Tag Archives: mountains

Huerto del Diablo South

Mountain Walk – Up to ‘Huerto del Diablo’ 2140m from Puerto Ventana

What a day out!! Making the most of a stunning, sunny day we decided that we needed to start exploring the local hills (mountains) a bit more and so headed up to Puerto Ventana 1587m. This pass forms the border between Asturias and Leon and is the southern-most point of Teverga. It’s a great starting point for several hikes as it lets you access the high mountains with the minimum of ascent (albeit there’s still some ascent!!).

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From Casa Quiros there are two ways of getting there: one shortish, roughish one, and a longer but smoother method. The quickest and more adventurous way is to drive east up the valley from Casa Quiros and, at Santa Marina, take the road up to Ricabo which just before the village is signed off right up to Puerto Ventana. This road then turns into a mainly unpaved road for about 11km leading slowly but surely up to Puerto Ventana. TBH the track is pretty decent and has no scary drop offs or bad patches – it’s tarmac where needed and is a reasonably gentle slope most of the way – this takes about 45mins from Casa Quiros depending on stops at the viewpoints. However, if you weren’t happy to do this in a rental car for example then the alternative is to go north towards Proaza and take the road up to San Martin (Teverga) and follow the valley south from there ( which actually covers some spectacular territory) to arrive at Puerto Ventana in about the same time. A good call maybe to go there one way and return the other…

Anyway from Puerto Ventana we decided to walk to to the peak known as Huerto del Diablo 2140m (the Devil’s garden – is the direct translation). This turned out to be a simple to navigate but very beautiful and not too challenging – our 10 year old son came with us and kept up the whole way. The walk starts on a wide easy to follow track which turns uphill and is the old miners track – the hills here were covered in small mines for many years – and soon gains height to give views of the high ridges and mountains to the south which lead to the Fontanes and Peña Ubiña – the highest points in the Ubiñas group at 2417m. At this point we saw what we think was a Golden Eagle gliding gently above us! From the end of the track we moved up and traversed across onto more open, rocky and mountainous terrain to take a wide gully which led steeply up to a coll.

From the coll we could see our objective easily enough and crossing a low valley we climbing up again onto a broad, rocky shoulder which led to the summit. The views from this shoulder were amazing – wide open vistas to the south of the majestic peaks of the Fontanes and the huge, precarious looking ridges between us and them. Once on the shoulder we reached the top of Huerto del Diablo in about 10 more minutes and relaxed with a bite of chocolate and and few photos. From there the obvious descent was down a wide ridge then ascend to take in the second peak of Huerto del Diablo south and to drop down to the south to arrive back at the top of the gully we’d climbed up.

Our ascent from Puerto Ventana

Our ascent from Puerto Ventana

The descent was very welcome as the day had heated up and all the sets of legs were getting a bit tired. And so in about 45 minutes more we arrived very hot and a bit bother to the big fuente (spring) at the start of the route. Freezing and refreshing in equal parts we dumped our shoes and socks and bathed our feet before nipping back to the parking. Final tally – from the parking around 11km with about 670 metres of ascent. With stops we took around five hours.

Fauna – Golden Eagle, Griffon Vulture and either large mountain goats or rebecos (a type of mountain deer).

As a note this would easily make a great trail run for anyone of that inclination…

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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.

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.