Veleta is a regular entry on lists of superlative bike climbs like “world’s highest/toughest/hardest” and, at 3,394 m (11,135 ft), Veleta more than deserves the distinctions but Veleta has a few things that the others don’t, which makes it even more alluring. It is the second highest peak on the Iberian Peninsula, overshadowed only by Mulhacén, 3,479 m (11,413 ft), its neighbor directly to the east. But unlike Mulhacén, you can ride your gravel or mountain bike to within 25 m (82 ft) of Veleta’s peak, making it the highest cyclable climb in Europe. Time your ascent to a summertime full moon to reach the peak at sunrise for an experience that’s hard to match anywhere else in the world.
To get the most out of this rare, nocturnal adventure, plan your ascent for June 28, July 27, or August 26, 2018. Those are the dates for the full moons this summer and, if there are no clouds, you can likely ride up Veleta without needing to turn on your lights. In addition to front and rear lights, you’d do well to bring a thermal longsleeved shirt, a wind jacket, and tights or leg warmers for the ride down. Bring plenty of water and food since there’s not much available once you pass the 1700 meter mark (but nothing’s open at night so either way, bring supplies!)
Since our first moonlight ascent, which was organized and supported by local club, Granabike, in 2012, they’ve since made it an annual, fully-supported event with support and SAG. If there is to be a 2018 edition, info will probably be published to the club website closer to the dates.
We try to ride Veleta at least once/year for a variety of reasons, mainly to prove we can still do it, to be reminded of why we chose to live here, to suffer a bit, and to test the elasticity our self-imposed boundaries. These are probably good reasons for you to do it too. Drop us an email if you have questions or need more information about riding up Veleta.
Ride notes: The red route marked on the map is our actual ride, which took us up to the peak and over to the other side of the Sierra Nevadas, where we spent the night before heading home the following day (optional). Both the yellow off-road route and purple road route were added to provide some alternative options. While we chose to ride our dual-suspension mountain bikes up and over Veleta, someone fitter and faster might do well with a gravel bike with some front suspension. We locked out our suspension for most of the climb but having suspension helped stave off fatigue and maintain focus on the descent, which can be loose and rocky singletrack for the first 10-15 km. In addition to carrying a change of clothes, flip-flops, toothbrush, toothpaste and shampoo, we each hauled a couple liters of water and lots of food since resources are scarce from around 1,700 m on up. July and August are usually the best months to do this because any sooner and you may run into snow around 2800 meters; any later and it gets pretty cold above 2500 m.
GPX FileOff-road (yellow) GPX FileRoad (purple) GPX File