Meet the Leader - Jose Miguel, Spain

Jose has been a mountaineering guide and climbing instructor for over 20 years. Born and raised in Alicante, he's been climbing and exploring the mountains since he was a teenager. At 23 years old he moved from the city to the small village of Sella (560 people!) where he discovered a love of climbing. For the past 15 years and counting he's been our go-to guy in the Sierra de Aitana, where he leads literally in the background of his house! We interviewed him to find out what makes him tick.

Jose Miguel Jose Miguel

Many of the comments we receive when passengers come back from your trips are about your sandwiches – they are definitely a highlight! Can you give us an idea of a typical ‘Jose Miguel picnic’?

A typical sandwich would be triple decker. I use different ingredients on different days. For example, Monday’s Sandwich contains salami, semi-cured manchego cheese with arugula (rocket), olive paste or pesto lettuce, tomato, olive oil and oregano. On other days I use things like Philadelphia, sweet ham, avocado, omelette, grated fried courgettes, tomato paste & grilled sliced aubergines. I usually put in a couple of pieces of fresh fruit and some cakes from the local bakery. The whole thing comes in a bag that my mother has made – people like the bags so much that they often want to keep them! But I always have to get them back for the next day’s sandwiches!

Jose's famous sandwiches

Last year you started offering a new mixed activity adventure in the region. What is your favourite activity to do out of the ones available?

Having grown up around here, I love the Aitana region. I probably find the scramble up Bernia ridge the most fascinating activity of the week. It combines walking, climbing and abseiling with spectacular views. Also – it’s not easy, so you have the push to achieve it, with the drops, the height, and the views.

Jose leading

It is well-known that the Aitana region is beautiful around almond blossom time (usually late Jan to late Feb), but what is your favourite time of the year in the region?

At the end of May and early June, the summit of Aitana is transformed into a magical landscape when thousands of yellow and purple wildflowers bloom. At slightly lower altitude you have the normal Meditteranean flora (which is also beautiful), but the purple and yellow colours you get high on the mountain is really very unique.

Walking amidst almond blossom, Aitana walk Walking amidst almond blossom, Aitana walk

After years of working by yourself, you have gone into partnership with your brother Antonio for 2016. You are both very different, how do you see that going?

We are indeed very different! Antonio comes from the business industry, he is very good with figures, accounting and logistics. As the younger brother, I would say I’m more adventurous, active and sporty; but not so good with numbers! We are both really sociable and a really good match, we respect each other, but most importantly we both have the same long term view – that we want to create trips that will make people happy!

Walking in the Aitana Walking in the Aitana

You have worked with Exodus now for 16 years, and before that you worked in a climbers bunk house for a while, and were involved in personally way marking many of the mountain trails in the region. What do you do with your free time these days?

After completing the renovation of my house a few years ago, I’m working hard to learn how to become a good farmer, and how to live off my land. There’s a real art to it, but I love to be able to go out of my door in July and get my own tomatoes, or eat my satsumas in the winter time. I also really enjoy working with stone and wood – these are skills that are really relevant to traditional farming. I’m also involved in the social movement for the soberanía alimentaria (food sovereignty), which focuses on sustainable development and food security and encourages local food production. I am an activist member of the permanent committee of Alicante and also belong to the Valencian association for the protection of ‘local seeds’. True to the principles of food sovereignty, I grow my own organic vegetables and try to live in an environmentally sound way. Away from the mountain scene, my personal hobbies include Latin jazz music; I particularly like Cuban music. I play conga drums in our local jazz band and with other Latin musicians in jam sessions.

Terrace of Casa Roc Guesthouse, Sella Terrace of Casa Roc Guesthouse, Sella

Your Words, Not Ours

'Our local guide Jose Miguel was hardworking, charming and courteous with a profound knowledge of and passion for his home area. His magical rucksack produced homegrown olives and many treats for hungry walkers to supplement the plentiful packed lunches. The little extras were great too - the Spa and local museum in Castells, the rock climbing or shopping trip on the free day and the local Spanish band on the final night with Jose on the drums!' Paul McCormack

'Jose brought us oranges from his garden, invited us to his home for coffee and to see the renovation work that he had carried out, arranged a guided tour of a village olive pressing factory and went to a lot of trouble to ensure that we were all able to do different things on the free day.' Judith Horsnell  

Meet Jose for Real

Join Jose on an Aitana adventure.

Sierra de Aitana Trek

Sierra de Aitana Mixed Activity  

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