The woman in the ‘Vigililare’ hut at the start of the climb looked at me as if I was crazy, as I told her that I wasn’t going to the Lagunda Grande de Penalara. Because I was headed for Pico de Penalara – Major 2429m P1114 at N40.85000 W3.95600 (honestly, that was my GPS reading, I haven’t rounded up the figures).
So I started from the large car park at Los Cotos (1821m) N40.82326 W3.96041 up the wooden steps to the Vigilare hut and then on to route RP1. Although a clearly marked route it was made a little more difficult to follow because of the deep snow and the practice of putting the markers at the junctions in the middle making it unclear as to which branch was the correct one. At the junction (1972m) at N40.82918 W3.95663 I took the right turn and after a few hundred metres I was heading in the wrong direction. The correct branch is the one on the left. The next junction at N40.83170 W3.95983 has a clear sign for the Pico de Penalara. However, from there the track was quite obscured by snow. I went over the summits of Hermana Menor (2269m) N40.83446 W3.96609 and Hermana Mayor (2284m) N40.84000 W3.96298.
Although there was deep snow along this ridge, it forms a border between the provinces of Segovia and Madrid and there is a line of border markers that aid navigation, even though the visibility was less than the distance between them. At times I I ended up in thigh-deep snow drifts. The last section of the route is cairned in the excessive English Lake District style. The summit is marked by a trig point and a name board.
There was no view – indeed it was a white out.
JHM has a return route that continues along the ridge and a traverse back to the start. Because of the white-out I decided it was another ‘better the devil you know’ situation. Even so my ascent footprints had already been filled by fresh snow so I still had to navigate rather than just follow my trail.
As ever, sod’s law kicked in and as I reached the bottom the skies cleared and the sun shone for a short while.
Five hours, 12.92km, 1065m ascent.
I stayed overnight in the car park at Los Cotos – and when I woke in the morning I was parked in fresh snow that had fallen overnight. Time to escape to swivel-eyesation and pay a visit to a couple of Madrid’s art galleries. As I headed into town I could see that people were looking at my motorhome not just because it has the exotic steering wheel on the right, but also because there was still snow on the roof.