Fifty Winters old..the train at Cotos!

The tren at Cotos in March 1965, shortly after the inauguration of the extension from Navacerrada.

The tren at Cotos in March 1965, shortly after the inauguration of the extension from Navacerrada.

Fifty Winters back, the mountain train from Cercedilla began to run as far as the station at Puerto de Cotos. In this historic image i think you can also appreciate why many still refer to the train as el tranvía – the tram – because, especially with just the one wagon, the original train really did look like a tram.

On the subject of anniversaries, the line from Cercedilla to Puerto de Navacerrada is approaching its centenary..in 2023.

Thanks to Venta Marcelino for posting the photo on their Facebook page.

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The mountain train of Cercedilla

The mountain train moving thru a Winter Wonderland.

The mountain train on its way thru the Winter Wonderland.

Fifteen years ago i was trying to choose a place to live more or less long-term in the Sierra de Guadarrama. I chose Cercedilla. And probably the principal reason for that choice was the mountain train.

The train arrives at Cotos in mid-Winter..

The train arrives at Cotos in mid-Winter.

This very special train leaves the town of Cercedilla – located in the NorthWest of Madrid province at 1160m above sea level – and climbs thru the central Sierra de Guadarrama area to reach the station of Cotos at 1820m. On the way it stops at Puerto de Navacerrada station (1770m) before passing thru a kilometre-long tunnel beneath “el Puerto” to come out on the Segovia side and continue to its final destination. Total distance covered is just over 18 kilometres with 660m of ascent, all in about 40 minutes.

The train passes a rock face below Puerto de Navacerrada.

The train passes a rock face below Puerto de Navacerrada.

The line from Cercedilla to Puerto de Navacerrada was inaugurated in 1923. José Aguinaga was the driving force behind its construction, thru the Sociedad Anónima del Ferrocarril Eléctrico del Guadarrama..the train was – and indeed to some still is – known as el Eléctrico (the Electric train) due to the fact that it was powered by electricity from an overhead cable or catenary. In the 1950s it was taken over by Renfe (Spain’s national rail company) and the extension of the line to Puerto de Cotos was carried out, opening in 1964.

View form inside the train.

View from inside the train.

A ride on this train any day is undoubtedly a different experience and when there is fresh snow in the mountains it can be quite amazing. Some might even say awesome! However it can be very crowded on Winter weekends and in recent times appears to be suffering from neglect..within the greater scheme of Renfe’s plans for global domination. Prices are ridiculously high, intermediate stops on the line have been suppressed, the rolling stock is getting old and inserviceable..all this within the context of the National Park where the train should make more sense than ever from a conservation point of view. There’s even a campaign to press Renfe to make improvements. Tough one!

The train powers its way thru the snow towards Cotos.

The train powers its way thru the snow towards Cotos.

I should add that it’s a train of many names, apart from el Eléctrico it’s also sometimes rather quaintly referred to as el tranvía (the tram)..and some even speak of “el funicular” which is just plain wrong, it is not and never was a funicular train. Recently it has been marketed as el tren de la naturaleza (the nature train), but I prefer to call it simply “the mountain train”..

More on the train and its history (in Spanish)..

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Portrait of Los Puertos

When i talk about our local mountains, i often make reference to the high passes known in Spanish as Puertos. Particularly Puerto de los Cotos and Puerto de Navacerrada..two points in the central Sierra de Guadarrama where people have crossed the mountains from one side to the other for centuries.

Puertos de Cotos and Navacerrada on a Winter's evening.

Puertos de Cotos and Navacerrada on a Winter’s evening.

El Puerto de Navacerrada (1860m) can be seen on the upper right. From the obvious mountain pass there is a white slightly descending line leading away from it to the right..this is the road that drops down towards Valsaín and Segovia. You can also just about make out the white artificial ski-slope of El Telégrafo leading downhill to the pass, also on the right. El Puerto de Cotos (1828m) can be seen on the lower left, the clearly marked black road leading to it from the center of the picture is the road coming from Navacerrada. Just below the road and following the same contour is the railway line (in white)..and you can just about see the station of Cotos (click on the photo for a larger version). The road ascending to the left from the pass curves away towards Valdesqui. And the descending road leads to Rascafría, adjacent to which is the car-park of Cotos..visible as a dark enclosure by the road.

The shot was taken from the upper slopes of Hermana Menor.

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snowzen

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The most beautiful day..

Sublime

Sublime

I have been lucky to spend many beautiful days in the mountains..and it would not be an easy task to choose one day in particular as the best. But last Sunday 08 February would certainly be a strong candidate for the most beautiful day.

Working our way thru the trees..

Working our way thru the trees..

After days and days of snowfall, storm, wind and cloud – some of which were also very wonderful days – the sun finally shone upon the Sierra once more. We headed for Cotos and the Loma del Noruego where we knew we wouldn’t meet too many people.

..and thru the Winter Wonderland.

..and thru the Winter Wonderland.

And indeed but a few minutes walk from Cotos all was quiet and wondrous white..everything absolutely covered, caked, plastered with snow. The views were..well, spectacular.

Cabezas de Hierro from Loma del Noruego.

Cabezas de Hierro from Loma del Noruego.

It didn’t really matter which direction you looked..things were equally spectacular all around..

Siete Picos and La Mujer Muerta.

Siete Picos and La Mujer Muerta.

I had skied the North and the surprisingly delightful SouthEast of Siete Picos the previous day in the cloud..so i wasn’t too powder-hungry on this day and could just take it easy and try to take it all in.

This is the person i have to thank for several pow-days last week.

This is the person i have to thank for several pow-days last week.

Of course we did get to ski some very lush powdery snow on the southeastern flanks of La Loma too..so really no room for complaints at all.

