The awesome 16th stage of the vuelta

Vuelta 2015 – Stage 16 Sept 7th finishes 5km from Casa Quiros

Stage 16 of the Vuelta de Espana will finish on the brutal climb of the Ermita de Alba, only 5km from Casa Quiros.

The stage 16 course take La Cobertoria, like last year but then finishes by tackling the short, 6km, but very very steep hill of the Alto de Ermita de Alba…The awesome 16th stage of the vuelta

The recently resurfaced climb – we weren’t allowed to the top only a week ago as they finished tarmaccing the final bends – is one of the steepest around, and although not as long as the more famous Angiliru, the fial km with gradients of up to 25% will be punishing.

Like many of the local climbs there are new signs telling you what to expect and how the climb pans out…although I’m personally not sure whether this is information or a warning!!

Warning or information...? You decide...

Anyway, whatever happens we’ll be there cheering on Froome et al in a vuelta that contains all the ‘big boys’ for the first time in a while!

 

 

Andy starting to suffer on Angiliru...more details to follow

Beautiful and brutal cycling in the heart of Asturias

Sheffield cyclist, Andy Bowie writes about his week at Casa Quiros and the cycling nearby in the first of three blog posts…

“Nestled in the heart of some of Europe’s best and toughest cycling, Casa Quiros is the ideal base to explore – and suffer – in a cyclist’s playground. Make no mistake Asturias is right up there as a cycling destination with the Dolomites or the Pyrenees. And the best thing about it? It’s only you and a few other people that know about it.

Casa Quiros sits just 5km from the last mountain climb finish of stage 16 of 2015’s Vuelta d’Espana. It is less than 40km to arguably the toughest climb in pro cycling, the Alto d’Angliru. It is a few easy kilometres ride to the San Lorenzo pass, a fabled and brutish climb that takes no prisons as you ride up sustained sections of 11-12% for kilometre after kilometre. These climbs make the Dolomites feel like a warm up in comparison.

Andy and partner setting off from Casa Quiros

Andy and partner setting off from Casa Quiros

It is some of the little things that make riding in Asturias such a singular experience. The most noticeable is how quiet the roads are. Cycling in the first week in August and you are passed by three or four cars an hour, and there are only a few cyclists to share a quick ‘hola’ with. On Strava, the number of total ascents on the big climbs are measured in the hundreds rather than the tens of thousands.

The second thing that strikes you as you top out on a pass is the lack of fanfare. There are no cafés, no hordes of motorbikers, and no cars clogging up the view. Just you, the sign that says you’ve made it and the relief in your legs and lungs as the suffering is relinquished, momentarily.

Andy summits on La Cobertoria, another 1st class summit and only 13 steep km from Casa Quiros

Andy summits on La Cobertoria, another 1st class summit and only 13 steep km from Casa Quiros

The scenery is a lush verdant green (the Costa Verde is aptly named), with steep sided, tree and shrub covered mountain rolling on in to the distance. And because the altitude is relatively low, with the main passes between 1,100 and 1,500m high, the temperatures are pretty consistent in the valleys and the tops. You just don’t get the significant temperature changes, which means less stuff to pack your pockets with.

The riding itself is typified by smooth roads on gradual inclines in each of the main valleys, with steep and sustained climbs to make the journey from one pass to another. Numerous short, steep lung and leg breaking climbs kick up to the left and right, ascending to tiny villages and hamlets, more suited to horses than cars and certainly bikes.

On the main climbs, it is worth recalibrating your senses so that 9-11% becomes the new normal, with 7% approaching a rest. It is all about pacing – the climbs really don’t relent until you crest the top. I rode with a Compact chainset with an 11-28 cassette on the back. If you’re not used to climbing at this level of intensity I’d recommend a 29 or 30 on the back to help lift the cadence, or a triple if you’re just starting out.

