Tag Archives: CORDILLERA CANTABRICA

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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

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..

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!

First new route at Quirós – Chorerra Negra, 7a+

Returning to Quirós after a break from climbing was a treat for me for a number of reasons; firstly I completed my project, secondly I warmed up on a route which felt pumpy as hell on the last visit and finally I had the same feeling repeating a route as the first time – which is rare.

There are some places I just love to climb and Sector Eclipse at Quiros is one of them. Now I don’t understand why, but this is a sector ignored by most and I have  hardly ever seen anyone there, though there often chalk…

However, for me it has a great mix of routes, there’s a decent spread of grades and possibly the best 6c+ in Asturias. (Controversial!!!) And one more thing I should mention, it also gets into the shade at around 1.30, a blessing for a keen climber in the summer months.

Amanita 6c+

Amanita 6c+

So on my first of two quick visits I warmed up on Amanita 6c+, a really good (and long) route which takes a burly crack for fully 35 metres. I had done it a few years ago and it was certainly easier the second time – there’s big moves, finger jams and intricate slabs and was happy that I felt solid all the way.

I was happy because I’d returned to finish a route I’d bolted about two years ago – called Chorrera Negra I’d tentatively graded it 7a and put it in the guide even though I’d not had time to complete it. I’d had the time after bolting to top rope it and although very tired had just about done it in one go. So although I thought it may be tricky since I was feeling good I thought I’d just whip up it quickly and get it ticked.

On the crux of Chorerra Negra 7a+ on the first ascent

On the crux of Chorerra Negra 7a+ on the first ascent

However, I hadn’t counted on the fact that A. I hadn’t cleaned it brilliantly and the intervening 1.5 years would leave it worse. And B. it was pretty badly bolted with spaced bolts meaning you had to do hard moves above them and C. it was bloody hard!!!

Up, down, up down, I got pumped and more pumped. – feet on nothing much, dirty hand holds and fear keeping me down. Finally I committed and managed to push on – brutal – but a decent crimp got me clipped and a carried on. Phew, crux done! I didn’t remember anything else hard until the last few feet so felt a bit happier. But, I was once again subject to memory failings as almost isntantly the territory became thin, precarious and very, very unobvious. Sketch by sketch I advanced and slowly but surely i was going to be mine. By the end I was totally pumped with cramping feet and it was will power nothing more (and the threat of having to come back) which got me up it.

Very relieved I snagged the belay and lowered off pleased as punch but damn tired.  I was very proud of my route and my determined effort, whilst acknowledging it’s failings and vowing to come back and clean and add a bolt or two to my ordeal.

High on the route and very tired

High on the route and very tired

So overall, maybe my first new route on the Queen of Asturian crags isn’t the greatest but it’s intricate and fun (in an old school way). I upgraded Chorrera Negra to 7a+, I am going back soon to ‘sort it out’.