ANY DAY NOW the first snows will blanket the summit of one of southern Spain’s highest mountains — just a short distance from the Mediterranean beaches where (hardier) folk swim all year around.
La Maroma, soaring 2,068 metres, is the highest peak in Málaga province — and probably the closest thing to a holy mountain in these parts.
In the days before refrigeration the neveros (literally, “snowmen”) would trek to the top of Maroma to seek snow and ice. This they would pack hard in straw and load it in esparto baskets on the backs of mules. Transported to the coast, the ice was used to cool drinks or make ice-cream.
High up the mountain you can still see the casa de la nieve (house of snow), or rather its ruins, where snow was stored. Indeed, the name of this mountain stems — or so it is said — from the collection of ice from sinkholes, deep crevices 40 to 50 metres deep. The only way to reach the ice was by shinning down ropes, or maromas.
Quite a few malagueños dream of hiking to the summit at least once in their lifetimes. Some make a point of sleeping there at the summer solstice so as to see the dawn.
Their feelings are reflected in a plaque at the summit which records: “Here and now ends an ascent/Here and now begins another./This mountain is the centre of the world./This mountain unites land and sky./This mountain like any mountain is a sacred place./That’s why you are here…”
Abrupt changes in weather conditions can occur, sudden storms whipping across Maroma’s rocky, treeless slopes, trapping the unwary.
You can find out more about La Maroma and the surrounding area in Maroma Press’s East of Malaga – Your guide to the Axarquía and Costa Tropical. It’s the first English guide to this region.
Once outlaws roamed these mountains. And more recently a guerrilla movement hid out here. Learn more about it in Between Two Fires — Guerrilla war in the Spanish sierras, a poignant account of how (for years after the Spanish Civil War, ignored by the rest of Europe) this area suffered a brutal conflict.