Sobrevilla to Pica Siella and back round – 15km circular route.

For my second go at this ‘running’ lark my choice of run and partner may seem even stranger. This time I picked a guy whose idea of fun is to do 100 mile races!!

And my choice of run was pretty spectacular too. For a long time I had wanted to climb the huge gully that went up from the village of Sobrevilla and which passed a number of massive crags that I wanted to have a look at. So my reasoning was more about checking out future rock routes than ‘running’ (and I also figured that I’d be able to leverage plenty of rest by stopping to admire the rock).

As we set off the hill seemed huge, and I’d chosen to wear my mountain boots which, although very light for boots were about 500gms each. I was figuring on protecting my bad ankle (and I know better now) but that meant each stride was lass energy efficient and by 10 minutes in I was panting!!

The mist rolled in as we ascended leaving an eerie sensation and a slight feeling of being lost as we crossed a steep, blocky, rocky section only to emerge above the fog into the gully proper.

Chase the dog checks out the view as we climb out of the mist..

Chase the dog checks out the view as we climb out of the mist..

The gully was steep, very, very steep and progress wasn’t quick. Steep, with no path and small heathery clumps it wasn’t  easy going but I was enjoying it and Ian said that at this level of steepness even world class runners wouldn’t run (which I was pleased about).

The view down the gully...

The view down the gully…

As we slowly scaled the metres the views became more and more spectacular and although we weren’t going quickly Ian was quite happy to go at my pace. For me I was starting to understand a bit more that the world of trail running often didn’t involve ‘running’ but ascending as fast as one can. And i could get that…

And the close up views of the crags were as spectacular as I had wanted and my plan of stopping to check out the climbing lines was working to perfection.

Looking up the gully...

Looking up the gully…

There were some very big pieces of rock and we passed right underneath them. It was fun and the ‘rock-watching’ broke up the severity of the climbing. Nearing the top we had to decide on an exit – left or right. Left seemed easier but longer and right seemed more direct but with a ‘step’ that might prove tricky – it was obvious that we’d have to climb it but could we get the dog up there??

The step was a few metres of wet limestone but starting from a ledge so the consequences of a slip were not worth contemplating. Ian went first and made it easily and I, a bit more reluctantly, grabbed a slightly scared dog by the collar and shuffled along the small ledge. I  proceeded to shove the dog upwards as my feet scrabbled and I grabbed onto loose turf with my free hand. After a minute or so of struggle she was high enough up for Ian to grab her collar and I, mightily relieved was able to gain the firmer ‘terra firma’ above the drop.

What a position...

What a position…

As we gained the ridge we started to traverse up towards the high point of Pico Siella. But first we passed a viewpoint that was irresistible, a gap in the rocks opened out with a small spiky summit and we both ascended to get the photo…

We arrived at Pico Siella soon after and at 1550m it afforded incredible views of the valley and was well deserved of being the high point of our journey (twice as it turned out). We’d ascended over 800m (2400ft) already and although it hadn’t been quick it hadn’t been ridiculously slow either which I took some pride in. So we stopped briefly, set up a selfie with my camera balanced on the trig point, and got the all important summit shot.

On the peak...

On the peak…

Finally, the real running started and Ian, showing lot of agility, started out across a thin ridge which led slowly down to a more defined path than we’d been following. This was fun and after about a kilometre of me stomping in my big boots after the much more rapid Ian we met up at a small resevoir/lake at the coll before the big descent started.

‘Hold there Ian’ I shouted as I fumbled for the camera to get another shot of the run…But I couldn’t find it!

‘Arse’ I cried, ‘Ian, I seem to have lost the camera’ and it wasn’t a cheap one! About £300′s worth of Panasonic seemed to have gone missing during our descent – my pack had been open and the probability was that it had bounced out during our decent. That was the probability but it seemed odd as my small pack was actually quite deep, so with heavy hearts (especially mine) we set up back towards Pico Siella scouring the path either side. I walked a lot more slowly than Ian and it was he rather than me that made it back to the summit and found, still stood in selfie position, the camera! I’d simply left it on the summit.

We descended again and this time didn’t stop at the lake and headed on down the very steep switchbacks on a concrete farmers track which led directly up to the coll. With a ‘I’m going to go a bit quicker on this bit’ Ian blasted off. Once again his agility and speed left me standing and I kept up as best as I could as we descended about 400m in around 2km. Once again i was happy that I vaguely kept up but my big boots certainly didn’t aid me much.

