We had a fantastic group and stunning weather for our Picos trekking week in September 2017. It was a fantastic week with some awesome views, great hiking, lots of fun and was one of the highlights of our whole year.
The Picos mountains of Northern Spain are not as well known as say the Alps and Pyrenees, but they offer equally stunning hiking and trekking opportunities. They are also quieter and so you can get a real feel of the mountains and getting away from it all.
This is what Mike wrote about the trip after we arrived back:
“What a great trip this was! The contrast between the initial landscape as we walked up into the mountains and the sudden vistas of the deep gorge, the vertical rock faces the and the sharply defined peaks: Just amazing!! Having completed with you the West Highland Way, your Scafell Pike ascent and the Tour du Mont Blanc, the Picos trail that you have devised is something else again. More people should experience the Picos. The trek highlights? For me, the 3 hours trekking along the side of a rockface, the 2000 metre ascent spread over 12 miles, and the 300 metre scramble out of the “moonscape” were particularly distinctive. As ever, the very basic nature of some of the mountain huts and the usual laughter on your hikes, add to the memorable experience. Thanks again.”
We start day 2 by retracing some of our steps from Day 1 and skirt back around the lakes, before heading off up towards the higher mountains.
The route today takes though more dramatic limestone scenery and twists and turns on its way uphill towards the refuge.
The refugio tonight was in a spectacular location with great views of the mountains and perfect for a well earned beer with a view.
We virtually had the Refugio to ourselves for the evening, but we still had an extremely filling dinner with lots of options, which Robin took full advantage of.
Day 3 is a truly spectacular day as we pass through the world famous Cares Gorge. The gorge has been carved out of sheer sided limestone cliffs and is one of the most stunning features of the Picos.
The day starts with a bit more cloud than we have had previously as we head out across country to join the main path to Poncebos.
After a couple of hours we then stop for a break before we start our steep descent into the gorge and David applies some running repairs to a cut on Gills leg.
The descent into the gorge is pretty spectacular with steep sided cliffs on each side, a bit of loose scree and caves to explore.
When we arrive at the gorge the views are even more amazing. The path follows a route about half way up from the floor of the gorge, so there are steep drops below the path and towering cliffs and mountains above us. It really is one of those places which is so hard to capture in a photograph, because of the sheer scale of the surroundings.
The Cares Gorge winds its way to Poncebos, which is one of the few villages in the Picos with a hotel, which we take full advantage of after two nights in the Refugios.
By any measure today is a big day, with 2000m of climbing from the valley floor to the base of Naranjo de Bulnes. The Naranjo de Bulnes is an astonishing rock face, which is a real test for experienced climbers and the Refugio is in the most spectacular location at its base.
I also think it is a day which encapsulates many of the best features of the Picos all in one day. We start in a steep sided gorge, then climb through a stunning village, then further up through woodland and open pasture. Finally we arrive at our destination in a bare rocky landscape.
The sun is also back today, so we head off under clear blue skies and ascend to the lovely small village of Bulnes. Its a great place to explore and stop for a coffee, before we start the major climbing of the day.
We ascend the next section of todays hike on an ancient packhorse route through woodland to open pasture. And we get to see tantalizing glimpses of the huge rock of the Naranjo de Bulnes every time there is a break in the trees.
We take another break then continue climbing. As we get closer to the Refugio, the landscape becomes much rockier and more barren, but even more spectacular.
Its a huge relief to arrive at the Refugio, with its amazing views and stunning location. Although how Robin had the energy to leap into the air after 2000m of climbing, I still cant figure out.
If day 5 is the day of the big ascent today is the day of the big scramble. After a hike through a barren and rocky valley, we have a 300m ascent on cables. Its an exciting route, but not for the faint hearted, or anyone suffering vertigo.
The day starts though with a stunning sun rise over the mountains and cloud covered valleys below.
Todays hike then starts with a steady climb up from the Refugio, which gives us great views back of the huge rock that is the Naranjo de Bulnes.
After a couple of hours of hiking and a bit of scrambling we arrive at the foot of the steepest section.
Its a bit daunting but there are cables to hold onto and to clip a Karabiner to, to make it safer. For those who like heights and a bit of scrambling its great fun and the most awe inspiring section of the whole trip.
The actual difficulty of the scrambling is not that hard, but it does feel exposed and its certainly an airy way up to the top.
I think its fair to say that there is a certain feeling of relief at having made it, where we are met with even more breathtaking views.
And what a place for a must have group photo, to prove that we all made it!
Its then a fairly short walk to our next accommodation at the Refugio Aliva. Its called a refugio, but its really a small hotel, so a real pleasure after the previous nights sparse stay at Uriellu.
It also has a great bar and terrace just perfect for enjoying a beer and the sunshine at the end of the day.
We are greeted by another stunning sunrise over the mountains on our last hiking day.
The the hiking today is quite relaxed, after the previous days quite hard trekking. We see a lot more Vultures overhead as well as we take an easy trail down the valley from our overnight stay.
The views are of more open rolling pastures but with more distant views of the mountains, as we are in effect walking out of the high mountains today.
We are making our way to the village of Mogrovejo where we can take a break for lunch.
We then get picked up and taken to our last nights accommodation in Ojedo. Its a lovely old town with a nice selection of bars and restaurants beside the river and makes a great place to relax after a hard weeks trek. We also have the luxury of a pool!
The following day we are back to the airport, or one of the northern towns to explore for the rest of the weekend.
It was the first time we have taken a group to the Picos and the overwhelming feeling was that it was stunning place to trek with a huge variety of landscapes from high mountains, to steep gorges and rolling high pasture, with a lot of bird and animal life. Its also much quieter than the Alps and has a more remote mountain feel to it.
So we will be back in September 2018 and if you would like to see details of this trip, click here.