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Veleta Peak

Etymologically and contrary to what might be thought, its name does not refer to ‘the weather vane’, but it derives from the Arabic word balata, which means ‘cut, cut, balate’ and makes evident reference to the vertiginous cuts that outline its north, east and south faces, some of which approach 500 meters of elevation gain


Etymologically and contrary to what might be thought, its name does not refer to ‘la veleta’ (instrument to determine the direction of the wind) but rather it is a masculine noun “el Veleta”, because it derives from the Arabic word balata, which means ‘cut, cut, balate’ and makes evident reference to the vertiginous cuts that outline its north, east and south faces, some of which are close to 500 meters of unevenness. However, this mountain is also colloquially known among locals and mountaineers who frequent it as “el picacho”, due to its slender uniqueness.


El Corral del Pico Veleta.

Image from WikyPedia

Under its shadow, in the area called Corral del Veleta, located at the foot of its northern pit, there is an area of ​​permafrost with fossil ice that is estimated from the last glaciation, 13,000 years ago, which shows that Sierra Nevada was a glacial area active until the Corral del Veleta glacier completely melted in the summer of 1913 (although some sources place this fact in the summer of 1910).

Since then , the southernmost glacier in Europe is located on the Gran Sasso peak, in the Apennines, but on this north face of the Veleta there are still snowfields of large proportions that remain unfused from one season to another (except in the summer of 1995, in that for the second time its outer layer was completely melted or visible to the naked eye).

Except in very hot specific years or those with severe droughts, perennial snowfields they can also be found frequently even at the end of the summer in their ver It lies southeast, in the so-called “Basares del Veleta”, where the Lagunillo del Veleta is located, although here it constitutes snowy patches of considerably smaller size.

On the other hand, on the western slope, which is the most visible from the city of Granada, the snow usually melts completely during the summer, given its greater solar exposure.

Its sail-shaped silhouette is very characteristic when viewed from Granada, which is why Veleta is one of the most photographed peaks in the world, as it is located behind the Alhambra. On its slopes are the IRAM Pico Veleta Observatory and the Sierra Nevada Ski Resort, which begins in the town of Pradollano, at an altitude of 2,100 meters, and ends near the top of Veleta.


Río Veleta

Altiplano Experience - Veleta River

The Picacho de Veleta constitutes a watershed, so that the waters resulting from the snow deposited on its Northeast to West slopes will end up spilling into the Atlantic Ocean, while those derived from its Southeast face will do so into the Mediterranean Sea.

Thus, the aforementioned Corral del Veleta, located at the foot of the existing pits on the northeast façade of Veleta, is dominated by the highest lagoon of this massif (3,086 meters above sea level), of moraine origin, known as the Corral lagoon and constitutes the ca becera of the Guarnón river, which when joining the Real river make up the Genil river (main tributary of the Guadalquivir); and in turn, the Genil, shortly after having passed the city of Granada, will also receive successively the Monachil and Dílar rivers on its left, both born on the west slope of Veleta and specifically the Dílar from a set of glacial lagoons called Lagunillos de la Virgen (2950 meters above sea level) and Las Yeguas Lake (2900 meters above sea level), the latter converted since the 1970s into a marsh to serve the ski resort.

However, towards the Mediterranean only the Veleta River rises from this mountain, which, starting from its southeast slope, will later join the Mulhacen River forming the Naute River, which after receiving the river Toril will form the river Poqueira, which in turn is a tributary of the Guadalfeo, which eventually flows into the Mediterranean, between the towns of Motril and Salobreña from Granada.


Sportingly, the Picacho de Veleta presents very interesting possibilities for both piste skiing, hosting the highest of the Sierra Nevada Ski Resort and, therefore, from Spain, all of them of red level or only suitable for expert skiers, except one, called Tajos de la Virgen, which is of black level or of maximum difficulty; such as extreme and backcountry skiing, off-piste; hiking, in summer; mountaineering and climbing, both rock and ice, for which purpose, at the same confluence of its western and southern slopes, there is permanently open a Refuge-bivouac (that is, lacking other services other than the strict shelter), suitable for its use by about 16 people and located above the Carihuela del Veleta pass, at 3,215 meters above sea level, with the following coordinates: 37º03.056N and 3º22.199W.

This refuge was built in 1994 and replaced the one known in mountainous environments, due to its appearance, as ‘El Cilindro’, which was located somewhat lower than the current one and which was originally conceived as an electrical transformer for the observatory service of the University nestled on the summit.

It is also worth highlighting the traditional marathon that in the first days of August of each year, coinciding with the feast of the Virgin de las Nieves, starts from the city of Granada and ends at the Puerto del Veleta.

Without prejudice to the other ski lifts that provide service On the slopes of Veleta, the highest is the Laguna Chairlift, whose upper station is located at 3315 meters above sea level, above and approximately one kilometer from Collado de la Carihuela; It is followed by the Antonio Zayas Ski Lift (3270 masl), which leads to the Panderones del Veleta; and later, between 3050 and 2950 meters above sea level, the Stadium, Veleta I and Veleta II Chairlifts, some of which usually work in summer for non-skiers and even cyclists. The cable car that from the Borreguiles services complex went up to practically the Veleta summit was dismantled at the end of the 20th century.


Very close to its summit, practically hanging over the slopes of its southeast face, there is an observatory for scientific experimentation belonging to the University of Granada, which built it in the 1970s. in Loma de Dilar, there are the great millimeter radio telescope and the Sierra Nevada Observatory.

How to get there?

Along the peak is also the highest mountain pass in Europe at 3367 m high, which is where the highest road in Europe, the A-395, 51 km long, ascends. Although its last 13 kilometers, from the elevation of 2500 meters above sea level, can only be traveled by motor vehicles if they have been previously authorized s expressly by the Sierra Nevada natural park for concurring in them some of the cases provided for in its regulatory regulations.

Between 1966 and 1999, the Sierra Nevada highway was extended and was passable by motor vehicles from Veleta to connect with the Alpujarra town of Capileira, running through the skirt del Mulhacén, as initially planned in the second decade of the 20th century, when its construction was approved.

 Collado de la Carihuela - Altiplano Experience

However, at present this route can only It can be done on foot, by mountain bike or on horseback, given that in the port or pass of La Carihuela -or Carrigüela- del Veleta (3,200 meters above sea level), the authentic gateway to the Alpujarra, the traffic of motor vehicles has been completely banned and deliberately hampered by the National Park authorities; The same happens in the opposite direction of traffic, starting from Puerto del Chorrillo, in the foothills of Mulhacén.


The top of the Veleta is crowned by the corresponding geodesic vertex of the National Geographic Institute and is populated by numerous radio and television repeater antennas. And it is that this use is favored by the vast panoramic view it offers, which is really impressive, not only of the mountainous massif where it is located but of almost the entire province of Granada.

 Cima Pico Veleta - Altiplano Experience

But also, if the meteorological conditions accompany, to the north you can see a large part of the province of Jaén and its mountains Mágina, Cazorla and even Sierra Morena; to the east, Almería, with its Sierra de Gádor in the foreground and even to the beaches of Roquetas de Mar; to the west, the provinces of Córdoba and Málaga, from the Sierras de la Almijara and Tejeda, in the foreground, to the most remote mountain ranges of Cabra and Ronda and even the Rock of Gibraltar; and to the south, behind the Lújar and Contraviesa mountain ranges, the Mediterranean Sea and, behind it, the Rif Mountains, in North Africa.