Tag Archives: CORDILLERA CANTABRICA

En la cima - On the summit

Pico Ferreirúa – The highest point in Teverga 1941m…

We picked a cooler day to do our walk up Ferreirua, the highest peak in the ‘concejo’ of Teverga, and that proved a blessing on the steepest parts of the hike.  As we did when we did Huerto del Diablo  we set of from Puerto Ventana after a short car ride.

This time the sky was grey so the views were not as stunning but at least we could see where we were going and it looked like a great walk. The path was relatively easy to follow  (we followed our nose without a map) and the first km or so wasn´t to steep and kind of skirted round the first obvious peak. However, the first hill proper was a bit of a shock with about 75m of very steep climbing which left us out of breath but improved the views. And from there we ascended via a series of steepish ascents and short descents over several small hills. The path was obvious and the ground pretty easy and forgiving.

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Then after about 2.8km the ground got a bit more mountainous and rocky and we semi-scrambled along a series of ridges each sharper and rockier than the last. These were fun as there were no serious drops and the path was easy to follow but they were a bit slow and awkward. At the end of the ridge we thought we were at the summit but in fact there was one last short, rocky descent and ascent to gain the top, which was marked by a small cairn.

As we reached the summit the clouds lifted and a bit of sun shone giving us stunning views into León and the Parque Natural de Somiedo, where some even bigger challenges lie!!

The map of our ascent.

The map of our ascent.

Overall this was a fun walk with some steep bits, some rocky traversing and as ever great views. We did it in about 3+ hrs with quite a few short stops and a 10 year old. Once again this would make a brilliant mountain run…

Follow us on Strava to see all our activities we are – Casa Quiros

Casa Quiros – Climb Bike Hike Run Relax…

 

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Horse trekking in Parque las Ubiñas

The Parque Natural de las Ubiñas, which straddles Quirós and our neighbouring counties of Teverga and Lena, is the youngest of all the Asturian natural parks. It’s a stunning mountainous landscape with spectacular high peaks, glaciated valleys and ancient woodlands and is criss-crossed with an extensive network of trails that makes exploring it relatively simple and infinitely appealing, be it on foot, bike or horse back. If you’re lucky enough to get the right conditions in winter you could even pull on your  snowshoes or cross-country skis out on the tops.

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Perhaps the best-known of these trails is the Camin Real de la Mesa which follows the old Roman road that crosses the mountain tops linking the provinces of Asturias and León. It forms part of the Via de La Plata, an ancient trade and pilgrimage route that ran all the way along the west side of Spain from south to north. Linking up to it at various points are a seeming infinity of other local paths.

Last September I had the good fortune to explore 60kms of this network of trails on a two-day circular horse ride in a group accompanied by a super-knowledgeable local guide, Paco from Cuadra Sobia stables. On the Saturday we climbed up through dramatic limestone gorges, enjoyed the dappled shade of extensive beech and chestnut forests and clip-clopped past waterfalls, stopping to picnic at a braña (an ancient settlement of the native nomadic cowherds, vaqueiros de alzada) from where we continued up to the roof of Asturias at Puerto Ventana.

From here we pitched over and down into León where we overnighted in an albergue.  The next day we looped back down to our starting point at Cuadra Sobia, via the extensive and spectacular plateau where Somiedo, Teverga and León meet. In the whole weekend we didn’t repeat a single section of trail and barely set hoof on tarmac. Apart from a few walkers by Xiblu waterfall the only company we encountered on the trails were wild horses and a few cows.

All in all an amazing experience that has whetted my appetite for continued exploration of these majestic mountains. Although from now on I shall be mainly staying on foot – two days in the saddle after 20 years without mounting a horse rather took its toll!

Quirós by drone – a visual guide to the crag

Set in a fantastic location, Quirós is unquestionably one of the best crags in the Roca Verde guidebook with a wealth of climbing across the grades on over twenty separate sectors. Historically important in the evolution of climbing in the Cordillera Cantábrica, its development goes back to the 60s and it is home to the first Asturian 8a. However, Quirós is not stuck in the past; it’s a vibrant, and very popular venue which is cared for by a dedicated crew of climbers including those from the refugio. Most of the sectors have been re-equipped with new bolts and chains and there has been plenty of new routing even in recent years.

Quirós is difficult to summarise due to the amount of climbing but several things stand out. Most prominent is the superb limestone, which, even after more than 40 years has hardly polished; then there is the variety, and although the climbing tends towards slabs or wall climbing, with fantastic examples of both, there are tufas, overhangs and even roofs! Add in a brilliant mix of multi-pitch and single pitch routes and the fact that a lot of the single pitches are of a good length and it’s easy to see why it’s a great destination.

