6 ways to cross Spains Sierra Nevada in 2 or 3 day trips

Andalucia’s Sierra Nevada lends itself to 2 or 3 day mountain trekking. There are high start points that give access to magnificent mountain scenery. For those with limited time available in Spain, these crossings of the range allow you to experience the mountains at their best. Spanish Highs Mountain Guides of Lanjaron, in the Alpujarras, have developed these crossings into a series of excellent adventures.

The bulk of this report is taken from 2 and 3 Day Treks Crossing Spain’s Sierra Nevada from Spanish Highs Mountain Guides

They run these multi day treks on demand throughout the year, conditions permitting. Summer crossings are tough and will require a certain resilience at times. Winter trips are strictly the preserve of the mountaineer used to axe and crampon use. The notes below will help you to decide which trip and when to come. All trips require bivouac gear or tents to be carried as camping locations can vary depending on conditions, party etc. Unguarded huts may be utilised. Please contact them direct for an update on current mountain conditions and any questions you may have.

They have tried and tested 6 of the best multi day traverses around. They try to avoid Mulhacen and Veleta (as highest is not always best?) and show you the best of the rest. The following are described below:

1. Ski Centre, Elorietta, Tajos los Machos to Puente Palo (2 day) TOUGH
2. Ski Centre, Cartujo, Caballo to Lanjaron (2 day) VERY TOUGH
3. Ski Centre, Cerro los Machos to Capileira (2 day) TOUGH
4. Ventura Trailhead, Caballo, Cartujo to Ski Centre (2 day) CHALLENGING
5. Alcazaba and Puntal de Vacares (3 day) VERY TOUGH
6. The Remote Northern Peaks (3 day) VERY TOUGH

Map and Access

Map of the access points and routes Click the thumbnail right and you will get a enlarged map of the Sierras with the normal access points noted. The following is the starting height of each access point involved in the “Sierra Nevada Crossing” treks:

Ski Centre 2500m
Trailhead Guejar Sierra 1100m
Lanjaron 650m
Ventura Trailhead 2100m
Puente Palo 1750m
Capileira 1500m
Hoya del Portillo 2150m
Trevelez 1600m

When planning a trip they normally try to start as high as possible and that way you can get into the high mountains quicker and easier. For this reason most trips start at the Ski Centre, Hoya del Portillo or Ventura Trailhead

The “Sierra Nevada Crossing” treks

Map of the Sierra Nevada Crossing treks The map on the right outlines the normally used routes across the mountain range. Spanish Highs are flexible as to clients wishes and aspirations, provided mountain conditions allow. Underfoot conditions can greatly vary the length/time and overnight stopping points. However, therein lies the adventure and excitement of these treks. They always have options available for early extraction via 4WD vehicles should this be necessary.

It is better to do north to south crossings starting from the Ski Centre at Pradollano.

South to north crossings are normally undertaken from the Ventura Trailhead or Hoya del Portillo.

Whilst Mulhacen and Veleta may be more popular, these crossings try to utilise the quiet and more remote peaks and passes.

Below are examples of some of the more popular treks of both 2 and 3 day duration. Spanish Highs can help with gear and equipment selection and supply. Also have a look through our Latest Trip Reports where you will find examples.

Ski Centre to Puente Palo (2 day)

Tough grade trekkingOutline: Pass via ski terrain, scrambling ridge or mountain flank to unguarded Elorrieta hut (Veleta option). Overnight. Ridge to Tajos de los Machos. Down eastern bowl, traverse to Cebollar ruins, zig zag descent, river crossing, forest trail to pickup.

Time and ascent (ideal summer conditions): Day 1 – 4 hrs (750m ascent), (Scramble 6 hrs/900m ascent). Day 2 – 6 hrs (200m ascent/1600m descent).

Major peaks covered: Tajos de la Virgen 3191m, Tajos de los Machos 3085m, Cerrillo Redondo 3055m

Notes: Varied terrain specially on Day 2. Elorrieta best overnight viewpoint in the Sierras.

Seasonal notes: The mountain flank to the Elorietta may not be possible under snow as it is an avalanche blackspot. Alternative ascent of Pico del Cartujo will add 3hrs and 300m ascent. Scramble becomes winter graded climb.

Have a look at the Detailed Trip Report for an example of this crossing.

Options: The long south ridge from Cerrillo Redondo is slightly quicker and easier to reach Puente Palo. Possible descent to Lanjaron via Tello.