We met up at the bottom and started to descend, less steeply, a series of muddy tracks back towards the car. Unfortunately (for Ian) we picked up a couple of ‘passengers’ on the way in the shape of two beautiful mastin puppies who followed us for about a kilometer downhill. However, when we realised the wouldn’t go ‘home’ I volunteered the more experienced runner for the duty of leading them back to the field we’d first seen them in.

I chuckled to myself plodded on downwards, tiring, and expecting to see Ian on my shoulder quite quickly. However, I’d made it a lot further than I thought I would and when Ian did catch  me he was out of breath ‘Man that was grim’ he said ‘ that track I took up was muddy as hell and it was longer than I thought. I grinned and said something about ‘good training mate’ and we finally exited the muddy forest track onto a tarmac’d road and I knew that the car was just around the corner.

The coffee and cake we enjoyed at the bar in town tasty scrummy and as well looked back up to where we’d been I felt pretty proud that I’d done it. And even Ian felt i’d done pretty well – especially for a climber that didn’t like hiking or running. This was a superb and fun route to do and well recommendable (maybe minus the ‘step’) and you can see the route on Ian’s Strava below…

https://www.strava.com/activities/1162680401

 

The route

The route

A small (slow) revolution…

Here I am.

On a bike…

I promised myself that I’d never become a ‘mamil’ (Middle-Aged Man In Lycra) after all my colleagues at the climbing company I worked at veered off from the ‘true path’ of rock climbing into road biking. Being in the midst of chat about cadence nearly every day while dying to talk about routes (on rock) instead of on Strava bugged me intensely; thus my resolution to never pull-on a bib was made.

However, 10 years later, after a wrist injury curtailed my climbing and because I was now living in a road biking paradise (though possibly not for beginners) I decided to dip my toe in the water. Calling up a few mates I got some advice on gearing and suchlike (bearing in mind I live on a 7km 9% hill) and after a few weeks of searching found what seemed to be a very good deal. And although not a bike-tech nerd I’ll tell you it’s a Scott Speedster 20 size small with Shimano 105 and a 50/34 front ring and an 11/32 (essential for me) on the back.

Bike

I spent more than I wanted in the end (something all my biking friends said would happen) but the bonus is that I felt that I’d bought a bike with decent re-sale value if I didn’t take to it.
And I was still very unsure that it would be for me. After all it was only a few months earlier I’d reduced my mate to tears of laughter as I failed to ride a basically flat 15km on a mountain bike: swearing profusely about how ‘I hate this’ as my back hurt and my thighs burned!!!

Still I figured ‘in for a penny in for about £600 pounds’…But the one thing I decided not to do was commit more money for biking clothing when I had a  selection of performance climbing clothes and a helmet that would ‘do’ for the time being. And since the bike came with normal pedals I eschewed clip ons as well. Maybe waste money on a bike but don’t add even more on top…

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Dressed to kill…at least the bike’s got some style…

First day. I decided that on my new superlight (comparatively) bike would make it a piece of cake to do a quick spin up the hill past my house. It’s only 7km I figured not really realising how hard the patches of up to 12% I’d encounter on the Puerto de Marabio would be.
Boy I suffered! I went gamely enough but only managed 4km and was bitterly disappointed by the fact that a lighter bike didn’t seem to make up for no training and didn’t make steep hills a piece of piss…!?!

Marabio 1

 

The negative was quitting after I’d figured that all I’d have to do was put one foot over the other and ‘keep spinning’ (as my mate told me); it just wasn’t as simple as that. The positive was that i almost enjoyed it. The sweat pouring off me, my legs blowing up and the gasping for air.

The profile of the hill...

The profile of the hill…

And as I realised that I didn’t dislike it I started to think that I may actually like it if I put some effort in…training and suchlike. So as I pootled back down the the very potholed road back to the house I even smiled a little and basked in the irony of enjoying something I’d so vehemently sworn off so many years ago! (Still don’t understand cadence though…)

Here’s the link to this first effort on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1821456847

And here’s the full Marabio climb: https://www.strava.com/activities/1899676167 (La Vuelta 2019 is going to come down this hill on Sept 9th – see more)

You can follow my progress here and if you follow me on Strava you can see my routes as well…

 

First Steps – Sierra de Caranga @8km…

Traverse of the Sierra de Caranga – June 2017 @8km

I was never a runner, I’ll state that in advance (and you’ll probably see by the foto).

So when my friend Tom, after a slightly heavy night, suggested a ‘quick jog’ across the prominent ridge that dominates the skyline above Casa Quiros (and on whose flanks sit the crag of Quiros), I was legitimately wary.

