Category Archives: Running

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

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.