Picos 2011 Day 3: Mist and Drizzle
A notable characteristic of the Picos de Europa is the weather. The mountains lie only a few kilometres from the Atlantic ocean. The weather in the UK is often of the same source as the weather in the Picos. This makes for plenty of rain and cloud and mist. Every evening of the trip the mist closed in, obscuring the views.
On the second day in the mountains there was nothing to see but mist. I didn’t fancy the long, steep descent of the Canal de Trea, almost a vertical mile down a scree covered, vertiginous track to the Cares gorge. Instead I went to climb Jultayu (1950m). In two previous trips to the Picos I’d never made the summit of anything, partly because of the routes we took and partly because of the weather.
The path to Jultayu and the path to Trea were the same for the first kilometre or so, so it made a useful recce of the route. The path was only visible as paint marks on the rocks. There was no ‘path’ as such, just a route over, across and through limestone boulders, past caves, holes and precipices.
The path meandered its way through invisible scenery, only the compass and GPS gave me any certainty that I was on the right path. The path to Jultayu climbed up a long spur towards a series of false summits until finally there was nowhere else to go up. To one side of me, a view described as ‘surprising’ of the village of Cain at the bottom of the gorge, the other side a long drop of the mountainside. I could see neither, just the narrow ridge on which I perched.
At the summit there was a cross with a plaque identifying the peak and the altitude and a small box containing some hair and possibly a tooth! All very odd. After a minute or two resting I descended the same way I came up.
I returned to camp at midday. Three of the caving team had descended with some of the gear, the remaining four were packing up and stashing some equipment in nearby caves, ready for next year. I helped them carry a few odds and ends to a cave and then left them to finish and went to the refuge for a coffee and somewhere to read.
Later that evening the mist finally cleared and I went out to take some more photographs.