Hungover and aware that Tom’s idea of fun was 40km fell races I was reluctant to say the least. However, Tom, who’d come over from our old village to visit us in our new house for the first time, insisted that he wouldn’t go too fast and that the bottles of wine consumed the night before were no reason to be afraid.

Eventually I consented (still not sure why) and we set off. The first part was familiar and went OK; up the short road from the house to the tiny village of El Llano and then up the track I’d walked many times (normally with a heavy pack) up to the climbing area of Quiros. So far so good, the lack of a pack was good and the fact that runners actually seemed quite sensible and didn’t try to run up the super steep bit of the path.

As we cut up above the crag the next incline hit me a bit harder – very, very tight contour lines and about 200m of slope meant that I was reduced to much puffing and panting but at least Tom hadn’t gone off and left me. Stopping at the ridge I took in the spectacular views; there was a ways to go but I was kind of enjoying it all the same.

Just after we joined the ridge - and looking like a pro...

Just after we joined the ridge – and looking like a pro…

We moved up the ridge, the scavenging vultures (more numerous as we got towards the first mini-summit) wheeled about overhead and I hoped it wasn’t me they’d be feasting on. Luckily as we summited we had some good glugs of water and a bit less parched and headachey I got a bit of a second wind. The worst was over in terms of ascent and now it was more a case of picking the correct path along the broad ridge and making sure we didn’t fall off any cliffs.

Luckily Tom knew what he was doing and where he was going and I followed him along some, admittedly narrow, sheep tracks which skirted the steepest sections of rocky outcrops and led gently downhill to a wide coll.

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Ahead was a second peak and Tom seemed keen but I hauled him back with a lame excuse (excuse the pun) and from the coll we set off very steeply downhill on a well marked path that led to an obvious track. Tom’s pace going down was quicker than mine and my knees groaned maybe worse than on the way up and once we’d both reached the path and he was sure I wouldn’t get lost Tom slowly but sure left me behind.

I was thirsty, tired and a bit sore but it was mainly downhill on a wide track back to the village…as I cantered on I was beginning to realise I was even having fun….

Maybe, just maybe there was something in this running lark after all…

Caranga Map

The route we took and the profile – a steep start for a beginner!!

You can see the route in more detail on my Strava as well https://www.strava.com/athlete/routes?type=2

La Vuelta 2019 – Passes by Casa Quiros

For all you cycling fantatics great news; the Stage 16 of La Vuelta 2019 is going to pass right underneath Casa Quiros on Mon 9th Sept 2019 taking the AS 229 literally 800m below the house.

Once again, like two years ago, the ‘Queen Stage’ will take on La Cobertoria (the Category 1 climb pass closest to Casa Quiros) as well as a host of other brutal local climbs in what cycling weekly calls: ‘a savage day in mountains for stage 15, with a beyond categorisation climb in the final.’ Read more at Cycling Weekly

At the moment, those dates are free so, if you want to ride the course, take on some of the local category one climbs – Puerta Ventana, Puerto San Lorenzo or even the dreaded El Angiliru (read our Angiliru Blogs here) you can grab this opportunity to see the race and test your legs on some of the famous nearby passes.

The price for that week is £550

And you can see some images of the last time La Vuelta passed Casa Quiros, in 2016, here

Stage 16 of La Vuelta 2019 - Mon Sept 9th

Stage 16 of La Vuelta 2019 – Mon Sept 9th

The official La Vuelta site describes the stage as: ‘A mountain stage with five climbs on the route: two 3rd category and three 1st category, which run together toward the end: Puerto del Marabio, La Cobertoria and the top of La Cubilla, where we will have a chance to enjoy spectacular views, if the weather permits. The winner of this stage will be a firm candidate for winning La Vuelta’  https://www.lavuelta.es/en/stage-16

Jairo on a great 7a at Muro Techo, Teverga

Sports climbing at Muro Techo

After heading up to the snow at the weekend, midweek was ripe for some sunny sports climbing and what better excuse to get out on the rock on a school day than two public holidays that convert into an epic ‘Puente’ long weekend.

So Wednesday saw us meeting up with friends at Muro Techo in Teverga. Parking for the crag is at Sobrevilla village, a 20 minute drive from Casa Quiros, and the walk in is a steady, mostly flat, 20 minutes. It’s one of the longer walk-ins in the area but hardly epic and also makes for a nice little warm up on cooler winter days.

