Pico de las Nieves (Morron de la Agujereada)

  • Pico de las Nieves (Morron de la Agujereada)
  • 1956 m
  • Primary factor 1956 m
  • Gran Canaria HP.
  • Location: North 27.96091, West 15.57125 (GPS at the summit)
  • Difficulty: YDS class 4 (south ridge), YDS class 5.6 (east face)
  • Climbed December 7. 2014.


How to get there:
First, you must travel to the island of Gran Canaria. Next, the best road depends on where you are located, several roads converge on the highest part of the island. Road 130 from the east side, road 60 going nort from Maspalomas etc. The last stretch runs up along a military fence (well signed) and you arrive at a small parking area, location N27.96213, W015.57211, elevation about 1945 meter.
Route description:
From the parking, proceed a few steps uphill to the tourist viewing platform. There is an informational sign, also pointing out that the cliff directly south, named Morron de la Agujereada, is indeed the highest point of the island at 1956 meter.
Proceed directly towards this cliff. You walk along a fairly narrow ridge, that slopes gently downhill, then ends abruptly in a 3 meter downclimb (YDS class 4, but on the easier side.) From here, there are two options:
East Face, climbing route:
This route is (YDS) class 5.6, Norwegian rated as grade 5, and British rating as Severe.
Go to the left side (east) of the cliff in front of you. Descend on a down-sloping ramp. Note that there are two such ramps, it pays to move left and climb down about 2 meter, in order to descend along the lower ramp that will get you to the start of the climbing route.
The first section is about 3 meter vertical, this is likely about (YDS) class 4, not too hard. Next, follows a short stretch (almost flat), then another, very short, but steep climb, again about 3 vertical meter. There are many holds and this step is also about (YDS) class 4 quality. From here, you see the next, and by far hardest part of the climb, a fairly narrow crack with a chokestone blocking its upper end. This is the crux pitch of the climb. The crack receives little (no?) sun and may have ice in the winter season. Once under the top stone (a bit cramped up there) one must move out to the right. This may look easy, however, there is limited holds and this key move is the crux of the climb.
The terrain is now easier, one is on top of the first shoulder as viewed from the north. There are two bolts here for abseiling. The abseil off the north cliff may be slightly more than 30 meter, we did not try it with a single 60 meter rope.
The remaining route to the summit is easy, (YDS class 3/4) we down-climbed this without using the rope.
South Ridge, scramble route:
As you cross the bridge (over a hole in the rock) and get close to the vertical rock, go right (west) and proceed along a ledge. Soon, you need to scramble (easy) up a step in order to continue along the ledge. Further along, there is a small hole between the rock and a larger boulder, pass through this. Proceed along (pic. is looking back) the (still) very exposed ledge (pic. from returning) and find another small step that you need to climb up (easy). The route continues naturally and turns the south ridge, then into a distinct gully that continues left and uphill. The lower part of the gully requires care as the exposure below is close and significant. Move up here (easy class 4), the angle eases and the scramble becomes easier the higher you go. Continue up along the (south) ridge until you arrive at the summit.
This route may be done without using a rope, but only by experienced people. The exposure is significant along the entire traverse of the west face. Recently, new bolts have been drilled along this route, possibly to safeguard parties that may use a guide to reach the summit via this route.
A note on names: The highest mountain on Gran Canaria is known to most people (also the local people), as Pico de las Nieves. The summit rock which is actually the very highest point, has its own name, Morron de la Agujereada. In order to avoid confusion, we call the tourist platform which is easily accessible from the nearby parking area, for Pico de las Nieves, officially 1951 meter above sea level, while we call the true island high point at 1956 meter Morron de la Agujereada.
Heidi and I were visiting Gran Canary on one of our fairly common pre-christmas trips. It had come to my attention that the island high point could only be reached via some pretty serious technical climbing. Thus, Pål Jørgen had agreed to come down for the weekend. He arrived on Saturday, December 6th. (just in time for a nice dinner), we were all going home on Tuesday. We therefore had two days for our climb, always nice to have a backup day in case of unforseen problems.
It was only after the trip was all planned, that I became aware of an alternative route, non-technical, via my internet friend, Lars Holme.
As we were all prepared for the climbing route, we still decided to try this first. Pål Jørgen and I arrived at the parking near the top, shortly before 1100. We had good luck, the weather was really quite nice today. The past few days this summit area had been in a cloud, despite of pretty nice weather alomng the coast.
As I walked the few steps to the tourist top (1951m), I noticed ice on a few small spots of water. Below zero temperature last night. We quickly descended to the point where the climbing route starts. No issues really until we arrived at the base of the crack, clearly a more serious pitch. Pål Jørgen started out, while I belayed him from the base. The crack was filled with black ice making the center part very slippery. Still, Pål made good progress as he placed two pieces of protection, before arriving immediately below the chokestone. "Where am I?" he asked down to me. "Well, right below the big rock, you will need to move right", I replied. Easier said than done, Pål first got busy placing another piece of protection high up on the left side. Then, with a sign of clear determination, he moved right and very quickly disappeared from my view while saying that he was now on safe ground.
I followed and ran into a minor problem half way up, as I was unable to remove a piece with one hand, while I really appreciated holding my other hand on the rock. Eventually, I decided to leave this problem for our descent and continue climbing. I was already very cold on my fingers, this icy crack was no good place to stay for long. The move out right was pretty hard, even with excellent protection from above, my warm thanks to good work by Pål!
The rest of the climb was very easy, we used the rope since we had it all in place, however, it was not really needed. Lots of tourists at the viewing platform below. Quite a few waving hands to the two of us, sitting on top of the island in warm sunshine. The military radar station is also in clear view.
The view across to Teide was clear, its high summit white with snow. We stayed around a bit to enjoy the result of our effort. The descent was uneventful. We rapelled down the same crack, since we needed to rescue the protection that was stuck. Pål used the prussik on the rope as well as an extra sling to a friend that he could place with his right hand. he now had both arms free to work on the jammed piece and after some few attempts it came loose. We next downclimbed the lower parts without the need for any more abseiling.
We were not finsihed yet, as we wanted to also explore the route on the west side of the cliff. This worked very well. I noticed what looked like brand new bolts in a couple of locations along the traverse on the west ledge. Soon, we entered the final gully from the south side and arrived back on top for the second time. Nice to be able to document both these routes. My guess is that few people will attempt the east face route once the south ridge becomes widely known.
There is a summit register in a plastic box slightly south of the summit. We signed in and reported two ascents. From the book, it seemed that this peak now receives roughly one visit per month.
We returned back down the same route as we had just climbed. No need for protection, but utmost care is needed as this route runs on top of very steep cliffs with considerable drops. We went back up to the tourists, then our car and started our winding drive back to our hotel in Maspalomas.