Spanish 3000s Update

Emily Woodhouse Big Adventures, Practical Advice

Time’s flying by now I’m finishing off a book and more than halfway through a Kickstarter, so I thought it was time I gave you an update on how the Spanish 3000s expedition is progressing. Two Mondays ago, I booked my flights to Spain. This seemed like a fairly monumentous step in the direction of making it ‘real’ and – with everything going on in the world – it felt completely uncertain and slightly nerve wracking. Let’s talk a little about why I did it…

Why I booked my flights

I didn’t book my flights because I felt like the world was on the way back to normal. Nor because I was sure the Spanish border would be open again by 1st August. (In the past two weeks since I booked, it now seems likely that I might be able to get in without having to quarantine – touches all the wood in the room…) In fact, at the time I booked, none of EasyJets planes were flying.

So, why did I book? Well, I felt like I had to. I casually had a look at flight dates, since I hadn’t even pinned down the dates yet, and discovered that most of the flights were already fully booked. Er, what? Worse still there were very few flights that left at I time I could get to the airport for, without staying overnight. It was time to get my chips on the table. Yes I might have to move my flight, or cancel it or something. But if I didn’t book something now I could find out the border would be open, but then have no flights left. So I crossed all my toes and booked.

Where I’m at with planning now

Shortly after that, I checked what was currently possible for travel and accommodation. The buses are currently running to the airport. There’s currently one that’ll get me there in time for my flight. Great. I would have to wear a face mask – never thought I’d have to put that on a kit list! I can’t book any transport yet, including the airport bus, but I have a tentative agreement from a local guiding company that they could get me from the airport to the mountains if that’s legal. My adventure launch pad is set.

The Route

I knew I wanted to spend a week in the moutains. I’ve actually booked flights that give me a week in the mountains, two days travelling at either end and a spare day in case something mad happens. Not sure what I’ll do with that day if something mad doesn’t happen, but we’ll see! Basically, there were no flights left…

So, before I booked, I sketched out my vague route to check it would fit into the week nicely. (Yes, at this point I’ve binned the idea of Tenerife too.) To do this, for walking expeditions, I use Naismith’s Rule and 3km an hour pace. Because for me, that is going like a snail. I did it for my All the Tors route plan and it saved me on days when I literally had to pace every step due to fog. Give yourself plenty of room in the plan.

My spreadsheet came together with plenty of time left in the seven days. Which is actually great because I started off assuming a good eight to ten hours of walking a day. Yeah that might be daylight hours but it’s a bit savage. The rules in the Sierra Nevada National Park are that you can only pitch one hour before sunset and leave one hour after sunrise at the latest. That’ll be about 7:15am sunrise and 9pm sunset for me in August. But it would be nice to sit down during some of that – at least a little!

State of Route Plan

  • I have a slowest-possible route plan stretched vaguely over seven days.
  • To make this, I used local maps, Cicerone guidebook, Komoot for distance calculations and Google Earth for terrain.
  • For a few sections, I emailled a local guide who very kindly answered my specific questions.
  • I still need to fix down my intended camping spots and equally distribute walking over days. I might take an easier first day to acclimatise. I’ll be over 3000m, but barely, so not sure how this will really affect me.


This really hard to do right now. Luckily I’ll mostly be in a tent. I’ve rummaged around and found places I could stay if they’re open. Right now everything is shut. There are plenty of places to stay near the airport and plenty of places at the start of my route. I haven’t actually checked for the end in case I want/need to spend a day there…

That is really the best I can do now. There’s also a manned refuge that may or may not be open by the time I get there. It would be nice to stay over if I can, but we’ll have to see. They don’t seem to be updating their website at all at the moment.

Otherwise, I’m on the hunt for a lightweight freestanding tent. I have a tent, my beautiful Vaude Taurus II, but it’s big for taking on an aeroplane (when it’s not hidden in a bike box as ‘padding’). I applied to the Trek and Mountain Exped Adventurer 2020 competition with my toes crossed. Haven’t heard anything about it though, so I’m still looking. Tents are expensive, eh? It’s just a case of weighing up (!) money vs lugging a huge tent round the mountains…

The Kit List

That brings us nicely on to kit. I have the bulk of it. I need to take a proper look at my list and check I’m not missing anything big, get the details down. At the moment I’m working off a fairly generic kit list plus things I’ve added in an “Oh, I’ll probably need that” sort of way. The highlights are:

  • I need a new headtorch
  • I will almost certainly be taking a stove, which means I need to add hold luggage to my ticket. It turns out you can buy screw-top gas at the campsite outside the town I’m starting at. Win.
  • This means I should probably also buy some dehydrated ration packs.
  • I think I’ve got GPS tracking sorted (again touches all wood in room trying to to jynx it)
  • Adding things like hand gel, face mask to the list…
  • Might need to think about fox deterrent – yeah, sounds mad!
  • I have bought a MSR Trailshot water filter (thanks for all the advice on Twitter peeps)

In terms of sponsorship, it’s been pretty difficult. I’ve managed to get gear sponsored in the past for expeditions, but it’s really hard right now. Why? First of all half the UK’s marketing departments are on furlough! Secondly, brands want some sort of certaintly. I can’t say “Hey I’m going on this trip that may or may not happen”. I’m mean of course, I’m being honest, but I have to really make a case for being able to deliver value even if the expedition doesn’t go ahead.

Other Stuff

I’ll be travelling alone and I’m sort of thinking about scrubbing up my GCSE Spanish. I loved it, and was pretty decent at it at the time. French always makes me feel like I’m dribbling out my face, but since I studied it from Year 5 until Year 11 (yup, zero choice), the French word tends to come to my head before the Spanish.

So – no word of a lie – I’ve started watching Peppa Pig on YouTube in Spanish. Plus some classic Pokemon cartoons, but they’re a bit fast for me… All the Pokemon jargon probably doesn’t help. If anyone can recommend kids cartoons in Spanish that aren’t as annoying as a flat-faced pig in a dress (or Dora the Explorer) please save me!

I might also write out and learn some useful phrases. “Deux personne et une petite tente pour une nuit” got me across the width of France. The Spanish equivalents would be helpful. Also “I’m really sorry I’m not good at Spanish can you speak more slowly please”…! I’m sure there will be enough English about for me to get by, but this is kind of fun.

Oh and also I’m trying to force myself to leave the house every day in order to not become a lockdown vegetable.

Well I hope you found that interesting – so tell me: are you planning something for the summer? Do you still have an adventure you’re clining on to? How’s the planning going?

Oh, and of course – you need more books in your life: (even if they’re ebooks!)