Jairo on a great 7a at Muro Techo, Teverga

Jairo on a great 7a at Muro Techo, Teverga. Climbing under blue skies with snowy peaks in the. background

Our current guests, Tony and Sarah, are here for a three week stay and with their motto of ‘to rest is to rust’ they have been steadily ticking their way through the local crags whilst climbing pretty much every single day. No wonder I caught Sarah sneaking a power nap in the sunshine before cranking on!

Sarah dozes in the sunshine at the foot of the crag

Sarah dozes in the sunshine at the foot of the crag

Muro Techo has a ton of routes across the grades, with a lot of development still ongoing and continually expanding the options. (The Roca Verde guide has the most up-to-date topos.) It’s thus suitable for mixed-ability groups and is a very family-friendly spot with a large comfortable flat base and lots of trees and caves that little ones can enjoy exploring. (Once you wrest the tech out of their hands!)

In the pic below you can see our Jack in action at the end of the day on the lower section of the ‘Clásica de Muro Techo’ – a spicy little 6a pitch. And there’s Sarah in the background on the lovely, friction-laden 6b ‘El Costo de la Vida’.


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The other important fact that you need to know about Muro Techo is that not only does it catch all the afternoon sun going, it also stays dry in the rain. Whatever the weather there’s always somewhere great to climb in Los Valles del Oso!

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Let it snow

Early signs are that this year is going to be a good one for winter sports enthusiasts here in Asturias. Last week we had an early dump of snow up in the mountains and on the weekend we headed up to the mountain pass of Puerto Ventana to check it out.

Separating Teverga from León, Ventana has stunning views any day of the year but clothed in dazzling snow and clear blue skies it’s more spectacularly beautiful than ever. The road that winds up there is like a passage through Narnia, lined by snow-laden trees and white-carpeted fields.

The well-marked walking tracks that set off from Ventana to Quirós and León lend themselves brilliantly to snow-shoeing or cross-country skiing at this time of year and for the littler folk the slopes in the immediate surrounds of the parking are perfect for a little tobogganing.

At 1587 metres above sea level Puerto Ventana sits well above the snow line for most of the winter. The snow rarely dips much below the 1,000 metre mark in Asturias but access up to the high passes is quick and easy with good roads that are kept clear by efficient snow-ploughing.

Casa Quiros is at about 600m so you can often choose between sports climbing on sunny limestone or you can be at Alto La Cobertoria at over 1,000m in 20 minutes drive – another great spot for sledging, snow shoeing and cross country skiing. If you are more of a piste demon you also have 3 ski stations within one and a half hour’s drive of the house – Valgrande-Pajares, Fuentes de Invierno and San Isidro.

Whatever your winter bag and whatever the weather Asturias will have something to keep you active and entertained!

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Las Saleras hike

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It’s been a spectacular winter, and now spring, here in Asturias, with lots and lots of sunshine and very little rain. We’ve been making the most of it, climbing, hiking and generally being outdoors every chance we get. Unfortunately, with all this unseasonal making hay while the sun shines this blog has been somewhat neglected. We have however been accumulating experiences, photos and a ton of good stuff to share with you so I guess we’d better get on with it!

Let’s kick off with some photos from a hike we did back in January (although you’d be forgiven for thinking it was from last summer – check out those blue, blue skies!) This route took us up to Las Saleras peak at 1,700m with magnificent views over Puerto Ventana, to the Picos de Europa and even off to the sea in the north.

Quite apart from those views on the horizon and the simple satisfaction of peak bagging, the hike was full of interest.  At times we kept our eyes to the ground as we sought out traces of the Cantabrian brown bears and wolves that still live in these mountains. At others it was the traces of human civilisation in centuries gone that captivated us.

It was approaching twilight as we passed through La Braña de los Fuexos on our final descent. Here the stony remains of an ancient settlement of cowherds’ cabins and their livestock corrals are dwarfed by giant, ancient beech trees. Picking our way through in the half-light of the witching hour made for a truly magical finish to a great day out on the hills.

 

 

Salinas beach

With a ton of beaches within an hour’s drive from Casa Quiros, surfing or simply sunbed lounging is the perfect rest day activity after lots of crag-ticking or stomping up mountains. Last Tuesday we took a sneaky rest day ourselves and headed to Salinas beach, near Aviles, to remind us just what a great spot it is. We also managed to get rather sun burnt as we committed the fatal error of forgetting that sun-cream can be vital even when you’re still technically in the winter months!

surfing at Salinas, Asturias

The waves were super clean and gloriously empty on Tuesday – enough to tempt Richie into the water

An impressive 3 kilometres long, Salinas has something to offer everyone. It is one of the most consistent surf beaches in the whole region, catching any swell that’s going and with several different mini-breaks along its length. Its attractive promenade is also dotted with several excellent bars and restaurants.

