Ascent of the Espolón de la Caldera, Sierra Nevada

Ascent of the Espolón de la Caldera, Sierra Nevada

Describes an ascent of the Espolón de la Caldera, an alpine type climb and scramble in Spain's Sierra Nevada mountain range

Describes an ascent of the Espolón de la Caldera, an alpine type climb and scramble in Spain’s Sierra Nevada mountain range in July 2015

The Espolón de la Caldera is in fact the NW ridge of the Puntal de la Caldera, found just to the west of Mulhacén’s, Collado de Ciervo, in Spain’s Sierra Nevada mountains. It gives a rough and sometimes loose scramble with many possibilities for making the ascent easier or tougher to suit. At it’s easiest it’s a Grade 2 scramble, and I guess about VD (4/4+) if the steps and pinnacles are taken direct. Difficult and dangerous to descend or escape due to the loose nature of many areas.

There are no internet reports nor photos of foreigners ever having done this before, maybe it was a first British ascent?

The Espolón de la Caldera as seen from the west (Col de Lobo)

Approaches

We took the 3rd and in my opinion best option. A grand traverse of the northern flanks in quiet and spectacular surroundings. We set up a bivouac at Laguna Galbata, a delightful place to camp!

Sunrise over Laguna Galbata

The Climb

We set off at first light to avoid the fierce July heat. It’s only 10 minutes to the start where the path cuts across the base of the ridge. It’s easy “hands in pocket” going for the first 15 minutes up gently sloping slabs.

Then the first pinnacles are met. Quite solid rock around here, so don’t be too tempted to take easier (and looser!) routes off to the left, take the rock buttresses head on for the most enjoyment.

A level section follows and gives time for a short rest, with superb views back down to the Lagunas and across to Cerro de los Machos. Above things look tougher though.

The middle section of the climb is quite clearly on poorer rock. Yellow, broken rock abounds here. Test each hold carefully, especially if taken direct. Escape lies to the left but will put you on some exposed and loose terrain.

Above the middle section at a short col and “escape” can be made to the right along a faint goat track to reach the west ridge coming from Loma Pelada (marked with a dotted line on the photo) but this would detract from the quality of the finishing line leading to the summit.

The upper section is on much better rock so be bold and enjoy the airy and spectacular surroundings. As you top out onto the summit ridge the southern side of the Sierra Nevada comes into view with the Laguna de la Caldera far below you.

Descents

The Espolón is well worth a look if you like your mountains rough, spectacular and quiet. We met nobody else between Posiciones de Veleta and Refugio de la Caldera

Steep slabby section The loose centre section of the ridge On the initial section Looking across the NW face On the upper pinnacles Looking down the ridge from half height Topping out very close to the summit Heading down the east ridge to Col de Ciervo. Laguna de la Mosca below