe was heaved out of its snowy depths and placed ahead of the other, hoping that it wouldn't go into the powdery snow any further than our legs would allow.

When we took turns breaking the trail for each other, there were numerous times that our walking sticks would go into the snow leaving nothing but the cuff of our gloves jutting out from the newly created hole. I've been lucky enough to hike in snow is North America, New Zealand, Switzerland, Iceland and Tasmania but hiking in the snow in Spain amazed me at how deep it actually was. Especially considering that the vast amount of snow has only fallen in the past couple of weeks.    

The fact that it was so deep made this hike one of the toughest I have ever done. Breaking trail for 20 metres would result in my heart beating its way out of my chest while I sucked in the oxygen. After taking a breather I would without fail end up in the snow, either face down, on my side, on my bum or just on my knees asking myself who was the idiot who created the image of snowshoeing being a romantic romp through the snowy wonderland of the Sierra Nevada. Oh, that was me!

Normally we walk around 12-16kms on our hikes and might have an elevation gain of 450-1,000 metres which will take us about 4-6 hours to complete. On our snowshoe hike we travelled about 5kms at a grand speed on 1km per hour.

Many thanks must go to our Alpujarra Nomads for sharing their pictures and the team at Spanish Highs for providing us the gear to make our tracks in the snow.