I have set myself a challenge this year – to climb 30 of the highest or most important peaks in Madrid and Guadalajara before I myself turn 30 (on June 30th). One of the great things about this challenge is that it is forcing me to explore places I’ve never been to, so, after nearly 4 years of living in Madrid, I finally head to the neighbouring mountains of Guadalajara – the Sierra de Ayllón.
Approaching the Sierra de Guadarrama from Madrid there is always one sight that takes my breath away. That is the first glimpse of La Maliciosa as you drive towards Navacerrada.
Rising almost 1000 metres directly from the reservoir of Navacerrada, its granite bulk looms over the pretty, alpine village below.
The wind is relentless, ferocious and bitterly cold. Standing on the peak of Monte Abantos the enormous, austere palace of San Lorenzo El Escorial looks like a miniature lego playset. The view stretches on for miles, grassland dotted with lakes and low trees sweeps on towards Madrid, bathed in a haze its 4 high towers rise like tiny fingers out of the pollution-induced mist. Far to the south, the shadow of the Montes de Toledo forms a distant barrier. To the north the high, snow-covered high peaks loom forward, shrouded in cloud. I can’t feel my face. We seek shelter.
Our path is a minefield of large boulders, rocks and smaller scree. We choose the route that looks least likely to slide down the side of the mountain. There is a constant danger of falling rock and scree. We tread carefully.
We climb high. The going is slow, we stop repeatedly to catch our breaths, choose the next path and take in the extraordinary view. A wall of cloud threatens to spill over the peaks and shroud us in mist, yet it is held back by the natural barrier of the peaks, acting like a forcefield.