The Tramuntana mountains in the north of Mallorca offer some of the most exciting, challenging and beautiful terrain for trail running in the world. As trail running’s popularity continues to soar, more and more visitors are taking to the island’s mountains. One of these is Ecuadorian Carlos Huerta, husband of Jess our Head of Marketing, who moved to Sóller with his family in 2022.
Recently, I spoke to Carlos about how he’s fallen in love with running in these dramatic, UNESCO-protected mountains. I’ve run the trails of the Tramuntana mountains myself so we had plenty to talk about.
According to World Athletics, the first organised race was the Dipsea Trail Race in California in 1905. As a sport, trail running took off in the mid-1970s with the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run followed by the Leadville Trail 100 (1983), the Marathon des Sables in Morocco in 1986 and the Grand Raid de La Réunion in 1989.
Since then, it’s estimated trail running has grown by 15% every year, booming in the 2000s. Around 20 million people run trails worldwide.
The International Trail Running Association (ITRA) was founded in 2013 to promote trail running. World Athletics recognised it as a discipline of athletics in 2015.
Now, trail running is one of the fastest growing sports. For many of us it’s an excellent reason to visit a particular destination for the first time and have an adventure. I ran trails in the Canary Islands and fell in love with the place.
Carlos Huerta, an ed-tech founder and father of a young daughter, was born in Ecuador. Winning a tennis scholarship to the US, he played three years of college tennis. Finishing his studies, he took up running around 2011 after he’d put on weight. He’s been trail running for the past six or seven years. Before moving to Mallorca, Carlos ran trails in Chile, Ecuador and California, including in the majestic Yosemite Valley, as well as Colorado’s Manitou Springs.
‘It was the sense of adventure trail running gave me that really got me hooked,’ Carlos told me. ‘Powering yourself up thousands of meters, moving quickly in the mountains, doing peaks and summits, going places I wouldn’t be able to reach any other way. It’s a special feeling.’
When he’s training, Carlos puts in 12 to 15 hours a week. ‘The only way to get stronger is to put in more hours,’ he said.
Having run in the Tramuntana mountains myself, I know how challenging they are.
For Carlos, running in them is ‘the hardest terrain I’ve ever run on. I ran in Yosemite Valley. I ran around the crater of a volcano in Ecuador. I’ve run in the Andes. Here, it’s the sheer rockiness of the terrain – the harsh, jagged rocks. If you fall you will get hurt. Not only that, the plants are spiny and will cut you. Last year I did the Mallorca 5000 Skyrunning event. Afterwards it looked like my legs had been attacked by a wild animal!’
Although he cheerfully admits trail running in the Tramuntana mountains is hard, Carlos loves the rewards.
‘Getting to the summit of l’Ofre, es Cornador or sa Galera and sitting for a few minutes makes you feel so small as a human, all your worldly concerns just vanish immediately. I’m always so grateful I live here and have the opportunity to run in these mountains.’
As anyone who runs in the mountains knows, it’s vital to be well-prepared and take risks seriously. In the Tramuntana, if you need to be rescued it will be by helicopter.
Given they’re confident they can tackle the Tramuntana mountains in theory, people who want to run here but have never done so before should pack plenty of hydration and carry nutrition. Most importantly, they should go with a knowledgeable friend or guide at first.
‘The official GR221 trail, also called the Dry Stone Route, which goes across the entire Tramuntana mountains from Port de Andratx to Port de Pollenca is well-marked but there are just so many places you can get lost,’ Carlos said. ‘Especially if you don’t have a map or an app on your phone like Komoot or Alltrails. But, it is well worth getting off the beaten trail. I like running up to sa Galera, a peak to the west of Sóller. It’s close to the ocean and gorgeous. That’s another special thing about running in the Tramuntana mountains — seeing the ocean as you climb. Every time I go up into the mountains I feel better.’
I agree. Personally, I like running in the mountains around Alaró, further inland. I also like running near the lakes of Gorg Blau and Cuber as well as around Lluc and Na Burguesa.. .
For Carlos, competing and being part of a club is mostly about having fun because trail running is usually such a loner sport.
‘Races tend to be more like gatherings,’ he explained. ‘Everyone who’s been doing this really hard thing comes together. Competing for me is more of a reward after a lot of training. Also, there are runners here who are so fit, so fast, that if you get too competitive you’re going to destroy yourself. I’m 38 turning 39 and I know my limits.’
Carlos has found the clubs to be very friendly. ‘Before I got here I joined a Sóller Strava running group. Once I arrived, I immediately met the runners. People here are keen to get to know and help you out. You might only be here for a short time but they’ll always invite you on a little run, for an outing. It’s a great way to become part of a community.’
Even if you’re here on holiday, Sóller’s running clubs are sure to be welcoming. According to the Balearic Mountain Federation website, they are Club de Muntanya i Escalada Sóller (CMES), Club Esportiu Espardenya and Associació La Unió — Sa Botigueta.
Events you can take part in include Mallorca 5000, Galatzó Trail, and Desafio Subida al Puig Major — the only way to climb Mallorca’s highest peak as this is a military area. To find information and sign up for a running race in the Balearics, go here.
If you’re in Deiá, call into the Deià Activity shop on the main street. For hiking, get in touch with Martin’s Walks.