Istan is a little white village set back about 17 kms from the coast overlooking the headwaters of the La Concepcion lake. To get to Istan, you turn off inland next to the mosque which is opposite Hotel Puente Romano. La Concha at 1217m is the summit of the Sierra Bermeja range of mountains just behind Marbella.
My walking friend Philip who you see in the picture and I had a long standing date to try a route that was new for us from Istan to the top of the La Concha range. This morning I looked up from my terrace just before setting off from home and the clouds which had been hanging over the range seemed to be lifting. We had scheduled this route two months ago so that seemed to be a good omen, I should have checked the weather forecasts before we left!
Setting off from the car park just behind the new Istan Hotel the path was reasonably trodden and marked with small cairns. Some readers might have done the route from Istan to Ojen (6 hours) up the ravine behind the polydeportivo, our path led off in a more south easterly direction to intersect with the top of the range.
A rare patch of sunlight lit up the Istan village in the photo above about half an hour after setting off. The Istan hotel can be seen in the foreground. A stream of clear water gushing from the mountain below us supplies drinking water to the village all year round.
After about 2 hours the clouds began to settle back down, obscuring the peaks. An hour later it was raining and there were clouds blowing upwards from behind us. When the path ended and the only further indications were cairns at intervals on a wet rock knife edge rising above us, with about 25 metres of visibility we took a reality check. I always advise walkers on La Concha to avoid the range when the summit is blanketed in cloud, it is easy to get lost and the work of the local rescue teams is complicated as a result. We turned back.
We'll do it again in the spring next year when we can see where we're going.
Update: October 2010 By the way, we did get to Marbella eventually but my very good friend Philip died from prostate cancer earlier this year. If you look at any of the hills or mountains in the Malaga province, you can be sure that we have walked them together over the last thirty years. Philip I am really going to miss you on those paths.