There are bars in every village I came across, providing very good coffee, water bottle re-fill and pinchos (most bars to sandwiches). There are also [Fuentes] (water fountains) in most villages. Fill up your water bottles in the valleys and take essential spares with you – a couple of inner tubes at least – as the lack of traffic and no cafes at the tops may mean you’re waiting a while for a rescue.

Oh, and pack the suncream. The first ride I did over the San Lorenzo pass was very hot, 30 degrees plus, with limited shade on route. The second ride, to the Angliru, started in brilliant sunshine and clouded over, but was still very much shorts and jersey weather.

Shots and T shirt weather...

Before I arrived I was forced to write out a hundred lines that ‘this is not a cycling holiday, this is not a cycling holiday..’ so I managed to squeeze in two proper rides over a six day visit. Whilst there and back routes rather than circular, they enable you to experience some of Asturias’ best and hardest climbs.

There are multiple options if you want to make them circular routes. In fact, that’s one of the other benefits of riding in Asturias – it is quite a compact area, with multiple loop options depending on your time commitments and legs. It is worth spending a few minutes exploring routes detailed in www.wikiloc.com, which seems to be the resource preferred by local riders to map their routes.

See part two of Andy’s cycling Blog here

Climbing at La Cubana, Quirós

There a ton of climbing at Quirós, the climbing area that’s closest to Casa Quirós, just a ten minute walk. It’s still one of the most popular places to climb in Asturias even though it’s one of the longest established. As there’s so much there i’ts worth getting a bit of a sector by sector overview and so I’ll start with La Cubana.

This is one of those sectors that’s got a bit of everything – from your first 5 to an 8a+ roof – and because of that it seems a lot bigger than it is. This is also probably because most of the routes are really good, and in fact there are two or three that are ‘must do’ routes of Quiros. It’s actually a pretty small sector but because there’s quite a bit to go at and the routes are short, I always tend to have a good time there.

La Cubana

Lying a little bit above La Selva there’s a bit of a steep slog uphill on a  rough path – but at least it gets the blood pumping. In summer La Cubana catches the sun a bit later than the rest of the crag and its angle means it’s late to leave too, getting rays until around 5.30…

Denise, an English friend, and my partner Mary got there first and had already sent Mao and Tao, two great little 6a pitches on the high-quality grey limestone that bounds the left had part of the sector. And when I arrived Den was just setting off the classic Sol y Nieve, 6c, which takes a line of thin holds up a vertical wall. Balancy and delicate there´s a couple of hard pulls and it’s a bit of a vertical puzzle.

Denise Mortimer does the crux of Sol y Nieve...

I followed, leading the route for about the 4th time, and although I knew it, the off-balance nature of the climbing and the delicacy of the moves means it’s never in the bag until the chains are clipped.

Suitably flash pumped I decided it was Den’s turn again and sent her the brilliant Corazon Salvaje (Wild Heart), 6c+. This is an unusaul route for Quiros and one of the best there, involving some burly pulls on an ever steepening tufa. Sharp and committing  Den almost had it but just failed to latch the key part of the tufa. Cold hands and sharp holds almost certainly playing a part!

Ruben Trabanco Corazon Salvaje, 6c+, La Cubana, Quiros.

I did the route quickly after Den and emboldened by warm hands, and owing Den a favour, I offered (was persuaded) to put the clips in the very fingery 7a, Brutus. Like a thin version of Sol and Nieve Brutus is, well, brutal! Luckily on the attached video you can’t see my poor efforts where I fell before the crux but this gives you an idea of the nature of the climbing.

Anyway hats off to Den who sent it first go, flashing it and ending up very pleased with her days haul. Another great day out, a mite cold but some sweet routes in the bag.

Local climbing videos

As the author of the Roca Verde climbing guide (as well as the owner of Casa Quiros) we decided to make some videos about climbing in the area. There’s not too many about and very made by Brits so I tought it would be a nice thing to do.

Here’s the first one I’ve done – it’s me on one of the super cool routes at the Sector Las Ardillas, at the crag of Quiros in the heart of Asturias. 

