Picos de Europa
I’m a very fortunate person to have already been backpacking in the Picos de Europa, the Pyrenees, the Sierra de Gredos and the hills of Valencia. This year I am going back to the Picos for my third visit.
Back in 2000 I spent a few days wandering in the sunshine and 30something°C heat of Valencia – this was my first trip backpacking in Spain. It was pretty easy, wandering between places I knew in fairly easy terrain. The only difficulty was the heat. A siesta is a wonderful thing.
Later in 2000 I hatched a plan to visit the Picos de Europa (Asturias, Northern Spain) in the following summer. I’d read an article about the Picos in Trail magazine and liked the look of it. A compact range, similar in area to the Lake District of the UK but with altitude variations of about a vertical mile (1.6km or so). A guidebook was bought, maps were ordered from ‘The map shop’ -who had given me excellent service when I asked for the Valencia maps giving them only a vague clue of which bit of the province I meant.
If you remember these sorts of things, 2001 was the year the British countryside was closed due to Foot and Mouth disease. So, from February to the day I boarded the Aeroplane headed to Spain I hadn’t been out for a decent walk to prepare for the Picos trip. As you may imagine, this wasn’t ideal. Especially as the Picos are a notoriously dry mountain range, despite the rainfall. So water had to be carried. About 8 litres of it some days. Water, if you’ve never carried it very far is very heavy. 8 litres adds 8kgs to an already weighty backpack.
The strain of the heavy loads, the knee-crushing descents and generally tough terrain took their toll on my body. By the end of a fortnight I couldn’t walk. This isn’t hyperbole for ‘tired legs’ I *actually* couldn’t stand up without massive agony, definitely the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. After a couple of days of more or less crying when I stood up I began to recover enough to get about a bit.
The next year I went back to the Picos and took a video camera (look on YouTube under Lordyosch- the music has been removed by YouTube though, shame). My travelling companion, the erstwhile Daz (who has been with me on every major mountain adventure in Europe) and I chose a different route, with a different objective. We went straight to the central massif and up to the village of Bulnes – the only village in Spain not to be connected by road. From here we headed up into the mountains with the intention of climbing the highest peak in the range, Torre de Cerredo (2648m I think). We spent a night in the Cabrones hut and set off to find Cerredo. We succeeded except we also found thick mist and a storm blowing in so we aborted and set off back for the Cabrones hut.
Sadly, we didn’t find the hut again, we, err, umm, mislaid our location. Temporarily. All was well as we hatched a plan to head North and we’d encounter a path we knew from the previous year. This plan worked a treat and we re-found ourselves.
So, after two visits; one which wrecked my knees (they still ‘go’ if I’m not careful) and another in which I got sort-of-but-not-quite-actually-lost I’m going again. This time alone. All by myself, with no one to talk to.
I’m really looking forward to it.
I’ve a lot to do between now and August 3rd when I fly to Spain. I’ve got the route sorted and have done the preliminary research in to transport into the mountains so thats a good start. Things left to do are; 1. Get fit. -I’m in my ‘winter plumage’ at the moment, I’ve not been on my bike since about October. 2. Practice my backpacking skills and get used to carrying a heavy pack again -nothing prepares you for carrying heavy loads up mountains like carrying heavy loads up mountains does.
This blog then is a journal of my preparations and perhaps a guide to others who may wish to engage in a similar pursuit.