Bison Abroad | The Mountains Were Calling

Jordyn is an NDSU student currently studying in Granada, Spain. She contributes a biweekly article on her expriences while abroad.

The Sierra Nevada Mountains called, and I couldn’t help but answer.

PHOTO COURTESY Jordyn Meskan | A rock cairn marks the hiking trail to Veleta’s peak.
PHOTO COURTESY | Jordyn Meskan                 A rock cairn marks the hiking trail to Veleta’s peak.

It was 8:45 a.m. and I was stuck on the city bus. The next bus I wanted to catch left the Granada bus station at 9:00 a.m., making for a little bit of a stressful situation.

Normally I would be fine waiting for the next bus, but the 9:00 bus was the only bus leaving for the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I had made plans to go hiking and I was determined to stick with them.

Constantly checking my maps app for calculations on how long it would take to get to the station, I watched the little blue dot representing my location inch closer and closer to my destination. I finally made it to the station ten minutes later. I ran to the self-service machine, and bought my ticket, and sprinted to the bus terminal. With three minutes to spare and ticket in hand, I boarded my bus.

PHOTO COURTESY Jordyn Meskan | Hikers and bikers struggle to the top of Veleta, Spain’s fourth tallest peak.
PHOTO COURTESY | Jordyn Meskan        Hikers and bikers struggle to the top of Veleta, Spain’s fourth tallest peak.

Finally, I could relax, right? Nope. I searched the bus for my hiking buddy, but she was nowhere to be found. “Where was she?” I thought to myself.

Then, as if my friend could hear my thoughts, my phone lit up with a message from her. To sum things up, she had experienced city bus delays, but had finally made it to the bus station. My job was to stall the bus driver. Using my Spanish conversation skills, of which I’ve been working hard at for the last month, I explained to the bus driver that there was one more person who needed to catch the bus. He gave her two minutes, during which I kept looking back and forth between the clock and the bus window.

Two minutes went by, and the bus driver gave me an impatient look. To gain a little more time, I requested permission to get off the bus to show her which terminal our bus was at. To my surprise, the bus driver allowed me to get off the bus to find my friend.

It was a good thing I had my running shoes on, as I sprinted inside the station. With little difficulty, I found her. After a couple hiccups regarding her bus ticket, we sprinted back out to the bus, which luckily hadn’t left yet. Sitting down, we both looked at each other, took a deep breath, and laughed at ourselves.

The bus steadily made its way through the Sierra Nevadas, driving deeper into the mountains. Granada sits at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, with the western part of the range visible from the streets of the city.

The Sierra Nevada mountain range is Spain’s tallest mountain range on the mainland. It’s home to Mulhacén, Spain’s second tallest mountain and Veleta, the fourth tallest. According to the packet my civilization and culture of Spain professor handed out in class earlier that week, Mulhacén is about 3,478 meters high, while Veleta measures 3,392 meters high.

The bus dropped us off at Albergue Universitario de Sierra Nevada, where fellow passengers kindly reminded my friend and I the bus would leave for Granada at 5:00 p.m. We chuckled over their joke, and started our trek.

Almost everyone on our bus was setting out to the same starting point, so finding it wasn’t too difficult. The hard part was yet to come. If given enough time, we could have climbed Mulhacén and Veleta, but because our schedule depended on the bus schedule, we did not have time to climb both. Instead, we took the challenge of climbing Veleta.

There were several different routes to the peak. The easy way would have been to walk on the road, while the more direct route cut across the roads and had more climbing involved. We chose the latter.

As we hiked, we stopped occasionally to take in the view. Okay, we stopped to catch our breath and grab some water, but the views were a nice touch. The higher we climbed, the better the view.

The Sierra Nevada Mountains were unlike any mountain I had hiked before. Everything was very dry. Parts of the mountain looked like a massive rock field, with fragments of rocks creating a blanket over the earth. Because of its location, the Sierra Nevada Mountains don’t get much rain during the summer, so the valleys were dry and there was minimal greenery.

We weren’t the only ones on the mountain. Bicyclists occasionally passed on the roads, pedaling hard on gear one to get up the mountain. I tried to imagine myself biking to the top of Veleta, but I couldn’t. The hills along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis would never have prepared me adequately for the ride up Veleta.

I guess biking to the top of Veleta is just another thing to add to my bucket list. Honestly, for every one thing I check off my list while abroad, I add three more in its place.

Most people climb Veleta and Mulhacén during the summer, when the weather is a little warmer at such elevations. We were met with wind and a partly cloudy sky, challenging us to a game of “take the jacket off, put it back on again …”

Several parts of the trail were shielded by smaller ridges, while other parts we found ourselves in the direct path of the wind. To my surprise the wind died down the higher we climbed. Once we finally reached the top there was just a subtle breeze.

From the peak, we could see Mulhacén. On a clear day we would have been able to see the Mediterranean Sea and Morocco. In the distance we could see the city of Granada and its outlying suburbs. Mountain views surrounded us for 360 degrees. They were breathtaking.

PHOTO COURTESY Jordyn Meskan | Mountains for miles (or kilometers, as they say in Spain).
PHOTO COURTESY | Jordyn Meskan  Mountains for miles (or kilometers, as they say in Spain).

We settled at the top and ate our bocadillas (a Spanish sandwich with peperoni or jamón ibérico) and packed lunches. While eating our lunches, we would occasionally rotate ourselves to take in a new part of the mountain range. Every direction I looked, I was in awe. All of the stress endured at the bus station earlier that day was now just a memory of the past.

The memories from the journey up Veleta and the views completely took over. I could have spent all day on top of Veleta, and I would have too.

But I had a bus to catch.

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