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Mulhacén ~ Canuto Central (North Face)

Mulhacén ~ Canuto Central (North Face)

Mulhacén ~ Canuto Central (North Face)

Page Type: Route

Location: Sierra Nevada, Spain, Europe

Lat/Lon: 37.05000°N / 3.3167°W

Object Title: Mulhacén ~ Canuto Central (North Face)

Route Type: Technical mixed climb

Time Required: Most of a day

Difficulty: AD -

Route Quality: 
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Page By: John Climber

Created/Edited: Dec 16, 2005 / Apr 24, 2008

Object ID: 167968

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Page Score: 73.05%  - 3 Votes 

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General Information

'Canuto Central' or central couloir of Mulhacén's north face is a classic winter route of the peak, firstly climbed in march 1970 by Cuevas, López , Asiain, Motóse and Gómez.

It has aprox. 650 meters of effective track and a height difference of aprox. 500 meters.

Approach from the 'Laguna de la Mosca' to the start of the climb is 1 and a half hours. The climb itself will last about 3-4 hours.


There are many ways to reach the lower slopes of Mulhacén’s north face. Some people prefer to start at Pradollano sky-station and approach from the west (with night-camp at the ‘Refugio de la Caldera’ or at the ‘Refugio Villa Vientos’), descending (next morning) to the NE from the “Collado del Ciervo” (a 3.120 m high pass to the west of Mulhacén), and bearing to the (frozen?) “Laguna de la Mosca” ( lake at 2.890 m under the north face). This 'Refugio de la Caldera', at the west slope of Mulhacén, can be reached from the Hoya del Portillo, at the south slope above Capileira village, too. Both approaches are long and it's advisable to make them the day before the climb. Then, next morning, attempt the couloir and go back. Both suggestions are about 5 hours walking till the 'Refugio de la Caldera'.

Here, I will propose a even longer approach, with a bigger height difference, which walks over one of the most popular and beautiful trekking routes in Sierra Nevada: ‘Genil river route’ and ‘Vereda de la Estrella’ walking path.

The starting point of the approach route is the “Barranco de San Juan” (1.200 m) which can be reached over a paved road (to the SE) from the village of Güéjar-Sierra. This small road passes several tunnels before reaching a parking lot next to a restaurant called "Mesón Barranco de San Juan". Here, where Barranco de San Juan meets the Genil riverbed is the place where the National Park starts. The walking path starts going down to the Genil river, which can be crossed over a wodden bridge. Once crossed to the opposite shore, we will continue to walk over a path to the left that goes up. The path goes next to the river (down left) passing through a forest for aprox. 200 metres. Half hour after have encountered the Genil river we reach a big chestnut tree, known as the ‘Grandfather’ among locals and mountaineers. Half hour after the tree the path splits in two branches. Both paths will bring us to the same place, but I advise to continue on the right one. The path to the left (and down brings us to the 'Cucaracha Hut' and, further away, the 'Aceral hut', both very recommended shelters)

The approach continues 1.800 metres from the intersection, where we meet the ruins of ‘La Probadora’ mines (active till the end of the fifties). Further we reach the deserted mines of ‘La Estrella’ and, later, the mines of ‘Doña Berta’ and ‘De la Justicia’, also deserted. Fifty minutes after ‘La Estrella’ mines we reach “El Real”, where Valdecasillas river and Valdeinfierno river meet eachother. There is a wooden bridge at this point. When one crosses this bridge and takes a steep path going up and to the left over the slopes at the other shore of the Genil river (called 'Rio Real at this heights, one goes directly to the 'Aceral hut', 'Cucaracha Hut' and back to the Barranco de San Juan. Our path goes with a bending along the Valdeinfierno River (to the right).

Soon (15 minutes from 'El Real') we will reach to ‘Cueva Secreta’ (1.750 m), where there is a natural bivouac under the rock. The real shelter is not next to the path and, therefore, not directly visible. When you want to go to 'Cueva Secreta' you will have to walk up the slopes at your right hand, just at the place where a small wooden bridge has been placed to cross Valdeinfierno River (there is a kind of shelter just right and next to the path) From the point where ‘San Juan’ river met Genil River, at the beginning of the route, there are 3 hours on foot.

We will cross the Valdeinfierno river to its right shore (over the mentioned bridge) and we will try to find an old threshing floor. Close to this point there starts a path which, in traverse over the slope of a ascending ridge, reaches the pass of ‘Majda del Palo’. This pass is easy to recognize because from ‘Cueva Secreta’ spot the summit of La Alcazaba peak appears exactly over the pass. From this pass we will proceed to the next valley (of Valdecasillas river, at the opposite slope of the same ridge) and we walk levelled furter heading towards Mulhacén. After sometime we join the river at the ‘Prado de las Vívoras’, (2080 m), where the path gets lost. Here is possible to camp, with, usually, running water. After this, the way continues flat and later gets steeper, always with the river at your left.Some rocky racks have to be passed. There is a last shelter on this way up before facing the last climb. The steeper part of the hike is negotiated, firstly with a long traverse to the left (west), gaining heigth progressively. Then a turn to the right (east), passing a water stream (usually frozen from november till june) and continuing over very delicated terrein (specially with snow and ice in the winter). After the last rack (‘Chorrera de la Mosca’) we will reach a pass to the plateau of the ‘Hoya del Mulhacén’. After 3 and a half hours from ‘Cueva Secreta’ the alpine lake ‘de la Mosca’ (2.895 m) and the base of Mulhacén’s north face is right in front of us.

