Mulhacen from Capileira
Apart from Mount Teide on the Canary Island of Tenerife (which properly belongs to the continent of Africa), Mulhacen at 3,478m is the highest mountain on the Iberian Peninsula.
Located in the Sierra Nevada range in the SE of Spain, it can be easliy accessed from the mountain village of Capilera, where there is pleny of good and affordable accommodation.
It's unusual - at least in a European context, that a summit of such altitude can be climbed by mere hikers, the ascent being a straightforward walk requiring no technical ability. Though in winter, of course, it would be a different proposition.
There is a morning minibus service from Capilera during the summer months, and this ascends a winding dirt track to the 2,700m Alto del Chorrillo, a minor summit on a broad southern ridge, where the walk starts. This means the minibus has saved you over 1,250m ascent - a decent leg-up for the start of the walk.
From the start continue down the track for a short distance before turning right uphill on a minor path. The ascent up over stony terrain interspersed with sparse vegetation is straightforward, though keep an eye out for cairns which not only show the way, but also deviations where you leave one track to join another. Also keep an eye out for the Spanish Ibex, one of the larger mammals native to this range.
The greatest effort is required on the pull up to Mulhacen II, a notional peak, and from there it's an easy walk to the main summit. Most walkers will reach the top in 2.5- 3 hours from leaving the minibus at the Alto del Chorrillo. You're unlikely to be alone at the summit, as it's a popular peak not only with Spaniards but also with international visitors alike.
The conical concrete trig pillar is set atop a rocky outcrop below which there is some sort of gated recess, the function of which is not entirely clear. There are precipitous drops to the north, so some degree of caution is required at the summit. Despite the altitude, we didn't experience any problems other than mild headaches on the descent, though this may have owed as much to the heat as to the slightly thinner air.
We descended by our ascent route, though there is a variation whereby you could descend west to the tarn at the Refugio de la Caldera, and then take a dirt road south back to the Alto del Chorrillo.
The minibus arrived an hour later to bring us back down to Capilera, where cold beers awaited.
We flew from Dublin to Almeria (Ryanair) and hired a car to get to Capilera.
The minibus service from Capilera runs twice in the morning (8.30am and 11am) and returns to collect hikers at the Alto del Chorrillo twice in the late afternoon/evening (4.15pm and 6.45pm). For reservations or more information you can contact the Capileira Information Point at 0034-958-763090. The mobile number 671-564406 is of Paco, one of the guides.