I’ll be making plenty more videos from now on – and hopefully learning more on the way – and you can see more at my YouTube channel.

RocaVerde YouTube channel…

I’ve also started to collate as many videos about Asturias as possible in one place so you can see what else there is on offer. These are collated in a playlist:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPe1tXXxMB4&list=PLik4mTwuFWUFOF6aajqIXFuoSTE704Xp9

There’s about 30 videos that I have found – of varying quality – that show some of the climbing in Asturias and beyond.

New Review of Casa Quiros 17042015

This new review is from Henriette and Frido who stayed at the house last week…

Review from Frido and Henriëtte. (Netherlands)
We stayed three days in April 2015. Casa Quirós provided us all the comforts of home. The garden and balcony are in the sun all day long, perfect for drinking a beer after a day’s climbing. All the climbing sectors at Quirós are within walking distance of the house. Our host Richie provided us with info on the best climbing routes in the area. All the crags we went to had magnificent views as well as perfect rock and protection. We consider Asturias to be one of the best places we have climbed and we’ll certainly be back some time.

Review van Frido en Henriëtte. (Nederland)
We zijn drie dagen gebleven in april 2015. Casa Quirós voorzag in alle gemakken van thuis. Tuin en balkon liggen de hele dag in de zon, perfect om een biertje te drinken na een dag klimmen. Alle sectoren van Quirós bevinden zich op loopafstand van het huisje. Onze gastheer Richie die tevens de klimtopo van het gebied heeft geschreven gaf ons alle info over de beste routes op de diverse wanden. Bij alle wanden die we hebben bezocht was het uitzicht adembenemend, de rots totaal niet afgeklommen en de behaking optimaal. Asturië is één van de mooiste plekken waar we hebben geklommen en we komen zeker een keer terug.

Camin Real de la Mesa

I found this great Blog in the Guardian and borrowed it…

After 20 years of living and travelling in Spain, I like to think I have a handle on the country and its people. Every so often, however, they can still spring a surprise.

Like when Guillermo Mañana, a 70-year-old scholar, first told me about the 56km Camín Real de la Mesa. The Camín Real, said Guillermo, was an ancient trail through the mountains of northern Spain, winding spectacularly among some of the grandest yet loneliest and least-known scenery in Europe. I had never heard of it, but if I was up for it, he said, he’d show me the secrets of this magical route.

That was in May 2009. I had just met Guillermo through a friend in Oviedo, capital of the region of Asturias, where together we walked the awe-inspiring gorge of the river Cares in the Picos de Europa mountains. Since he retired from his profession as an anaesthetist, he has devoted his time and energy to his overriding passion: the mountain landscapes of his Asturian homeland.

I was already familiar with his marvellous books, a series of lavish tomes documenting these landscapes in extraordinary detail. Now, he told me, he was preparing what would perhaps be his greatest work, a definitive study of the Camín Real de la Mesa.

For centuries the Camín was one of the few points of contact between the provinces of León and Asturias. It is essentially Roman in construction, but the route has been used for trade for 5,000 years, traversing a mountain range with peaks of 2,000m, reaching into some of Spain’s most wildly beautiful and otherwise inaccessible landscapes.

While livestock and gold mining were flourishing industries, the way held a strategic importance. But with the rise of modern roads it fell into disuse, and now it is barely known except by a few local farmers and a handful of keen walkers who are happy to stay off the beaten track.

Advertisement

I was gripped by Guillermo’s vision of this long and winding road, its historical importance and its near-obliteration at the hands of modern life. So we arranged a two-day trek on the section of the way that is accessible only to walkers, leaving out the northerly part which has been covered with asphalt, its beauty spoilt.

Our route would take us from Torrestio, at the northern edge of the province of León, to the village of Dolia in the county of Belmonte, Asturias – a distance of some 30km. At both ends of the route there would be simple places to stay, but the Camín passes through no other villages, so the plan was to take food and a sleeping bag. In summer you can sleep under the stars or take a tent but, since it was autumn, we would bed down in one of the thatched shepherds’ huts, called teitos.

