Picos 2011 Day 5: To Vega Huerta
Time to leave the comfort of the albergue and head back into the mountains. I expected the next two days to be the most challenging. The route was through the high mountains over a series of passes in fairly blank terrain.
I began with a walk through the village roads then onto a track to the next village. I passed the remains of the former camp site. Turning north onto a path up a long spur leading to a forest I began to climb and the views opened up. I have never been to this part of the range before so every view was new.
The path took me through beech trees then oak trees. All around were interesting fungi, I didn’t take pictures because I’d have been forever stopping and I wanted to make Vega Huerta in good time. Towards the end of the forest it opened into a clearing and I got my first view of the mountains close up. It was incredibly beautiful, I stopped for a while just to enjoy it.
Stopping at a fountain for a quick drink I admired the scenery some more. I was happy to be re-entering the mountains proper. A few Km further on and I was at the Chozo de Llos, a small foresters cabin now used as a bothy. I stopped for some lunch and collected another 3L of water from a nearby fuente. My map said that in Vega Huerta, where I was planning to camp, there was a ruined hut and a hard to find spring. In case I couldn’t find any more water I felt it prudent to carry the extra burden.
Shouldering my pack I set off for the collado de Frade (col, or pass) which marked by entry into the higher mountains. At the top of the col there was an unusual barrier, an electric fence! Thankfully it had a plastic handle and a hook so it could be opened and passed. Reconnecting the handle from the other side I checked the map and studied the view. There was a smart looking refuge below me, not much of a walk way. Sadly it was not the direction I was heading.
My route took me higher and over ever steepening ground, mud and scree slopes, to another col. This one was called an ‘horcado’ which means a col with difficult access on at least one side. I was genuinely worried on a few points on this crossing. The ground kept slipping away beneath my feet and I had to rely heavily on my walking poles for support. I was glad when I had crossed the scree and got onto more certain ground.
After the Horcado the views changed dramatically. No more grass. Just bare limestone. Jumbled, broken limestone. The path was convoluted but a lot of fun. Quite easy going compared to the scree.
Vega Huerta was a welcome sight. I’d stopped for a break, taken off my pack and had struggled to pick it up again! The hut at Vega Huerta had been recently rebuilt (as a bothy) and the fountain was about 20m away down a path. Dead easy to find.
Staying in the hut were three Madrileños. Two of them were off climbing on Torre Santa de Castilla and the third, Jesus, a taxi driver, remained at the hut. I relaxed in the sun until it became chilly.
Jesus was becoming bored of waiting for his friends who said they’d be back in 3.5 hours, several hours ago. Time went on and they still hadn’t returned. Two more climbers joined us at the hut. Darkness came and Jesus’ friends were still missing.
Night fell and still nothing.
The night was cold inside the hut, and I was in a down-filled sleeping bag. I’ve no idea what it was like for the missing men.