El Fraile (493m) from Los Escullos - Hiking to the Top of the Cabo de Gata Natural Park

Main Posts Background Image

Main Posts Background Image

Friday 13 February 2015

El Fraile (493m) from Los Escullos - Hiking to the Top of the Cabo de Gata Natural Park

The summit of El Fraile (the monk) is the highest point in the Cabo de Gata Natural Park at 493m. Flanked on both sides by lower summits, Cerro del Marchal (357m) to the south-west and Cerro de los Frailes (444m) to the north-east, the massif of Los Frailes (the monks) looms large over the surrounding desertscape and volcanic cliffs below. Although, at less than 500m, it is only a small peak in comparison to some of the giants of the Sierra Nevada nearby when set against the rest of the Cabo de Gata natural park it gives a sense of being a much larger peak and a tempting one to climb with the promise of far-reaching views over both the park and the sparkling ocean.

Our hiking map of the Cabo de Gata natural park shows many hiking trails and routes criss-crossing the low peaks and volcanic ridgelines of the area, but surprisingly none that extend to the summit of El Fraile. When we had hiked around the massif, during our loop along the Rambla de Pozo de los Frailes to San Jose and back along the GR92 trail running along the coast, we had seen a handful of trails heading up onto the El Fraile massif, but all that appeared on our map were a few dotted red lines that ended on the lower slopes.

However, having spent weeks staring at the massif we felt there was an obvious route to try, approaching from the north and following an undulating ridgeline that we could clearly see rising up all the way towards the summit. We did try this route for the first time on 9th February, but strong winds almost took our feet from under us and we were forced to retreat after climbing to just 150m. But, with a beautiful morning dawning on the 13th February we rose early to set out once again.

Starting out on the trail towards El Pozo de los Frailes running behind Camping Los Escullos, after just a few hundred metres we veered left and northwards following a rough track that stretched onto the scrubland covering the lower slopes of the massif. The initially clear trail became gradually less visible on the ground but we could clearly see the start of the ridge away to our right and began making our way cross country towards it. There were occasional cairns en route, but we mostly picked our own way through the remains of terraces already hot in the morning sun.

Scrambling over the loose rocks onto the lower part of the ridge our climb began. The trail was rocky and hard to follow in places with just an occasional cairn to show that people had walked this trail before, although it seemed like sheep were the most frequent visitors. For the most part the trail was easy though, apart from one very steep section over loose ground, but we made good progress picking out the route which seemed best to us rather than worrying about a 'trail'. The view soon opened on both sides. To our left the sea sparkled in the morning sun while to our right we could see the ochre hills of the park rolling away. With just a mild breeze to cool us it was a very peaceful atmosphere.

We hiked on to reach a flat plateau roughly 100m below the summit before pushing on over the large boulders on the final ascent, reaching the trig' point at the top after just an hour or so of moderate hiking. The view was wonderful. 180 degrees of our vision was taken up by the Mediterranean sea, bordered by the rolling volcanic coastline of the park and the distant cliffs and bays of Andalucia. We could see for hundreds of kilometres. Looking inland the entire park was spread out before us and the distant snow topped. Sierra Nevada were almost visible despite a haze hanging in the air. On a clear day they would be spectacular. A special treat, looking down towards the coast directly below us, was watching the waves crashing on the closest shoreline that we had walked so often already, looking tiny now almost 500m below us.

We sat to enjoy our lunch and whiled away more than an hour in the cool breeze as the occasional cloud drifted by and we tried to capture the wonderful scene in photos. We could have sat there all day and contemplated what a wonderful place this would be to watch a sunset, although we did eventually tear ourselves away to retrace our steps back to our camping. The trail was actually easier to follow heading downhill. The only hard part was saying goodbye to that amazing view at the summit.

Walk Information:
Motorhome Base - Camping Los Escullos
Start/ End Point: Camping Los Escullos - El Fraile - Camping Los Escullos
Total Distance: approx 6km
Time it took us: 2 hours (excluding sitting time)
Level: Moderate (plus one 100m steeper section)
Map: Editorial Alpina: Cabo de Gata Nijar 1:50.000

Related Posts:
10 Reasons to Visit the Cabo de Gata -Nijar Natural Park - Andalucia, Spain
12 Places to Visit and Things To Do in Cabo de Gata Natural Park
10 Hiking and Walking Routes in the Cabo de Gata - Nijar Natural Park

No comments

Post a Comment

Error 404

The page you were looking for, could not be found. You may have typed the address incorrectly or you may have used an outdated link.

Go to Homepage