The night before our departure, my guide sent me a text: “Weather terrible. Cold front. Thick sleeping bag. Waterproof clothing.” I felt a shiver of dread.

We met up on Sunday night in the mountain town of San Emiliano, on the León side of the Cordillera Cantábrica, and dined on fried eggs and chorizo in the Hostal de Montaña, a simple mountain hostel. Before dawn next day we drove to the hamlet of Torrestio, under a dark sky as cold and clear as spring water. At 7am there was a blanket of mist over the valley, but it was the right sort of mist, said Guillermo, the sort that would burn off quickly, leaving bright skies.

We set off in the half-dark, heading up the Valle de las Partidas: the Valley of Departures. Up ahead, the first rays of sun were beautifying the squat grey peak of El Muñón.

At the top of the valley was a fence marking the border between the two regions, Castilla y León and Asturias. A concrete pillar gave the height above sea level: 1782m. To the north lay a wide stretch of pasture between mountains: the Mesa, or tableland, from which the Camín takes its name. Brown cows with wide horns stood and stared as we passed, and the quiet was blurred only by waterfalls and cowbells.

Further down the Mesa lay a scattering of stone huts, some round and low, others square, roofed with tiles or thatch. These hamlets, called brañas, are the only human settlements in these mountains. Until 10 years ago 12 or 15 families might have spent the summer up there with the cows, subsisting on rye bread and onions, potatoes and lentils. It was a life of simplicity, hardship and closeness to nature, and has now almost entirely vanished.

We stopped beside a waterfall for lunch – Asturian cheese, Serrano ham, black chocolate, and bread with olive oil. We drank fresh spring water, but also supped from a leather skin filled with Valdepeñas wine.

A shepherd came by looking for a lost foal. A pair of binoculars hung around his neck, and by his side was a dog as big as a small pony. He’d been looking for the horse all yesterday, peering up the mountain through the rain and mist. But he feared the worst: last spring four or five of his horses had been taken by wolves. Not everyone is happy that, after many years in decline, the local wolf population is on the increase, and his dog wore a chain-mail collar bristling with metal spikes to protect him.

As we walked Guillermo pointed out curious historical, natural or architectural sights along the way, ranging from a wide meadow called Xuego La Bola – where the shepherds came to play bowls – to a long trench that had been an eighth-century defensive wall during the reign of Alfonso ll, part of Catholic Spain’s protection against the Muslim hordes who had already claimed most of the peninsula.

The Camín Real is little documented except by a handful of adepts including Guillermo, who has spent years mapping it and searching for its history in the great archives of Spain. Bronze-age burial mounds can be seen along the route, but it was the Romans, or rather, their slaves, who built a proper four-metre-wide path.

By the third century AD it was the main access route between León and Asturias, used primarily by Roman civil servants and gold dealers heading south from the mines of Belmonte. It remained an important commercial corridor, with all sorts of goods – wool and cloth, wheat and wine, sheep and salt fish – travelling back and forth. Impromptu toll stations were set up, levying a tax on “brides and corpses”.

Then in the early 19th century, a trunk road was built linking León and Oviedo via the Pajares pass, and the Camín fell into disuse. Parts of it were completely destroyed, especially at the northern end near Pravia, or became abandoned and overgrown. But it remained a secret door into the stunning wilderness of the Somiedo reserve.

Roman road-building skills made the Camín a broad path with a modest gradient. The walk is never gruelling, but the views are spectacular – grey-white mountains looming over deep valleys lined with beech, and gorges with patches of pasture clinging to shelf-like plateaus along their length. On the far horizon lay a line of palest blue: the Cantabrian sea. After eight hours, we stumbled into the shadow of a strange crag, La Peña Negra (the black rock), as dark and sinister as something out of The Hobbit.