Ski Centre to Lanjaron (2 day)

Very tough grade trekkingOutline: Pass via ski terrain, scrambling ridge or mountain flank, pass Elorrieta hut. Climb Pico del Cartujo. Wild camp near Tajos Altos. Ridge over cerro de Caballo, down to Ventura ruins, Tello, Lanjaron

Time and ascent (ideal summer conditions): Day 1 – 7 hrs (1000m ascent), (Scramble 8 hrs/1100m ascent). Day 2 – 7 hrs (300m ascent/2400m descent!).

Major peaks covered: Pico del Cartujo 3152m, Tajos Altos 2985m, Cerro de Caballo 3005m

Notes: Great western ridge of the Sierra Nevada. Long and distant, expansive views. Tough descent down to the Alpujarran town of Lanjaron.

Seasonal notes: The mountain flank to the Elorietta may not be possible under snow as it is an avalanche blackspot. Alternative ascent of Pico del Cartujo NW ridge will add 2hrs and 100m ascent. Easy winter walking follows.

Options: An easier return down the Rio Lanjaron to Tello or a 4WD pickup at the Ventura trailhead.

Ski Centre to Capileira (2 day)

Tough grade trekkingOutline: Los Posciciones entry into Corral del Veleta, glacial valley below imposing cliffs, remote peak of Cerro de los Machos, rocky descent, secluded upper Rio Chico. Wild camp. Descent of Rio Chico, traverse to Loma Pua and Cebedilla, drop down to Capileira.

Time and ascent (ideal summer conditions): Day 1 – 6 hrs (1000m ascent). Day 2 – 6 hrs (200m ascent/1500m descent).

Major peaks covered: Cerro de los Machos 3329m

Notes: High peaks to lush green valleys and gorges

Seasonal notes: Not normally possible in winter due to exposed avalanche loaded slopes and difficult terrain of alpine nature.

Options: Longer return after traversing over Loma Pelada 3181m and Puntal de Caldera 3223m camping by the Laguna del Caldera.

Ventura Trailhead to Ski Centre (2 day)

Challenging grade trekkingOutline: High trailhead, gentle ascent to Cerro de Caballo via it’s laguna, ridge to Tajos Altos. Wild camp. Pico del Cartujo and drop down via the small lakes of Lagunillas

Time and ascent (ideal summer conditions): Day 1 – 6 hrs (1000m ascent). Day 2 – 5 hrs (300m ascent/700m descent).

Major peaks covered: Cerro de Caballo 3005m, Tajos Altos 2985m, Pico del Cartujo 3152m

Notes: The western ridges of the Sierra Nevada. Good ridge walking, remote mountain lakes and easier descent than others on this page.

Seasonal notes: Generally easy winter walking in good snow conditions. The mountain flank to the Elorietta may not be possible under snow as it is an avalanche blackspot. Alternative descent of Pico del Cartujo NW ridge recommended.

Options: Instead of the high ridge we can take the slightly easier Verada Cortado. This traverses impressive rock scenery and beautiful lakeside camping locations.

Hoya del Portillo to Guejar Sierra (3 day) via Alcazaba and Puntal de Vacares

Very tough grade trekkingOutline: Forest trailhead, gentle ascent to Mirador de Trevelez. Contour east to Siete Lagunas. Wild camp. Alcazaba, Puntal de Vacares, Laguna de Vacares. Wild camp. Return down Loma del Calvario to Verada de Estrella and trailhead.

Time and ascent (ideal summer conditions): Day 1 – 6 hrs (1000m ascent). Day 2 – 7 hrs (700m ascent). Day 3 – 5 hrs (2200m descent).

Major peaks covered: Alcazaba 3371m, Puntal de El Goteron 3067m, Puntal de las Calderetas 3066m, Puntal de Vacares 3136m

Notes: Long remote trek over high and at times difficult peaks. Best camping spots in the Sierras. Long descent.

Seasonal notes: A major undertaking. Only recommended for fit and experienced under good snow and ice conditions.

The Remote Northern Peaks

Very tough grade trekkingOutline: Verada de Estrella, Loma del Calvario, ascend to Pena Partida unguarded. Overnight. Ridge walk of the northern peaks to Laguna de Vacares. Wild camp. Puntal de Vacares and return down Loma del calvario to Verada de Estrella and trailhead.

Time and ascent (ideal summer conditions): Day 1 – 6 hrs (1100m ascent). Day 2 – 7 hrs (1100m ascent). Day 3 – 5 hrs (2200m descent).

Major peaks covered: Puntal de los Cuartos 3158m, Atalaya 3135m, Pico del Cuervo 3144m, Puntal de Vacares 3136m

Notes: Great circuit of the northern peaks. The Pena Partida is one of the least visited huts in the Sierras. Great ridge round on day 2. Long descent day 3.

Seasonal notes: Relatively straightforward, if long, winter expedition.

More information can be found on the Trip Report Northern Sierra Nevada.

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