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Cumbre del Empanadas and Piedra del Cuervo Summits

The summits leave a lasting impression on the minds of visitors to the Nature Reserve. The main summits are Las Empanadas (the highest point of the Nature Reserve, at 2107 m above sea level), El Cabañas, El Blanquillo, El Yelmo, El Almorchón, Las Palomas, El Gilillo and El Rayal.

The summits make up a very special ecosystem due to the adaptation of the wildlife to the mountain environment. At an altitude of 1800 m, the weather, soil and orographic conditions, combined with the geographical location, gives the vegetation unique characteristics. The first thing you will notice is the absence of forests. At these altitudes, the wind, extremely low temperatures, snow and the thin layer of soil make it impossible for trees to grow. The vegetation is limited to rounded woody shrubs that grow close to the ground, such as broom and other smaller, whitish creeping plants known locally as blanquizales or silver bushes.

Thus, silver bushes and broom populate the Nature Reserve’s summits. The silver bushes include several species that are covered in a whitish tomentum or woolly coating of plant hairs to protect them from the high radiation in the summer and freezing temperatures in winter that are the norm at these altitudes. Many of these plants are local species and native to the Baetic ranges, including Hormathophylla baetica, Andryala agardhii, Santonina elegans, Convolvulus boissieri, Arenaria tetraquetra, Scorzonera albicans and Pterocephalus spatulathus, for which there are no common names.

Broom grows among a series of cushion-like plant species shaped like igloos to withstand winds and the weight of snow. The broom species include Erinacea anthyllis, Hormathophylla spinosa, Echinospartum boissieri, Astragalus nevadensis nevadensis and Genista longipes. In between these two plant formations you can find a grass-like formation in which Helictotrichon filifolium, a sort of wild oat, predominates.

An easier option than the preceding two suggestions is to go to the summit of El Yelmo by car. The ecological and scenic features are similar and the views are spectacular. However, easy access has also spoiled part of the landscape through the building of relay stations and installation of antennas on the summit.



One of the summits selected for this section is the crowing summit of them all, El Empanadas, the highest peak in the Nature Reserve at 2107 m above sea level. You need to be in good physical condition and have plenty of time to get there on foot. Go by car, taking the forest track that leads to the drinking troughs at Rambla Seca. If you are coming from the Cazorla mountains, take the road to Nava de San Pedro until you come to a barrier where there is a fenced-in area with a gate. Open the gate and a few metres further on you will come to the drinking troughs on your right. If you are coming from the direction of the Segura mountains, you must go through the Campos de Hernán Pelea until you arrive at the dry riverbed of Rambla Seca. There is a track next to the drinking troughs that is not in very good condition, so you will have to go on foot unless you have an off-road vehicle. The track leads into a valley that ends in the ruins of an old forestry house known as La Cabrilla. From there, you must proceed on foot, following a stream next to the forestry house, heading upstream. Soon you come to a dry riverbed and start to climb uphill. When you reach the top of the hill, continue uphill on your right until you reach the summit. Along the way you can see how the Corsican pines grow more sparsely until they disappear altogether and you walk through an impressive cover of broom and climbing junipers all the way to the summit.


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To reach this summit requires less of an effort but it is no less beautiful than the others. La Piedra del Cuervo (1820 m) is in the Calar de Gila limestone pit. To get there, take the track that starts at the source of the Segura river and follow it until you arrive at Cañada de la Cruz. The track skirts the north-eastern part of La Cañada until it comes to a crossroads where there is a track on your right. The first crossroads you come to on your right is the track that goes through Hoya Maranza, continues to Hoya Espinosilla and then to the road from Pontones to Santiago de la Espada. The track is just over 6 km long, but you don’t go all the way to the end. After about 3 km you come to a crossroads where you turn right onto a track that takes you to a small airfield for light aircraft. It is easy to spot. Once you are on it, head south towards a monolithic peak, which is the Piedra del Cuervo.


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