East Face Scramble

Page Type
La Gomera, Spain, Africa/Europe
Route Type:
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Time Required:
Half a day
Very steep scramble and cactus bushwhack

Route Quality: 1 Votes

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East Face Scramble
Created On: Feb 1, 2016
Last Edited On: Feb 1, 2016


Yours truly poing on a basalt wallLa Fortaleza East Face - the route heads up to the saddle to the right of the mountain

The regular route to Fortaleza de Chipude is a short scramble through a couloir of the mountain''s north-east butress, which takes little more than half an hour if started at the nearest trailhead at Pavón. Since the coulouir has been secured with steps during the last years the main fun lies in a traverse of the buttress towards the plateau of the table-top mountain. In windy conditions this can be quite dangerous but again, you need to take only a few steps and you are safe.

A much longer and overall quite difficult route starts at Erquito, a village some 800m beneath the summit plateau, located in one of La Gomera's most impressive canyons, Barranco de Erque. The route negotiates a basalt ridge between two branches of the canyon before heading up the east face of the mountain. It is extremely steep, there are only few marks and the route generally is overgrown with thorny bushes and cacti. It ascends terrace-like structures so that the occasional break is possible.

The route heads for Degollada de la Fortaleza, where it joins the north-east buttress route for the remaining 30 minutes.

Getting There

Ermita de MilagrosaErmita de Milagrosa , trailhead for the east face scramble

  • From San Sebastian follow GM-2, the Carretera del Centro.
  • Follow the signs to Valle Gran Rey, the most important touristic area in the south-west of La Gomera.
  • Close to the island's highpoint, Garajonay, at a place called Pajarito (parking lot) side road CV-13 turns off left (south) to the village of Igualero.
  • Switch to CV-17 to Chipude.
  • After 1.5 km a road turns off left to the villages Erque and Erquito.

Route Description

GarajonayOn La Fortaleza's north-east ridge

  • General:
    • Start altitude: 700m
    • Summit altitude: 1241m
    • Prevailing exposure: East
    • Type: Hike and scramble
    • Protection: None

  • Effort: 2 - Elevation gain: 800m
  • Power: 3 - Very steep on the east face
  • Psyche: 3 - Exposed on the north-east buttress and in several sections on the east face
  • Difficulty: 3 – Easy – if it weren’t for cacti of all kinds
  • Orientation: 4 - Difficult on the east face

A good starting point is Emita de Milagrosa in the little mountain village Erquito. From here a path leads into the narrow Barranco de Erque, which is overshadowed by the Fortaleza east face some 600m higher. At first the path negotiates a few cultivated terraces, which it climbs directly through the cultivated fields. A few steps later it passes above a small reservoir before crossing a small gully. From here a steep ascent heads across one of the brittle ridges which come down from Garajonay in the north.
Basalt Wall
Rock tower
The cut through teh basalt wall

After the ridge the path heads along the steep west slopes high above Barranco de Erque where it joins and follows a long basalt wall. It crosses the wall in its centre traversing the slope in direction of the village Erque to the north. Before reaching the village it touches another set of terraces, turning west and heading up to a solitarily standing house. From the house you can head up to Mirador de Erque, a lookout, famous for the view onto the Fortaleza east face (and also reachable by car).
La Fortaleza
Crossing the bedo of Barranco de Erque
Starting the scramble to La Fortaleza

Return to the house, turn west again and head into uppermost Barranco de Erque. After some 500m you cross the barranco floor, where the scrambling ascent to Fortaleza starts for real. The path is barely visible but there are cairns. However, the surest way not to get lost is to follow the GPS track attached to this route. Much of the east slopes beneath La Fortaleza used to be cultivated and there are still the remains of some terraces. Also, there are a number of rock faces, which need to be negotiated and in the end you’ll have to figure out the best way for yourself.
Rock tower above Barranco de Erque
Easy rocky section
Again indicating the route quality
The actual quality of the  path

In general the route heads directly northwards until it has passed a secondary ridge of La Fortaleza (direct east ridge). You reach one of the aforementioned rocky sections, where a few zig-zags and a turn to the west lead you into the upper east face. The slope remains extremely steep but levels out after a dowen switchbacks (after the turn to the west). A longer straight section takes you to another rock wall which you pass underneath until you reach a negotiable section to the top of the wall and return. The path gets better (at least more visible) as you close in on the huts at Degollada de Fortaleza.
La Fortaleza
Descending the couloir
On the north-east buttress

In the saddle turn west towards the north-east buttress of the mountain. Now, the route is plainly visible, even paved in some sections. Two switchbacks lead to a chimney in the buttress, which used to be the crux of any ascent to the mountain. Nowadays steps have been placed into the chimney so that you easily reach the north-east ridge. Today’s crux is the exposed traverse to the Fortaleza Plateau, which is short but can be difficult in wet or stormy conditions. I’ve traversed it twice, each time in full force winds, so prepare to duck behind any piece of rock you can find.

The Fortaleza Plateau itself is no problem in any conditions. There are two trails which lead to the south-east buttress, which offers great views into the massive east face. Here, again take care in windy conditions.

Essential Gear

Hiking gear with robust boots and long pants (to avoid the thorns along the way. Some windstopper jacket for the final ascent.

External Links

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East Face Scramble

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