The steep NW face of Alcazaba in Spain’s Sierra Nevada mountains has long been a target for us. The Espolón is the classic route. We decided to go and climb it!

Access to the Espolón

Access to the face is most easily made from the Collado de Ciervo, near the Laguna de la Cadera and west of Mulhacén summit. A zig zag path leads down into the northern corrie of Mulhacén where sits the delightful Laguna de la Mosca. Just a short distance north of the lake a faint track trends right and then gains a sloping shelf the crosses the face of Alcazaba. This is called the Grand Vasar de Alcazaba.

On the Grand Vasar de Alcazaba. The Collado de Ciervo to the far right
On the Grand Vasar de Alcazaba. The Collado de Ciervo to the far right
Route up the Espolon
Route up the Espolon

The next problem is to identify the start of the Espolón as steep rock and crags abound everywhere. These are some features to look out for

  • Look down and try to follow the obvious ridge line coming up from the valley below. Where it joins the Gran Vasar should be the start

  • The start is on a large flat platform

  • Above you is a steep wall of rock. A vein of white quartz runs horizontally across this wall about 30m up (see photo below)

The thin vein of white quartz rock seen at the start
The thin vein of white quartz rock seen at the start

And like all these things when you actually get to grips with the rock then the steepness relents, good holds are found and the climb progresses.

The Climb

This route is very sustained scrambling at the top of the scrambling grades (3S). Inescapable for the most part, until the final few buttresses which may be avoided if desired. Helmets and harness should be worn and rope carried.

The initial buttress is overcome surprisingly easily through a variety of devious means. I wont spoil it here, just enjoy it. It will concentrate the mind and you certainly wont be thinking of work nor how to pay the next mortgage bill!

At the top of the initial rocks and after a leftward sloping gully is climbed, it seems an impasse is reached. Here we meet the spectacular traverse seen on the photo below. A Sierra Nevada style, “Traverse of the Gods”.

The Traverse of the Gods - Sierra Nevada style
The Traverse of the Gods - Sierra Nevada style

The traverse is very, very exposed. You certainly don’t want to fall here. But the holds are comforting, nice and large. A rope may be sensible for those of a nervous disposition and a couple of intermediate belays are easily found.

Above here the scrambling continues and apart from a short walk between buttresses is quite continuous. After the excitement of the initial pitches the scrambling has a more relaxed feel to it.

The final rocks can be climbed via a series of easy but “thrutchy” chimneys (or even avoided entirely if you must) before a final ascent to the summit of Alcazaba, in our opinion the best summit of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Total climb about 350m, 1.5 to 2hrs.

In the final chimneys
In the final chimneys
The team on the summit of Alcazaba, Sierra Nevada
The team on the summit of Alcazaba, Sierra Nevada

We shall be bringing the Espolón de Alcazaba into our Scrambling in the Sierra Nevada tour dates for summer 2016 if you wish to try out this amazing route with us.

Photos

There are many photos of this route on our Espolón de Alcazaba Flickr Album and some further images below