Los Gabarreros del Espinar

Los Gabarreros are a type of leñador (woodcutter/lumberjack) unique to the Sierra de Guadarrama area (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sierra_de_Guadarrama – thats what wikipedia has to say about that). Essentially they were leñadores who specialised in felling trees on the sides of the mountains in the area, and transporting the wood back to their villages using horses or donkeys. Clearly there were some specific difficulties in obtaining wood from trees in such a complicated environment. The gabarreros developed some specific skills to be able to go out onto the mountains and obtain the wood they needed to bring back to support their families. 

The skills are still alive today, although practised by a select few, and the small village of El Espinar sends its gabarreros to compete in sporting events internationally.

About 20 years ago, a journalist and local from the village, Juan Andrés, was asked by a friend to write a short article about los Gabarreros…in doing so he accidentally wrote a whole book (Los Gabarreros del Espinar). This tome (although he would never admit it himself) sparked a renewed interest in los Gabarreros and the creation of a local fair to celebrate this unique profession. This year, 2018, was the 20th anniversary of the modern Gabarrero and his (or her) unusual abilities. 


Preparations for the competitions


The pine, planted in the central square. To close the events a Gabarrero will free-climb the pine and chop the top off


The wood from each day working on the mountain was traditionally brought back down to the village by horse or mule


Big log? Bigger Axe. Gabarreros worked in pairs to chop through something this large


The father and son team hacked their way through the giant trunk in astonishingly little time


Trunks cut in vertical also in pairs


Competition cutting – several horizontal trunks, two teams, first one to cut them all wins


Racing to finish


A scaling method used to reach the higher parts of tall pines. Just an axe, planks, and balls of steel required for this one



Once at the top, you chop what you need, and then cut your way back down


Gabarreros never retire. This guy split logs like a champ


He demonstrated with splitting axe and oak wedges


Gabarrero climbs to the top of the pine


Chops off the top


After abseiling back down, the tree is felled with axe and saw


Tools of the trade, each job needs a different axe



Traditional dancing and dress from El Espinar




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