Circular route in Guadarrama (Cotos - Cabezas de Hierro)


Cabezas de Hierro and its north face has always been one of our favorites of the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park. It has one of the most inclined blades of the mountain range and a channel, that of the lungs, of the most technical of the mountain range. There are many routes to both Iron Heads with 2,381m, as he did to his little brother, the Minor Iron Heads of 2,373m, but as a whim we wanted to make a circular leaving Cotos and bordering even the “damn” Valdesqui station.

Circular route in Guadarrama (Iron Heads)

Departing from the Port of Cotos

With the first snows of the winter season we decided to make the north face of the Iron Heads making a circular crossing. As every year, the north face is the one that houses more snow, so we decided to go well equipped as it is one of the most technical ascents of the Sierra de Guadarrama.

We park in the parking lot of Puerto de Cotos and walk during One kilometer along the asphalt road that goes to the Valdesqui station. On this road you have to walk carefully, because if the station is open the vehicle traffic is high. After the kilometer, a road appears on the left, the starting point of our route.

Heading to the Lesser Iron Heads

Treading snow from the beginning we left the path to the left Pingarrón Shelter. Going down a narrow road we arrive at a small wooden bridge and next to it you will begin to see the indications marked with the colors yellow and white from the path to the Iron Heads.

Towards the Iron Heads
Towards the Iron Heads

Shortly after, among the trees, a detour to Rascafría appeared, indicated to the left, and another to the right to Cabezas de Hierro, where it indicates 2.8km to the top. It seems little, but the difference from here is about 600m and almost 2 hours of climb.

Ascent to the lesser Iron Heads

Before beginning the final ascent the sky began to open and although we were just over 0 degrees, with the movement, we hardly had to throw garments such as Primaloft or a wind / rain layer of Goretex.

Towards the Iron Heads
Towards the Iron Heads

The ascent towards the Heads is what are called leg breakers, since it is quite steep and if there is ice you have to pull crampons and ice ax. In a little more than 2km, it ascends about 600m of unevenness, so the effort is assured.

Towards the Iron Heads
Towards the Iron Heads

With the snow, covering the rocks and streams that descend from the heads, we ascend gradually. The reality is that there are several aspects, but this time we decided to climb the classic route, the easiest and least technical. First you access the Iron Heads less and on your left at higher, climbing in both cases on large granite rocks and overlooking the Lozoya and to Madrid.

Towards the Lesser Iron Heads
Madrid in the background

Hanging towards Valdesqui

To return we take the crest that goes to the World Ball and the Valdesquí station. The only technical section is the lowering of the Cabezas de Hierro minor, since it is on large rocks and with snow it can be a real danger if you do not see the holes under the snow. Being a ridge, this is a rise and fall, and before deviating to Valdesqui you have to climb almost to the top that goes to the World Ball. Luckily there is a path, more or less marked, that borders this and leaves you on one of the ski lifts of the station.

At the summit
Towards the Major Iron Heads

Once on the ski lifts, you can return to the hills or down one of the tracks, always easier but knowing that 2.5km of asphalt is waiting for you, so everything depends on the rush and what type of terrain you want.

Practical data

How to get?

To reach the Port of Cotos there are several ways. In car, by the Port of Navacerrada or by Rascafría, or by train from Cercedilla (line C9).

Recommended reading

Here are two guides that bring together 50 routes of the Sierra de Guadarrama and Gredos. Totally recommended.

  • Rother's Sierra de Gredos
  • Sierra de Guadarrama de Rother

What clothes to wear in winter?

  • Long pants, thermal shirt and fleece
  • Hat and gloves
  • Primaloft if you are cold
  • Raincoat or third layer for wind or rain
  • Long boots and winter socks
  • Crampons and ice ax, the top may be frozen
  • Leggings. Here is a good example of Leggings and eye with size.
  • Backpack of at least 30l
  • Trekking sticks
  • Map/GPS. Without this, don't even show up. As a GPS, our recommendation is Garmin GPS 64

More routes in the hiking section and Guadarrama