Our accommodation that night would have appealed to the Baggins family. Braña La Corra, a collection of seven roughly thatched stone teitos, were deserted but in reasonable condition, their maintenance funded by the Asturian government. Shepherds live there in summer, but walkers are free to use any left open, though they can’t be reserved. The owner of one had offered Guillermo use of it if ever he were passing, so we laid out our sleeping rolls on its hay-strewn floor.

From the terrace of our rustic lodging, 1,200m up, we could see the deep Valle de Saliencia below us and glacial lakes to the south, among a bristle of ash-grey peaks. The thick forests opposite are one of last remaining habitats of the Cantabrian bear, of which some 130 remain. Old-timers around these parts, said Guillermo as we ate our supper of sardines, bananas and almond turrón (nougat)often tell tales of bears, how they came down to the villages, destroyed beehives, and were hunted ruthlessly.

At 7pm, night fell like a stone and so did the temperature. Having no lights to read by, we cocooned ourselves in our sleeping bags, and Guillermo told me stories about the Camín Real, its history and legends, of a convoy of 45 ox-drawn carts that carried alabaster quarried in Guadalajara on a six-week journey from Torrestio to Salas, to build a mausoleum for Archbishop Valdés Salas – an important inquisitor who died in 1569. It remains the most important Renaissance monument in the principality, and on the Camín itself.

The next day we discovered the remains of a venta, a small stone shop in a wide green pasture called Piedra Jueves (Jupiter’s altar), that once sold wine, and vinegar for the feet, to shepherds who had travelled for days to bring their sheep to the spot.

We stood at the crest of the hill, surveying an Impressionist wash of grey-green broom, yellow birch, and a scarlet stipple of rowan berries. I looked in vain for a building, a road, or a human figure, but there were none. In August you might meet groups of walkers, cyclists or riders, but off-season the mountains slump back into solitude, and on the entire journey we saw only three mountain bikers, a couple of horsemen, and the occasional shepherd in a 4×4, checking on the livestock.

The floor of the valley was speckled with bleached heaps of stone which, centuries before, had been dwellings. Guillermo, who had known the Camín as a populated place 35 years ago, told me about a great livestock fair that had been held annually up here, 1,000m above sea level, where shepherd clans from Somiedo, Teverga and Belmonte had met up to party.

The road itself has fallen into rui, too, and been further damaged by occasional four-wheel drive vehicles and quad bikes.

“Do you see now what jewels we have, and what a state they’re in?” Guillermo said bitterly, pointing to a potholed and muddied section. “It should be a national monument.”

At Cueiro the Camín diverges, east towards Oviedo (the Camín Francés) or north to Llanera and Gijón. We struck north, passing a large former venta, now a barn, ripe for conversion into a simple B&B for walkers unwilling to sleep on a floor covered with hay. I peered through the window of the venta’s derelict chapel. The altar was piled with old whisky bottles.

The village of Dolia was pretty and bucolic, snoozing amid hazel woods, but the asphalt underfoot and the power lines overhead came as a shock after our three days in the wilderness. For when the tarmac begins, the spell of the Camín Real starts to wane. We had covered three-quarters of the 40km that can still be walked. The last quarter, where it pushes into the 21st century world of petrol stations and builders’ merchants, has lost its mystery. We called a taxi and took a last draught of Valdepeñas from the wineskin.

 The Camin passes right by Casa Quiros and can be enjoyed by walkers, runners or by very keen mountain bikers too…

 

First review of Casa Quirós

After the first visitors comes the first review…!

It’s always a nerve-wracking experience setting off on something new, and so when our first guests arrived at Casa Quiros we were pretty excited, and also a little scared of what they would think. Asturias is different and although I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t enjoyed their stay you never know if your choice of decor or the way you’ve furnished a house will be to someone’s taste.

So Nicola and Roger stayed at Casa Quirós for three weeks in March and seemed to really enjoy their time – or at least we were hoping they did! The weather didn’t always play ball for them to get as much climbing done as possible but they enjoyed a mix of walking and climbing exploring some of the local peaks – including Pico Gorrion which is the 1200m mountain opposite the house.