The terrace of Ewan bar-restaurant is a favourite spot. Great food and even better views

The terrace of Ewan bar-restaurant is a favourite spot. Great food and even better views

There is a surf shop and shaper for all your surf supplies and in August the beach is host to an international long-board festival which is in its 15th year and always draws a big crowd to enjoy the competition, the music acts and the general mellow vibes and good times.

At just 15 minutes drive from Asturias airport, Salinas can make a great stopping off point on your day of departure and a very pleasant spot from which to bid Asturias farewell. Or should we say ‘Hasta luego!’

 

A video review from recent guests

 

You’re probably tired of hearing us telling you how great the rock is round here, how beautiful the area and how cosy the lovely cottage that is Casa Quiros so let me just hand over to our most recent guests so they can share their experience with you in their own words.

 

views from Bermiego, Quiros

Running in the Cordillera Cantábrica

Record-breaking long distance runner and good friend of ours Patrick Devine-Wright came to visit us at Casa Quirós last summer. Naturally he couldn’t resist pulling on his trainers and getting out on the trails for a wee 60km run complete with 2000 metres of ascent. Here’s his account of his day out in the mountains here in the Valles del Oso.

 

setting off

Patrick setting off from the Senda del Oso

I start in the best way possible, a gentle downhill run along a car-free track – the Senda del Oso – from Caranga Baxu to Villaneuva. I jog loosely and lightly feeling my limbs warm up in the morning light, readying to the task of a long day out in the Cordillera Cantábrica. This is my first trip to these mountains, and with map in hand, I set out to explore new routes in the unfamiliar landscape of Northern Spain. Half an hour later, there is some fencing on both sides of the track and suddenly a bear ambles alongside me on the other side of the fence! I have reached the Casa del Oso, a sanctuary for a family of orphaned bears, and a reminder that the hills I am running in are still wild in ways unfamiliar to the UK, with bear and wolf roaming at high altitudes.

 

Running with bears - a first for Patrick!

Running with bears – a first for Patrick!

Having reaching Villaneuva, the next section is spectacular. After a steep road climb, I find the trail that ascends a gorge, following a rocky path winding upwards with significant exposure to my right hand side down to the river far below on the valley floor. I pass several families slowly walking along the path and pause occasionally to catch my breath and take in the magnificent views. Reaching the top of the gorge, the path enters shady woodland and soft trails, still climbing towards the tiny village of La Rebollada to pick up the GR106, my main footpath for the day. Villages are welcome stopping points for me throughout the run, as I seek out the local fuente (fountain) for some thirst quenching water and a respite from the ever increasing heat.

 

'Feel like jumping in - already climbed 500m!' tweeted Patrick at this point

‘Feel like jumping in – already climbed 500m!’ tweeted Patrick at this point

Leaving the village behind, I have already climbed 700m and reach a broad grassy pass. There are high mountains all around but today they are shrouded in low cloud and all I can hear are the tinkling bells of cowherds along their slopes. The trail is mostly easy to follow, and clouds of butterflies in soft blues and yellows fly up from my steps along the grassy trail, leading me to the larger village of Bermiego and a long gradual descent into another valley. It is now four hours since I set out and I am seriously hungry and thirsty! I find a small bar and refresh with two bottles of fizzy pop, a packet of crisps and some mini-pastries available at the bar filled with tuna, an Asturian delicacy.

 

views from Bermiego, Quiros

Patrick’s views from Bermiego

Then it is onwards for the crux of the run – a long ascent past the tiny villages of Renderos and Ricabo towards my destination – the Puerto Ventana at an altitude of 1587m. The heat is searing and I welcome the cool waters of the fuentes in each village as well as any shade that the path may bring as it winds ever upwards. The path meanders through purple heathers and leafy fern, with rocky outcrops looming overhead. Buzzards glide in the blue sky on thermals of warm air and eventually, I reach the top of the valley to find a lonely hermitage, locked and empty. Again I pause, enjoying for a moment the tranquillity of this remote place, before scooping gulps of cool mountain water from a nearby spring. There only remains some easy flat trail to the end of my run, and a hitch hike back down the valley to the point where I began a memorable 60km (2000m climb) of mountain running hours before.