Having ice available all year round was a major challenge for our ancestors. The outstanding construction of the Pozo de la Nieve (Snow Well) demonstrates not only the engineering efforts made by the Hieronymites in order to have ice in their hospitals but also the efficient logistics system which they organised to make it possible. Only in this way could they face the unlikely challenge (from the current point of view) of having ice available during the Extremadura summers of centuries ago. The Pozo de la Nieve still exists in the vicinity of Guadalupe on the trail which gives access to the crag of La Villuerca to evoke the times when having something as basic for us as ice was a real luxury.

The so-called snow wells were built as early as Roman times. They basically consisted of large dry wells which served as an insulation chamber for storing snow or ice during the winter so as to be able to use them in the summer. The Pozo de la Nieve of Guadalupe was built by the Hieronymite monks in about the 17th century to supply the Real Monasterio and its dependent hospitals with ice. Its use was particularly important in the research of the monastery’s medical school. Ice was then the only way of keeping cool certain kinds of food and some medicines.

As the Pozo is located at an altitude of over 1,300 metres, it was guaranteed that the storehouse of the valuable ice would not be exposed to the high temperatures reached during the summer months in lower lands. To be precise the Pozo de la Nieve is located where the municipal districts of Guadalupe, Cañamero, and Navezuelas meet and very near the borders of those of Alía and Villar del Pedroso, which makes it a very important location for the inhabitants of the area.

The Pozo de la Nieve consists of a vault which covers the hollow in itself and isolates it from the outside temperatures. The well proper is about eight metres deep and six metres wide; the side walls are lined with stones. In the surrounding area remains can still be seen of the houses and constructions used for the work in relation to the storage and transport of ice. It is to be supposed that this fascinating trade required the exclusive dedication of several people throughout the year.

The process was meticulous and methodical: the snow was brought from nearby peaks such as the crag of La Villuerca in the harshest winters. In milder winters and during the spring months it was brought from the mountains of Gredos over a hundred kilometres away. The route was quite an odyssey as the saddlebags loaded with snow were transported on the backs of beasts for two nights; during the day they remained hidden in caverns or cellars. Once at the well the snow was deposited in it; the walls had previously been lined with straw to serve as insulation. Each load of snow was successively tamped down by the workers so as to save space and for it to gradually turn into ice. When the well was full it was covered with layers of straw to maintain the thermal insulation. During the hot months the ice was extracted and transported little by little to the quarters of the monks in the nearby town of Guadalupe.

The grandiosity of this work of engineering and its fascinating story is complemented by the beauty of the landscape. It forms a ridge between the valleys of the River Viejas and the River Guadalupe and below the crag of La Villuerca. To the north you can contemplate the whole of the Valley of the Ibor while to the south extend the uplands of La Siberia.