The Picos, two centres, two leaders and two grades of walking, what a sociable and multinational group this turned out to be, with both leaders and guests happily switching between the ‘harder’ grade 7 walks and the ‘fairly hard’ grade 6 walks. An impressive drive into Potes through the dramatic limestone gorge (me following in my little yellow car). Important briefing on how to squirt the cider machine….slowly with increasing height seems to be the answer.
Blistering hot start, we took to the heights to find cooler air. Up the Fuente De cable car and a 700m climb to Torre de Hocados Rojos (2503m) for the 7’s, complete with a little scramble to reach the top, just nicely making us feel like we had climbed a proper mountain. Barren limestone formations all around, sinkholes, pavements, caves and ravines. 6’s climb to the stunning col viewpoint and some visit the curious silver refuge, Cabana Veronica, made from a recycled turret of an aircraft carrier, sleeping 6 and selling coffee and Coca Cola. Who would have thought?
I give a flower talk in the evening with the focus on ‘what are they like and why are they like that?’ rather than ‘what are they called’. We’re hopeful for lots of flowers to see.
Day 3, still hot, Picu Jano (1466m) for all, the 7’s do some more to the Cruz de la Viorna. Today is all about the views, of Potes and the mountains. The group are settling in to the pace, major sandwich crises are narrowly averted, and evening conversation never falters as the free wine flows.
Then the famous Tresviso walk 7’s up the gorge from Udon to (very misty) Tresviso. Some vultures soar from their cliff nests, but seen from afar today. The 6’s walk to the Ermita de Nuestro Senora from Somaniezo.
Another trip ap the cable car for the 7’s, and a tough route to Vega de Liordes via Pico de Padierna (2314m). They all feel justifiably pleased with themselves after this exhilarating day, and the temperature inversion giving a fantastic, above the clouds walk. The 6’s have a pretty fine time on the 4 villages walk.
The 6’s get their second trip up Fuente de, and lo, we too are treated to the sea of clouds. Despite a worthy 15km, the day feels very leisurely, our stops are long and relaxed……happy wanderers. The 7’s are off doing something else energetic.
Finally, the 7th day is a day of rest – we were so keen to make the most of the great weather while it lasted, but, despite the ever pessimistic forecast, the day was fine too. More cheesecake for some, up at Bar de Los Ingleses, ambling around Potes, along the cobbled riverside walk, up the tower and more cider, gin and radler. And then THAT dinner…..our most experienced guests knew already we were in for trouble when it was announced with a flourish that we were being treated to the local speciality. This was my only low point, but it was as low as the Cares Gorge was deep.
And so on to Posada de Valdeon. Alf kept telling us we’d all love it, and he is so right. Despite two days of the long promised rain, snow and hail, we do love it.
I introduce the 7’s to the wonders of hacking through shoulder-high broom, in a blizzard. We think we’ve lost John….but no, up he pops.
A happy band set off for a successful trip to Leon on the day off, they are rewarded with sunshine and culture, the rest of us settle down by the warm fire for a good long read.
The Cares gorge is a treat, the pictures tell the story, and 22km for the final stalwart 2 fine men. El Gildar is another lovely day, another 1000m ascent for the 7’s and 800m for the 6’s.
The bravest of 7’s successfully complete the 1200m ascent and crossing of the Traversona circuit, steep and exposed, truly spectacular in perfect conditions. I try to settle the nerves of the three husbands watching out for the descending party; it was like being at Everest base camp! The 6’s completed the lovely Pandetrave ridge walk and descent with magnificent views all the way.
Our final walks are to Pena Blanca for the 6’s (1802m) and El Jario for the 7’s (1913m) wonderful summits and fine ridges.
A glass of the local hooch, imaginatively named ‘licor des herbes’, and we say our farewells, until the next time, and with this group I feel there will be plenty of ‘next times’. Thanks all, for your great company and laughter, I loved this tour.