The view across the valley from the house...

The view across the valley from the house…

Happily both me and my partner Mary got out climbing with them a couple of times – I love showing off the crags – and their feedback on the climbing ‘great routes with very little polish, even on the easier routes’ and ‘very uncrowded’ was pretty heartening. I climbed with them at Muro Techo and we had a pretty sweet day, despite it suddenly being a fair bit colder than we’d expected – still in was March and these things happen.

Nicola on the first pitch of the Clasica del Muro Techo, 6a

Nicola on the first pitch of the Clasica del Muro Techo, 6a

In the end they sent us a short, pithy, feedback and vowed to return for more…

‘We turned back the clock.  Aciera is the rural village idyll where the 10 cows outnumber the cars.  The stone walled cottage is charming and full of character.  Stunning views, a very warm welcome and a fabulous location for climbing and walking. It was also great to be able to walk to the crag from the house and to find a wide selection of unpolished routes to go at. The routes themselves were all pretty good too and it was refreshing to climb on very uncrowded crags.’

We will keep publishing reviews and hope we get plenty of people to write them..

Salteado de setas, gambas y almejas

Pan de Trigo Restaurant in Barzana

We are very lucky at Casa Quirós to have several good restaurants within a short distance – perfect for rest day relaxation and re-fueling of tired muscles.  But we have to say that Pan de Trigo in Barzana (5km from the house) is really a cut above the standard fare. If you’re looking for a special meal at a very accessible price then look no further.

With a 3 course weekday lunch menu, including wine, for just 9€ you really can’t go wrong. The cheesecake alone is worth that price! Seriously. To die for.

P1040320

With tasty and creative dishes such as this spicy sauteed wild mushroom, prawn and clams available within the set lunch option, you don’t ever need to stray into the more expensive a la carte territory unless you really feel inspired to do so.

Salteado de setas, gambas y almejas

Salteado de setas, gambas y almejas

Having said that, if you do fancy pushing the boat out, this is a good place for it. It’s that rare thing – a restaurant that offers chef-led, creative, contemporary cuisine without tipping over into pretentious territory. The charming rustic decor adds to the appealing atmosphere, as does the deserved presence of a steady stream of patrons.

P1040325

For quick bites there is a good array of bar snacks and tapas and free mini-tapas throughout the day to accompany drinks. Top tip: it’s also a good spot for morning coffee, where you’ll be given fresh-baked mini-croissants to accompany your brew.

Remember the name: Pan de Trigo. It’s just off the main street in Barzana, down a set of steps before the Coviran supermarket. Easy to miss but you definitely don’t want to do that. It’s a must-visit.P1040322

First Night Nerves

It was fantastic, finally, to greet our first guests into Casa Quiros a couple of weeks ago, after what seems like a long time directing builders, preparing and doing DIY on the house. Luckily they were impressed and have been very happy with the house and even commented that it’s much nicer than on the website.

Even more special was to be able to go climbing with and show our guests some great routes at one of the sectors that maybe they wouldn’t have gone to. Nicola and Rodger had climber for a number of days at Quiros and been very impressed by the climbing, the fact they could walk to the crag and maybe most of all the quality and lack of polish.

However, due to the fact the day I picked to climb with them was a day that it had chosen to rain and generally be miserable I had to use my local’s knowledge to pick out a spot which I knew would be climbable!

Nicola on the first pitch of the Clasica del Muro Techo, 6a

Nicola on the first pitch of the Clasica del Muro Techo, 6a

I decided our best bet would be Muro Techo, a great crag – one of the 25 sectors at Teverga and only a 10 minute drive form the house. Looking much like the UK’s Kilnsey crag, with a large roof above a vertical wall, it’s a sector that sometimes forgotten because it’s a bit of a hike (20 mins). I was pretty psyched as well as it was my first day climbing after managing to saw my finger with a jigsaw whilst starting to build a board at Casa Quiros – still to be completed!!

