The highest point in the region of Madrid (Comunidad Autónoma de Madrid) is Peñalara (2.430 m.), that is also the highest summit in Sierra de Guadarrama (Guadarrama mountain range). Nevertheless, this mountain share the border between the provinces of Madrid (Comunidad Autónoma de Madrid) and Segovia (Comunidad Autónoma de Castilla y León). The second mountain in highness of Comunidad de Madrid is Cerro Claveles (2.390 m.), that can be considered a secondary summit, located very near of Peñalara and that share also the border with the neighbouring Comunidad de Castilla y León. The highest mountain situated completely inside of Comunidad de Madrid is Cabezas de Hierro, that presents a main summit (Cabeza de Hierro Mayor, 2.383 m.) and a secondary summit (Cabeza de Hierro Menor, 2.365 m.).
Climbing Cabezas de Hierro is a very interesting experience, specially in winter. North face presents several little corridors, easy to people that use to climb difficult alpine routes with technical equipment but very interesting to mountaineers that love easy experiences using ice-axe and crampons. Furthermore it’s possible practising (in the coldest months of winter) ice cascade climbing in a known cascade in the base of those corridors.
This mountain is surrounded by huge pinewoods (Pinus sylvestris), that are exploited actually by the Paular’s pinewood belgian society (Sociedad belga de pinares de El Paular), founded in 1855. In these forests we can find several protected species (in danger of extinction) like black stork (cigüeña negra, Ciconia nigra) or mamals like otter (nutria, Lutra lutra). In the south face there is a very interesting geological formation: La Pedriza. You can know more about this in the excellent SP page of Pedriza (submitted by Diego Sahagún).
The access is relatively easy: there are two roads that ascend to each mountain passes: puerto de Cotos (1.830 m.) and puerto de Navacerrada (1.860 m.). The area around Cabezas de Hierro is actually inside of the limits of two protected natural spaces: Peñalara Natural Parkand Cuenca Alta del Manzanares Regional Park (the south face of Cabezas de Hierro is inside of it). There is a project to preserve a more extensive area like a National Park, but exists a big polemic because its protected area. The Natural Resources Ordenation Plan of future Sierra de Guadarrama National Park of Comunidad de Madrid establish 75.500 has, but only 34.500 will be National Park; other 41.000 will be Regional Park and “prepark”, and other 25.000 has are established like a strange “transition zone”, where it will be possible constructing. The ecologists denonce that there are wide zones outside of the projected National Park with a very important ecological interest and that the “transition zone” supose a threat because of town planning speculation.
Another threatens are the nearby Valdesquí and Navacerrada ski resorts. Thousands of people come by car in ski season to Puerto de Cotos and Navacerrada. The north face of neighbouring peak of Valdemartín (2.279 m.) and west face of Alto de Guarramillas (2.252 m.) are ruined. Fortunately, from Cabezas de Hierro the visual impact of those ski resorts is little. There was an old ski resort in Puerto de Cotos, that was placed in the south and east faces of Dos Hermanas (2.271 m.), very near to Peñalara and its glacier moraines, but was dismantled some years ago.
To find the best route is advisable consulting the web page of Guiacampsa where you have a seeker. It’s very ease to use: you have to refill the fields “origen-localidad” (locality where you start your route) and “destino-localidad” (locality where you end your route; in this case, you can write Cercedilla, for example). In the map appears only Puerto de Navacerrada. From Madrid: take A-6 to Collado Villalba. Then M-601 to Puerto de Navacerrada (pass mountain where you can climb Cabezas de Hierro by its west face, following the long ridge of Cuerda Larga). From here, turn right following M-604 until Puerto de Cotos, where there is a parking. There is a road indicated as “Valdesquí” (ski resort), but it’s better parking the car in the parking of Puerto de Cotos to start the routes in north face of Cabezas de Hierro.
In ski season, if you want to find a place to park you’ll have to rise early. From northern Spain: A-1 to a cross-roads indicated as “Rascafría and Lozoya” (right). From here, M-604 to Puerto de Cotos (and M-601 to Puerto de Navacerrada if you want follow the route of Cuerda Larga). From northwestern Spain: If you pass the town of Segovia, there is a road (CL-601) that ascends to Puerto de Navacerrada crossing a beautiful pinewood (follow to Puerto de Cotos as I described before if you want start from here your trip to Cabezas de Hierro).