Route Description

Approching the 1st crux-pass
Approaching the first Crux
End of the debry-cone
Top of the debry-cone

Ascend over the snowed slopes at the bottom of the north face trying to progress towards under the biggest rocky wall (center-left)of the lowest section of the face (to avoid avalanches). Notice that there are two big walls of rock at this lower section of the wall. The route starts at the debry cone at the right of the biggest wall (the left wall just in the center of the lower part of the wall).

When coming from the western 'Collado del Ciervo' you will have to descend to the bottom of the north face without loosing too much altitude. Coming from this point you will have to pass a first big cone of debry/snow. The next cone is the one which entrances the start of the route.

Progress upwards the top of this big debry-cone(snowed when conditions are good). Once it has been passed its narrow part (sometimes ice if there is not enough snow) we continue to the left over a wide, but inclined, snow ledge. Do not take the snowed slopes that we meet half-way up this traverse but walk all the way towards the top of this traverse. After this traverse we will reach a less inclined part: the highest point of this snow ledge, a kind of small 'shoulder' with a big rock-block at the mountain side. From this point, just after the big rock-block, to the right, begins the ‘Canuto Central’ (central couloir) of the Mulhacén. It's a VERY CLEAR and STRAIGHT way up.

We progress further up on this couloir, trying to avoid the middle of it in order to minimize stone and snow avalanches. Very soon we are at the first narrow point of the ‘canuto’. Here there is a delicate pass due to its steepness (40-45°) and the presence of ice. After this pass the couloir becomes wider. Here there is a rocky prominence in this open/wide part of the couloir, and we can avoid it to the left or to the right. It's very easy. Up we have rocks in sight. These form the second narrowness. This is the key-point of the route: a difficult pass on 45-50° and, depending of the quantity of snow, it could be an icy mixed section. Some groups might need to secure with rope. That was the last difficulty of the couloir before dealing with the rocky summit block.

The third, and last part, of the ascend offers three options: the original route goes to the right over the steep snow fields and joins the west ridge almost before the summit. The left variant traverses over the easy upper snow fields until a way up through the rocks is founded. The most difficult option is a direct attack the final rocky wall to the top, which is vertical and offers mixed climbing.

I advise to make an early start (as usual in this kind of routes) to avoid rock falling later in the midday.

Essential Gear

Since this route is thought as a winter ascend on snow, ice and rock, warm alpine clothing and equipement is necessary.

Crampons, two ice axes, four ice screws, some express-slinges(sets), a rope, and some long bandslinges (for relais/stand around rock-blocks). A pair of screw-carabiners are always useful. When climbing strait to the top over the last rocky section of the face (not going to the, easier, left or right) some extra rock-climbing gear (nuts, friends) will be needed.

Some climbers do not use the rope (and relais material) till the middle section of the route, where ice and mixed terrein has to be negotiated.


Coming out of the 2nd Crux-pass
Second Crux-pass
"Sierra Nevada - La Alpujarra" Scale 1:40.000

From 'Editorial Alpina' ~ Geògraf Salvador Llobet
Edicions Cartogràfiques, SL
Apdo. de Correos nr. 3
08400 Granollers (Barcelona)

Tel. nr.: +34 938 795 083
Fax nr.: +34 938 792 867
E-mail: alpina@jet.es

Extra Information (weather/huts)

This route is done best with a bivouac at the 'Hoya del Mulhacén' next to the 'Laguna de la Mosca' mountain lake (2.890 m) in order to be close to the step-in point early in the morning. Therefore, I advise to bring a tent, gas, food, warm sleeping bags, and other camping material.

Nevertheless, Mulhacén is in the middle of a National Park where camping is only allowed under certain circunstances. For info about these conditions and telephone numbers look at "Natural Park Sierra Nevada"-"View more info", at Mulhacén's SP page.

On the other hand, I know that bivouac in its true meaning (set tent just for the night and put it down next mornig) is permitted without any problem.

Finally, for those ones who want to make use of any kind of mountain sheter on the way to the step-in spot, they have to know that there is a recently renewed hut half way the approach route: it is the "Refugio Forestal del Calvario" (popularly know as 'La Cucaracha'), at 1.800 metres and with beautiful views to the 3000ers' north faces. It has place for 14 people and has some mattrasen. To reach it one has to take the left branche of the 'Vereda de la Estrella'. You will find this split half hour after passing the big and old chesnut tree -know as 'Grandfather'- that we find next to the path on our way up. This 'left' branche of the path will climb steep over the 'Cuesta de los Presidiarios', pass some ruines of old cottages to, finally, reach the hut. water at this hut can be a problem.

The Hut of Aceral, further than 'Cucaracha Hut' on the same path is smaller, but it has some simpler mattrasen but a fireplace! There is water about 10 minutes walking from the hut to a nearby water stream.

When we continue over this path we will reach the place know as "El Real", where we can walk further to 'Cueva Secreta' (see approach route avobe). There, in 'Cueva Secreta' there is shelter for 6/8 people, but it is a natural refuge and does not offer the same comfort as 'La Cucaracha'.

There is a telephone nr. with weather info. over Sierra Nevada:
906 365 384


Jon Sanz UIMLA Mountain Guiding


Canuto Central route, at the...Coming out of the 2nd Crux-passApproching the 1st crux-passEnd of the debry-coneCouloir inicialEn la NORTEnorte mulhacen
canuto central