December 11 was International Mountain Day and to celebrate it the local Mountain Wilderness group organised a mountain traverse in the Sierra de Guadarrama..and in Guadarrama style. This implies starting and finishing in towns and villages at the foot of the mountains, rather than setting out from high points like Puerto de Navacerrada and Cotos..hopefully reducing the enormous congestion in these areas while aumenting the difficulty and extension of the excursion. It’s also a historical echo of the activities of Guadarrama pioneers like Francisco Giner de los Ríos who, for example, took groups of young people on multi-day traverses from Cercedilla to Rascafría to La Granja.
The excursion organized for last Sunday set out from Cercedilla to crown the three peaks of La Peñota and descend the West ridge towards the Río Moros valley and San Rafael. It was a fine day out, a little cold when the wind hit on the summit but with uninterrupted splendid sunshine. The descent of the West ridge of La Peñota takes you thru some of the most spectacular craggy terrain in Guadarrama.
There is some fine rock climbing to be had in this area..if you are willing to hike to get to it. The shortest approach, from Alto del Leon, is at least an hour if not ninety minutes. Not exactly sport climbs five minutes from the car. Thankfully no parabolts – the plague of La Pedriza – in sight either.
It is only from the West that you can appreciate why La Peñota deserves its name..it really is a peñota – a great crag! From other angles, especially from Cercedilla, it looks like one more rounded Guadarrama cerro, a big hill basically. Even from the South, when you see its steep southern face, it is much less spectacular than the South of Siete Picos for example.
Seen from the West La Peñota really comes into its own. From further away, down in the flatlands between San Rafael and El Espinar, it looks like an almost inaccessible craggy peak of a kind unknown to Guadarrama..hard to believe it’s the same rounded hilltop you see from the East or the North.
We left the main Guadarrama ridge on Peña del Cuervo and headed down towards the Río Moros valley but turned off towards Río Gudillos and the town of San Rafael as the sun dropped towards the horizon. From San Rafael we would take the train back to Cercedilla and Madrid.
Between four and five in the evening the sights and sounds of modern civilisation were upon us once more..high tension cables, motorways, train tracks, buildings..and beer. The taste of civilisation, perhaps?