An old train climbs every day to Puerto de Navacerrada and Puerto de Cotos from the village of Cercedilla. From Madrid there are several trains a day (line C-8 of Cercanías RENFE) that have different stops in the capital of Spain (Atocha, Nuevos Ministerios and Chamartín are the main). To know the timetable and more information it’s very useful consulting the web page of RENFE (Spanish Railway National Net)
Several buses (line 691) of the bus company Larrea (bus stop in Moncloa, Madrid; phone: 915304800) get to Puerto de Navacerrada, Puerto de Cotos and Valdesquí ski resort.
No permits or fees are required to enter in this zone. We have to remember that the neighbouring Peñalara Natural Park and Valdesquí ski resort are very visited, specially in winter (in this season, Puerto de Cotos and Puerto de Navacerrada are crowded). It’s important to notice that can be difficult parking and even getting to Puerto de Cotos or Puerto de Navacerrada during the ski season. Guardia Civil (a kind of spanish rural police) usually blocks the traffic between Puerto de Navacerrada and Puerto de Cotos when the parkings are full. There are informational placards in the main roads that advertise about this and another events (like road conditions or if it’s obligated driving with tyre chains in the cars when the snow covers the roads).
For knowing better the road conditions (specially indicated in winter) you can consult the web page of DGT (Traffic General Direction) in (here you can see a map where you have to choose the province; in this case: Madrid).
Remember the traffic restrictions in ski season already commented (you have always the possibility from getting by train).
Camping and lodging
Free camping is forbidden in all the area, but you have lots of possibilities to lodge in the environs.
Very near to Puerto de Cotos you can stay in the refuge of Pingarrón ; phones: 915804216 and 915942949. It’s the cheapest way to sleep in the proximities of Cabezas de Hierro. Moreover it’s placed in the way to north face of this mountain.
In Puerto de Cotos you can sleep in the old refuge Coppel (Club Alpino Español) (phone: 918520707), a pleasant lodging with bar.
Other lodgings are rural houses (visit the link toprural ) in several villages (Rascafría, Cercedilla and others; there are lots of possibilities), hotels, campings, etc. Visit also the link of sierranorte.
However, it’s not obligated sleeping the day before in the proximities of Cabezas de Hierro to climb it. You can getting to the top of this mountain in a long day, though it’s a good idea to climb the two highest mountains in Sierra de Guadarrama in the same weekend sleeping in puerto de Cotos or another place.
When to climb
Winter: ice-axe and crampons (even rackets) are neccesary, anyway a good equipment to cold days. The wind can be a serious problem in the tops and on the ridge between Cabeza de Hierro Mayor and col of Valdemartín. Nightfall is about 6 pm. Spring: the snow conditions change quickly; you can find hard ice or soft snow in the same week, depending of weather conditions. Warm days begin to replace to cold days and there are more hours of light. Thaw begins and flowers covers the meadows, making the ascent very pleasant. Summer: be careful in hot days. Carry 1,5 litres of water at least (you have several streams by the way also), a good hat and suntan oil. The snow dissapears and winter routes in north face convert in unpleasant rocky slopes (it’s not advisable to climb Cabezas de Hierro this way in this season). Autumn: snow covers the tops at the beginning of this season, and cold and rain can be a great inconvenient. Pinewoods don’t do so beautiful this ascent as in another mountains, where the leafs change of colour in different species of trees.
Exceptionally, you can find snow in the tops of Sierra de Guadarrama even in June.
Consult the INM (Meteorological National Institute) page to know the weather forecast or this link: Weather in Venta Marcelino.
To know the snow conditions you can visit the webpage of Valdesquí ski resort.
You can see further information: sierranorte where there is a webcam placed in Puerto de Cotos (the view embrace the north face of Cabezas de Hierro and the road to Valdesquí ski resort).
Another webcam, placed in Puerto de Cotos to: Venta Marcelino's webcam
The map edited by Editorial Alpina, scale 1:25.000 is one of the best.
You can use the map edited by La Tienda Verde , scale 1:50.000. You can buy it by Internet at this webpage or visiting the link of Desnivel .