About to ski from close to the top of Peña del Águila, looking towards Lozoya Valley and Somosierra.

About to ski from close to the top of Peña del Águila, looking towards Lozoya Valley and Somosierra.

Then in the afternoon i had a few hours to myself, so i decided to go visit my beloved Hermana on the other side of Cotos. On the way up thru the forest i risked a shower – or a succession of showers – as the snow began to fall from the trees due to the action of the sun.

Trees starting to lose snow.

Trees starting to lose their snow.

Higher up some cloud began to waft in from the North..working magic with the light among the wild pines.

Sun and cloud playing among the pines.

Sun and cloud playing among the pines.

And when i got above the forest, the spectacle broadened..once more in every direction..

Looking South to Cabezas and Cuerda Larga.

Looking South to Cabezas and Cuerda Larga.

Like many of us who love Guadarrama, i never tire of looking towards La Mujer Muerta..

La Mujer Muerta (The Dead Woman) and Peña Cítores to the right.

Westwards, La Mujer Muerta (The Dead Woman) and Peña Cítores to the right.

I skied down, down thru the forest..and then back up. The second time on the way up, as the sun dropped lower in the sky and evening came in, things got really breathtaking.

Looking West to Siete Picos and La Mujer Muerta.

Looking West again to Siete Picos and La Mujer Muerta.

A great sea of cloud washed over Valsaín and the huge valley that lies between Peñalara and Mujer Muerta..and the low-angled light wrought deep contrasts of texture, on the mountains and on the clouds.

Yet another shot of Cabezas with snow-covered trees in the foreground.

Yet another shot of Cabezas with snow-covered trees in the foreground.

I should say that all the afternoon – all the day even, excepting the area immediately close to the road in Cotos – i had seen practically no-one. During the morning maybe seven or eight people on La Loma del Noruego..and four or five on the southern slopes of La Hermana during the afternoon. At 6 in the evening near the top of Hermana Menor (2271m)..

People in the mountains..pure magic!

People in the mountains..pure magic!

..just before i reached the summit for the second time that day, there suddenly appeared two other people..moving towards the SouthWest on their descent. I quickly grabbed my phone two or three seconds before they disappeared, not wanting to miss the opportunity for a perfect photo.

The most beautiful day..? There or thereabouts.

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Powder frenzy..North of Siete Picos!

Severe oscillations in the weather over the last week..a deluge of rain last Friday – 107mm in Cercedilla in 24 hours – threatened to wipe out the snow right up to the tops of the mountains, but several days of snowfall in the wake of all that water have put a different face on the Sierra.

El bosque del Telégrafo, in the forest North of Siete Picos.

El bosque del Telégrafo, in the forest North of Siete Picos.

It has snowed persistently in recent days with relatively low temperatures, and the result is half a metre or more of cold dry powder in the forest above 1800m. So it was necessary – really necessary – to go and check it out..

Climbing towards Siete Picos..

Climbing towards Siete Picos..

This morning my friend Mariano and i headed for Puerto de Navacerrada, amid fairly extreme weather conditions. It was blowing a real blizzard in the car-park but fortunately it was partially cleared of snow and we were able to park. The road that links Navacerrada and Cotos was not passable. So we made for the North of Siete Picos..

Close to 2000m, that's at least 130cm of snow.

Close to 2000m, that’s at least 130cm of snow.

A day for fat skis indeed..once among the pines the wind was much less violent – even close to calm at lower elevations – and we descended several times thru el bosque, the pine forest that covers the northern slopes of Siete Picos..in truly wonderful snow conditions.

Mariano gets some air..among the pines.

Mariano gets some air..among the pines.

Two years ago we also found perfect snow in this area, and it lasted for weeks. Back then i didn’t think we would be seeing such conditions again for years..but the low temps forecast for the coming days are likely to preserve the white stuff in its cold and dry state.

Deep snow..even down to 1650m.

Deep snow..even down to 1650m.

So the forests of Valsaín are calling once more to Madrid’s powder-hounds..here it is, come and get it! Who needs Canada..when you have the wonderful wild pine woods of Guadarrama full of pow?!

Wonderful wild pines..looking down on wonder-powder!

Wonderful wild pines..looking down on wonder-powder!

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Winter hits in mid-January..once more

After almost a week of snow in Cercedilla, it’s clear that Winter has definitively arrived..and yes, once more, it has arrived in the second half of January.

Cercedilla in the snow

Cercedilla in the snow

Some of us were getting worried, after weeks and weeks of sunshine, that it wasn’t going to happen..yet again. But we were wrong..and for the third year in a row, Winter has rolled in mid-January.

The station at Cotos

The station at Cotos

In the mountains there’s up to half a meter of snow where before there was nothing..and some areas obviously have even more. So we got our skis out a bit in recent days..

Time to ski!

Time to ski!

..although conditions have not been perfect for little skiers. The baseless new snow is at best difficult to ski..so we’ve had to stick to the machine-compacted track leading up from Cotos.

The sun breaks thru the cloud.

The sun breaks thru the cloud.

On the way up the other evening the sun even made a brief but welcome appearance to warm us a little..since daytime max temps were several degrees below zero. Unfortunately it didn’t last..

Into the cloud..cold, cold, cold.

Bye bye sun, hello cold.

..higher up the cold was really palpable and the wind added its chill and little hands began to feel the bite. Nevertheless, the ski down was pretty good.

A photo-stop on the way down towards Cotos.

A photo-stop on the way down towards Cotos.

And it’s not all about skiing..there’s other things you can do with snow – especially when you have almost a foot of the white stuff in your patio. Practise the art of making snow-bears for example..

Working hard into the night in the patio.

Working hard into the night in the patio.

Winter!

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