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Great Cycling Climbs of Andalucia - Despiernas Caballos - The Lame Horses

Great Cycling Climbs of Andalucia - Despiernas Caballos - The Lame Horses

A quick glimpse upstream of the Rio Segura before the switch-backs

Despernar: "to cut or wound ones legs".  Not entirely sure my translation is sound, but its close enough! I love the colloquialisms given to local features and trails. This climb Despiernas Caballos - lame horses" is another colourful title to a beautiful and serene climb.

The Strava Segment Stats

Category: 2

Distance: 11.7km

Avg Grade: 5%

Ascent: 601m

Summit: 1,491m

Despernar: "to cut or wound ones legs".  Not entirely sure my translation is sound, but its close enough! I love the colloquialisms given to local features and trails. This climb Despiernas Caballos - "lame horses" is another colourful title to a beautiful and serene climb.

Its not overly long, not overly severe, and not overly high, but there is something about this ascent that fills the soul. If you take your time, and are not chasing the KOM title, then this climb has a certain..serenity..about it. Its sustained, has a few severe sections, but overall it gives a great sense of achievement considering its "only" a Cat 2 and as usual, the views are broad and breath-taking, offering some of the most beautiful mountain vistas in the Cazorla National Park

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Its root is anchored in La Toba, a small "quaint" clump of dwellings at the foot of a mighty cliff and perched atop a natural "stump" of rock. La Toba overlooks the Rio Segura and is placed at a natural fissure in the valley. The road, recently upgraded from abandoned pack-horse trail to smooth(ish) asphalt as part of the investment in the park, follows the Segura upstream as it slowly climbs out of the valley to crest on to the high plains of Pontones and Santiago de Espada.

The climb has few switch-backs, and so has a feel of relentlessness as it slowly meanders up the valley walls, past waterfalls and around rocky outcrops. The rock formations are curious and beguiling, erosion making the limestone stacks look like church candles, years of rain carving fissures and cracks down the faces of these karstic sentinels.

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The valley continues to drop away steeply to your right, and the occasional rock or two can be heard, tumbling and cracking down the scree slopes above, gravity having its way with anything not fastened down.

As the asphalt leads inexorably up it takes you with a certain inevitability to a stern, looming cliff face. This vertical wall stands ahead, impenetrable, separated from the road by a deep, boulder strewn gulley, and as if in an act of submission, the road doubles back from confrontation and starts to snake its way up the steepest part of the climb.

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This section offers the toughest gradients so far, entering high teens in places, but the hardest aspect is the duration. These are long, sustained sections between turns and the turns are narrow and steep with little respite. However, this affords a chance to look down the valley from whence you came and look across the vast ravine the Rio Segura has carved through this range.

Four switch-backs later and you enter the last section, a false-flat through a Pine grove. The flat feels such a release after such sustained climbing, and although its a false, the last remaining climbing is gentle with nothing much to trouble the legs. The road crests the valley walls and places you on the high tundra and grassy planes.

From here, a left turn takes you to Santiago de Espada, or a right will take you to Pontones, but thats a little further before you can get your cold beer.

A Great Climb.

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Great cycling holidays, on road or off

Journey through Spains greatest natural park.