THE VELETA PASS – A HIGH MOUNTAIN PASS OVER 3000 MASL

Total Distance: 155km

Elevation Gain: 3400m

Text: Rafa Manso

Photos: Javier López / Rafa Manso

Veleta, from the Arabic word ‘balata’ which means ‘cut’, makes a clear reference to the cuts (or walls) that outline the peak of Veleta, some of them close to 500 meters high.

We usually climb the Veleta peak along its north face. A 42km climb. It is a very long climb but, – could it be made even longer? Yes, of course, on southern face. Ascending through the Alpujarra the climb is 10km longer, and the last 40km are on a path. Cool, let’s do it! -.

It’s early October 2021, more than a year and a half with the issues caused by COVID-19 to live a normal life. Besides an unfortunate crash training in August 2020. The result, broken left collarbone and shoulder ligaments. This move away the idea of riding the route in October 2020. We make it clear, after the summer 2021, when everything seemed was returning to a new normality, we would ride the Veleta pass from the Alpujarra.

In other circumstances it would have been another long endurance route on the calendar, but in that moment, it carried a huge emotional charge. We had to ride that pass over 3,000m as a symbol of overcoming and tough fight to keep safe our lives and the business.

October in Granada is a perfect month for cycling. The days are long enough and the temperatures are soft, so we put on the calendar this 155km route and 3400m of elevation gain for the first Saturday of the month.

Bikes with bikepacking bags full of some food and extra clothes. The weather can change in a few minutes when you are in the high mountain, so it is better to be ready for this.

Still night, It’s 6am, we adjusted our headlamps and started pedaling. We cross through the Tablate bridge, the historical access from Granada to the Alpujarra. At the time we arrived to Órgiva village, we knew the real challenge had started, and we were going to have ahead a brutal climb, 52km with 2,700m of elevation gain.

In our mind we knew we had to dose the pace very well because it was going to be the first time for us to ride such a long and steady climb like this. And besides, the difficulty increases riding above 2000m. Even so, and maybe because of the nervousness of the moment, we did the first km in a very good pace until Capileira village, where the tarmac road would turn into a gravel road.

The landscape was really overwhelming. The trees disappeared very quickly and on both sides of the path we were always observed by large stones, wildflowers and shrubs. Muscle fatigue appeared but the path was so impressively beautiful that mitigated it. The gravel road turned into a singletrack with a lot of stones and a sizeable slope, main cause of our really low VAM.

Finally we arrived. We had achieved it. We decided, before start the descend, to reach the summit. Our reward, enjoy the views and the breeze at 3,400m high and take a long descent on tarmac until Granada, our basecamp.