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[TR] Northern Spain - Picos de Europa 6/27/2014

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Trip: Northern Spain - Picos de Europa


Date: 6/27/2014


Trip Report:

After living in Northern Spain for a good five years, this is the first time I´ve taken the taken the time to sit down, relax and write a couple blurbs about the place. Seems like I don´t have many pictures for as much as I get out, but here you have pictures of some cool places around the province. First to explain, I live In the province of Cantabria in Northern Spain. This would be located just to the West of the Basque Country and not to far from the border with France. The weather is a little better than the NW, but not much. I got the North Atlantic in my backyard. People think of Spain as warm, sunny and dry. This place normally is cold, wet and humid….just like home. This always gives me a nice warm fuzzy feeling especially when dodging water bullets coming in from a North Atlantic storm that frequently try to pick me off as I run from bar to bar, or from car to crag or car to class. As I said, I live on the coast and we have some really good sandstone/limestone crags and spires to climb on.





When I first got here I was lucky to hook up with a group of really strong and mostly sport climbers that have become great friends. Every now and then I could talk people into an occasional alpine route but mostly pulling down and hard stuff. As I´ve only been an in the closet sport climber, I took to long distance mountain running to get my weekly mountain fix. My guess because I did this because I didn´t feel comfortable wearing spandex at the crag, although it is Europe, but wearing tights while running is accepted. Which led me sign up for one of the hardest races I´ve done. Stretching across Cantabria and Asturias is a beautiful limestone mountain chain called the Picos de Europa. It´s not a very big range, but it is compact. We are talking tight valleys with BIG relief from the valley floor to the summits. Which makes this one of the hardest ultramarathons in Spain. It´s called the Traversera de Los Picos de Europa and it covers about 50 miles with a little under 21,600 feet of positive elevation gain crossing the chain by going up and over it´s three separate mountain ranges. And the only person I was able to talk into doing is my friend Javi.




Now Javi is a friggin mountain beast and one of my best friends. But I´m surprised he started to climb with me. I first met him about three years ago. I had just come back from Seattle and a big group of my friends decided to climb a couple of classics in a local alpine climbing area called “El Agero”. As I had just come back from the States, a couple of good sport climbing friends tricked me into going out for the “proverbial” one beer. Everyone knowing tomorrow I had to be up for an alpine start. Keep in mind an alpine start here in Spain is eight in the morning. Some things I won´t write, I can only tell in flesh and blood. There was a blond with many tattoos and I got home way late or early depending on how you see it. When I finally went to bed it was around 6:30 in the morning and it was in my flatmates bed. I couldn´t find my room and thank god he wasnt home. A short time later I woke up caught up in a beer induced mental tornado. I fell asleep on the floor after taking a whipper from the edge of my bed from a failed mantel attempt to get under the covers. When the phone rang at 8.30 I went straight into panic mode. Skipped breakfast, stumbled out the door and into the back of the car with my buddies cracking up. Then didn´t even have to look at me or ask any questions…they could smell what had happened….booze and perfume. Back to Javi. There were six of us. Javi leading two other people and me leading another two people. The entire time I was thinking of the saying that experience comes from bad decisions. Thank god fate didn´t cash this one in for me. The approach to the 300m 5.9/5.10 route is about 45 minutes. I couldn´t walk a straight line to the base, but I was able to climb fairly straight. With this trip I learned if I ever wanted to train for high altitude climbing I would slam half a bottle of gin and let 15 years of experience take over. I got to the summit right as sobriety and a hangover the size of El Cap hit me like a guillotine. I fell to my knees, then on to my hands and desecrated a good square meter of the summit. All the time with my friends staring at me with mild disbelief and immeasurable amusement.





About an hour and a half from my house is one of the most famous mountains in Spain called “El Naranjo del Bulnes”. From afar it kind of looks like a mini limestone Changabang, but up close the 500m West Wall is awe-inspiring. Many good routes but the best are a handful of 5.12 to 5.13 free routes or easy aid that go up the center. The East Face has a lot of nice but run out slab routes and the South Face, which is the rapple route, has the classic moderate that everyone does. Amazing mountain and good times. I´d recommend this mountain to anyone coming to Spain to climb.




What would be TR about Spain without several sport climbing pictures.



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Awesome Tim! Thanks for the stoke. Would love to climb with you over there sometime or over here when you're around this summer.

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Hi Tim, looking that is loking home!!! I am from Cantabria and all very familiar to me, I remember my first climb in the Agero about 1986??, puf... a lot of time ago, anyone wanting info, photos, etc I have tons!!!.

I am glad you enjoyed Cantabria!!, now I am based in Bellevue, but visiting and climbing there every year when I go on vacations.


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