The Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park has a
very rough orography, with an average height of 1.100 metres, the Torrecilla Peak being
the tallest part with 1.919 metres. The Natural Park is formed by the Sierras of Tolox, de
la Nieve, de la Hidalga, del Pinar, Parda, Alcojana; with sceneries of great beauty such
as the mouth of the Verde river dividing the Sierra de Tolox from Sierra Real, La Nava del
Cortijo, the Lifa valley or the Torcal de las Atalayas. The Natural Park has important
cavities and caves, such as the GESM pothole, the third in the world regarding deepness,
with 1.098 metres, a real challenge for potholers.
The Natural Park of Sierra de las Nieves is a
living museum which guards the most prized treasure, the Spanish fir tree, an almost
extinct relic of the large coniferous forests of the Ice Age, millions of years ago. The
Spanish fir tree is a species which is protected by the law as it in danger of
disappearing, as the forests only reach an area of 2.500 hectares, although 2.000 hectares
of these forests are in the Sierra de las Nieves. The Spanish fir is a tree with great
beauty and stature, admired by all mountaineers and botanists, as it is a very rare
The Spanish fir grows almost exclusively over
the abrupt crests of the limestone hillsides, reaching an average life span of 100 years
and a height of about 25 metres, the spring with the thaw being best time of the year to
contemplate them, with two notorious varieties, the more usual green colour and another
with a blue tone. In the Natural Park of Sierra de las Nieves three large Spanish fir tree
groves co-exist, the one in Sierra de las Nieves, between Quejigar and the Encina gully;
the one in Yunquera, between the Cañuelo gully and the Picacho foothills, and the one in
the Sierra de Alcojona foothills.
The gall-oak, also called the Andalusian oak,
is another one of the centenary trees which are characteristic of the Park, the largest
specimens which can be found in the area of Cerro Alto and Cueva del Oso. Thus, in the
area of high mountain in the Natural Park of Sierra de las Nieves there is an abundance of
gall-oaks, yews, maples and ashes, whereas in the area of low mountain there are, as well
as the Spanish fir, the holm-oaks, chestnuts and pine forests. In the Park there are also
some holm-oaks and carobs, and a great diversity of Mediterranean brushwood plants, such
as the rock rose, rosemary, thyme, lavender or iris.
Regarding the fauna, the Environmental Agency
has classified up to 195 species of a variety of vertebrates, among which are the golden
eagle, the otter, and the Hispanic goat, considered to be the queen of theses
spots and finds an excellent refuge in this territory. Although there are fewer, when the
sun sets, the roe deer comes down to drink water in the Carboneras watering hole.
Regarding birds, there are hardly any pairs
of Griffon vultures left, although there is a larger presence in the azure skies of the
sparrowhawk, the kestrel, the peregrine falcon and the tawny vulture. There are also other
birds which nest in the park, such as greenfinches, goldfinches and blackbirds, swifts and
wrynecks. Other animals characteristic of these spots are the partridges and rabbits, the
ichneumon or small rodents such as rats and moles, as well as reptiles such as snakes,
vipers, lizards and wall lizards, without forgetting the frogs and other amphibians.
Foxes can also be seen marauding the ample
area, without forgetting the large trout which cut through the Verde river mouth, always
ambushed by the otters.
This whole marvellous ecosystem is possible
thanks to the fact that the Sierra de las Nieves and its surroundings benefit from the
rains which bring the Atlantic winds full of humidity, December, January and February
being the most rainy months. The snows are usually in February and the beginning of March.
The temperatures are extreme, registering a
minimum of 15 degrees below zero in the winter and over 40 degrees in summer; the average
temperature of this area is about 17 degrees. There are few things more beautiful as the
Sierra de las Nieves and its surroundings.
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