I’ve climbed there a lot, and especially in summer when its orientation means it doesn’t get the sun until around 1.30pm, so you can bank on a good few hours shady climbing. However, on a cold day (or when there’s a bit of rain), it can also come into its own as it is both sheltered and, due to the jutting roof that guards it, virtually never gets wet. In fact you can basically climb in the pi**ing rain there and have a great day. And on this day, mid-March is was both cold and rainy so we headed up there to sample the delights!

Nicola on the top of the first slab of Llagartu verde, 6a...

Nicola on the top of the first slab of Llagartu verde, 6a…

In general the rock at Muro Techo is very good, and tending towards the slabby it’s a technical and delicate climbing style. And with a preponderance of routes up to 6c on the main walls there’s plenty to go at.

As usual we warmed up on the short and sharp 5+ first pitch to Ambigut- a steep crack, it’s a good way to get the arms working. I then took Nic and Rodger over to the Clasica de Muro Techo 6a, 6a+. Even upgraded to 6a the first pitch is a tricky proposition and a bold layback and difficult clip adds meat to this good route. However, with the clips in Nicola stormed it but appreciated my warnings of the potentially stopper move!

Just after this my friend Ramon pitched up and bizarrely enough had been climbing next to Nicola only a couple of months before at El Chorro. Introductions were made and then Ramon headed up to try Ambigut – this time the 2nd, 7b, pitch. And although a lot of Mure Techo is slabby at the right hand end there’s plenty of steepness with a series of routes of ever-increasing difficulty though some tough roofs. Ambigut V+, 7b is the most accessible of these and Ramon attacked it with gusto – only coming unstuck on a particularly fierce mono move near the top.

IMG_6989

Our team then moved onto Llagartu Verde, a sweet little 6a, 6c whose first pitch is a superb exercise in slab climbing. This time I took photos while Nicola sent the first pitch without too much trouble and came down singing its praises!

Finally, it was my turn to climb and I chose to finish on Hierro y Fuego, 6b, a great little route which wends its way up the centre of the main part of the crag. With two tricky sections and some rock which is a little ‘different’ it’s quite a challenging route.  Nicola followed me and finally came unstuck as a combination of a cold day and a couple of pumpy layback moves did for her! However, she was not downhearted and both her and Rodger, who had been surprised to be able to climb on what was a pretty miserable day, were pleased to get out and tick some pretty cool routes and visit a different crag!

Nearing the top of Hierro y fuego...it's a big wall!!

Nearing the top of Hierro y fuego…it’s a big wall!!

As we walked down, we christened it a ‘British/Spanish day’ cold but climbable and headed off to enjoy a very, very thick cup of chocolate in the town of San Martin below!

Roca Verde reviewed in Climb Magazine

There is nothing that makes me more nervous that putting Roca Verde up for review.

Because even though it’s been quite successful so far, and everyone’s been very complimentary, there’s always the feeling at the back of my mind that I’ve missed something and that someone, one day will point out the obvious thing I’ve missed! I’ll pick up the magazine and the review will read something like ‘the book was great but if only Richie hadn’t made that huge mistake on page 99′.

And all of that goes double when the review in question comes from Climb Magazine, and it’s author is Dave Pickford who’s not only been to Asturias but is a man of high standards.  So it was with great trepidation that I picked up my copy of the Jan 2015 issue where my book was being reviewed…

Climb Magazine Jan 2015

Climb Magazine Jan 2015

And it was an audible sigh I let out when I read it. No huge error had come to light and Dave seemed to like the book and certainly still had fond memories of Asturias and his visit.

Indeed, his words of encouragement to ‘just buy a copy of Roca Verde and book a flight to Santander’ echo my own and so I’ll say it again. This is a great spot hop on a plane and come and visit us…

Finally if you’re not convinced by that review here’s another - this time from the estimable Niall Grimes and if you’re still not convinced here’s another from Miles Gibson