Finally, Quirós is also very much an ‘everyman’ crag with the majority of the routes skewed towards the mid-grade climber as well as plenty for beginners and some superb, harder testpieces too.

Fraguel rock, a brilliant 6b on sector La Amarilla

Fraguel rock, a brilliant 6b on sector La Amarilla

Like Teverga many of the greatest Asturian climbers, as well as others, have left their mark at Quirós. Again the following list is probably not perfect but hopefully covers a lot of the main people: Eduardo Velasco, Francisco Blanco, Tino González, Claudio Sánchez, Javier López, Mariluz Santacruz, José Manuel Suarez, Nacho Orviz, Carlos Vásquez, José A Margolles, Plácido Suárez, José M Fernandez, Kike Oltra, Anselmo Menéndez, J Carreras, Jesús Martín, Roberto Magdalena.

Casa Quiros facilities – a selection of bikes perfect for the Senda del Oso

Just below Casa Quiros, next to the lake, runs the Senda del Oso which, roughly translated means ‘the bear path’. Now one of the most popular things to do in Asturias the Senda started life as the railway line which connected the mines of Quiros and Teverga to Oviedo. However, once the mines shut it became obvious to utilize the flattish tracks and tunnels to make a brilliant cycle/running route.

The Senda del Oso

The Senda del Oso

This route or just part of it makes great day out, either as a rest day from climbing or simply as a fun activity on its own – walking, running or biking. Obviously you’ll cover most ground on bikes and although there are plenty of bike rental companies if you rent Casa Quiros we have a selection of bikes all of which are suitable for the ‘off-road’ nature of the Senda.

Obviously a couple of these are true mountain bikes and so could be taken on some of the more demanding tracks which can be found around the house.

The bikes at Casa Quoros

The bikes at Casa Quiros

And we also have a bike with an attachable baby seat for those who bring a child under 5!

And for those who are very keen, one of the most popular events – and one of the hardest – is the half-marathon which takes places each year on the Senda del Oso. I did it a couple of years ago as my first ever race and if you’re up to it it’s a pretty cool event. It’s on 28th October this years and here’s a link: -https://carreraspopularesasturias.com/carreras/proaza/media-maraton-senda-del-oso-2020/

My first race

My first race!! – team Senda del Oso…

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Teverga from the air…

For those who don’t know how much rock we have or what they’re missing in if they haven’t climbed in Teverga – which is a short 15min drive from Quirós – here’s an aerial view of some of the 35 (or more) sectors which make up this brilliant destination.

There’s close to 1000 routes here and thanks to the work of the dedicated local club Grupo Escalada Aguja de Sobia there are more routes and sectors being opened every year.

You can see the size and scale if you check out the cars on the road…

The guide to the area is available on my page http://bit.ly/BuyRocaVerde2 and if you need somewhere we’re here for you…

La Vuelta 2020 – 29th + 30th August at Casa Quiros

Ok, it’s on its way once again, and this year there are more stages than ever in the north of Spain in La Vuelta – Spains equivalent to the Tour de France. And this year there are two stages which go very close to Casa Quiros – one right underneath.
And if possible, the two stages this year are even more brutal than last years in Asturias which ended up on the Alto de la Cubilla after passing under Casa Quiros.

Stage 14
So even though this is not considered the harder of the two stages to me, knowing the climbs, it looks very, very hard. It’s also 170km long and takes in three category 1 climbs! This includes La Cobertoria from Pola de Lena (which is sooo steep) as well as then heading up San Lorenzo which is another very difficult pass, before topping off on the long grind of Farrapona.

This stage passes underneath Casa Quiros on 29th August and I’ll hopefully be riding it the day before. One thing to bear in mind is that the end of August is usually the hottest time of year in Asturias and so heat could be a factor.

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Stage 15
Now this stage is the one which is considered to be the one which may well decide the race as it finishes up the legendary Alto de Angliru which with it’s sections of up to 23% (and we’re not talking one or two metres either). This climb strikes fear into the heart of some of the most hardened athletes. And when it was first proposed for the tour it was said that some riders thought ‘they are trying to kill us’. However, it also makes for great drama like it was two/three years ago when Contador bowed out with an incredible stage win in his final year as a pro…

This stage is very close to Casa Quiros, starting from Pola de Laviana, about 20km away and wending its way round to finish up Angliru which is about 35km away.

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So if you fancy checking it all out Casa Quiros is not booked up for those dates at the time of writing this blog…

And if you want to see more about riding here and the Angliru in particular you can check out one of our guests experiences in this Blogpost – Angliru Blog

 

 

Sobrevilla to Pica Siella and back round – 15km circular route. Sept 2017.

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

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.