About the Sierra Nevada

The Sierra Nevada means "snowy range" in Spanish, its many peaks include the highest point of continental Spain, Mulhacén (3478m), and more than 20 others over 3000m.

The area combines the joint attractions of snowy peaks, abundant sunshine and a warm Mediterranean coastline. The cities of Granada, Almería and Málaga are all in the vicinity.

The Sierra Nevada National Park was formally established on 14 January 1999 and range is also designated a UNESCO Biosphere (1986).

The geology of the area is made up of tertiary alpine formations. The range was formed during the same events as the European Alps and the the Atlas of North Africa, with the Iberian and Eurasian plates being impacted by the African plate.

The range is part of the wider mountain belt known as the Baetic System, winding along Spain's Mediterranean coast. The broad geography of the range is one of a ridge running broadly west-south-west to east-north-east. To the South, several long but narrow river valleys lead off towards the south-west, separated by subsidiary ridges. The characteristically steeper northern aspect, has a less orderly array of valleys and ridges, feeding the Genil River below.

The climatic conditions in the region vary enormously throughout the year and by elevation above sea level. Summer in the valleys can be swelteringly hot and winter on the peaks is sufficient to allow ski-ing and winter mountaineering with temperatures as low as -35degC. Rainfall varies greatly with altitude from 350mm to 1600mm annually.

There is a wealth of wildlife throughout the range including 64 endemic species. A visitor stands a good chance of seeing Spanish ibex mountain goat, rabbits, hares and squirrels. It is also home to foxes, badgers, martens and wild cats although you would be very lucky to catch a glimpse of these shy creatures. In the blue skies above you there can often see Royal Eagle, Golden Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, Common Kestrel, Little Owl and Eurasian Eagle-owl. There are also many other smaller birds and fowl and also lizards, frogs, toads, dragonfly and butterfly.

The range of vegatation is huge, as one would expect from an environment encompassing everything from dry sub-tropical zones through orchards, meadows, alpine and barren rocky peaks. Lower zones play host to juniper and gorse, higher up are the figs and olive trees, higher again are the oaks, chestnuts, poplars before giving way to scots pine and alpine flowers such as crocus and violet.

Sierra Nevada Books and Maps

Below are a few handy resources for your trip to the Sierra Nevada.

Altitude and its Effects

Travel at High Altitude, Medex, ISBN 0-901100-76-5 (free to download from Medex)
Altitude Illness: Prevention & Treatment, The Mountaineers Books, Bezruchka, ISBN 0-89886-685-5 (pocket-sized guide)
Medicine for Mountaineering, The Mountaineers Books, Wilkerson et al, ISBN-10: 1594850763, ISBN-13: 978-1594850769

British Mountaineering Council (BMC) website
International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA) website

Walking Guides to the Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada - La Integral de los 3,000, Editorial Piolet, 1:25,000, ISBN 9788493787493
Walking in the Sierra Nevada, Cicerone, Walmsley,  ISBN-10: 1852844353, ISBN-13: 978-1852844356
Walk! The Alpujarras, Discovery Walking Guides, Davis, ISBN 1-904946-23-2
Sierra Nevada - Alpujarras Walking Guide, Discovery Walking Guides Ltd, Brawn, ISBN-10: 1899554378, ISBN-13: 978-1899554379


Sierra Nevada, La Alpujarra Map and Hiking Guide, 1:40,000 Illustrated Map, ISBN-10: 8480902558, ISBN-13: 978-8480902557
Alpujarras Tour & Trail Map, Discovery Walking Guides, (waterproof) 1:40,000, ISBN 10: 1904946259, ISBN 13: 9781904946250
Sierra Nevada: Alpujarras/Marquesado del Zenete, Editorial Penibetica, 1:40,000, ISBN: 9788493444938
GR 240: Tour of the Sierra Nevada, Editorial Penibetica, 1:40,000,
Sierra Nevada - Las Alpujarras, IGN, 1:100,000,

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