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The Climbing Club • View topic - Los Picos de Europa--Garganta del Cares

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2005 2:09 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 08, 2004 11:56 am
Posts: 40
Hola friends and friendly fellow climbers and hikers...!!!

I am currently vacationing in Spain, week 6 of 7, taking time off from work
and practicing a second language.

As I am traveling solo and on a whim, it has been difficult to acquire a
hiking or climbing companion or group, last minute, but I have been enjoying
the outdoors. Mid-November, I was unable to twist anyone´s leg to summit
Mulhacén with me (3489 meters) in Sierra Nevada, so I settled on a few day
hikes just south in Las Alpujarras, which will probably only be verbally
reported eventually to a close group of friends. Then this mountain girl went to the Canary Islands for a week, laugh if you will, but the sunbathing weather and volcanic hikes were sufficient for me.

Back to mainland Spain. I went on a day hike in Los Picos on Friday, December
9th, which I would love to share with you.

Short TR: La ruta Garganta del Cares (the Cares river Gorge trail); 33 km (20 miles) round trip from Arenas de Cabrales to Cain and back; 7 hours; total elevation gain, about 600 feet (the book says 2000 in total gain and loss, but I don´t believe it).

Long TR:

When I inquire with the locals on current weather conditions and suggested hikes and routes, I always get the same questions and responses (in
spanish): "You´re traveling alone? Oh, but that is dangerous. It is better to
travel with a companion..." And as there is a good amount of snow in the
north, I once again settled on a low elevation day hike in Central Picos; the
gorge trail that runs along the river Cares.

My base was a cheap hotel in Arenas de Cabrales, a gorgeous pueblo of 800
people, central and north of the park. Outside of the summer season, there are
no buses that travel the 6 km country road south to Poncebos, where the trail
begins. Thus, getting a late start at 10:30 a.m., (who doesn´t love sleeping
in on vacation) I walked it, no worries. The hike is then a 12 km trail (one-
way) that bisects the park, making an arc slightly west and then south,
connecting in the south with the pueblo Cain.

Bear with me, this is my first trip report that I´ve ever written!

The hike starts off at about 200 meters elevation in Poncebos, just next to
the rushing waters of the river Cares, whose blue-green waters I have only
seen the likes of the Glacier park in Montana. Cars are able to park along
this rocky road, but eventually the trail narrows to a foot trail. Over the
next several kilometers, the trail ascends a couple hundred meters, meets up
with a well maintained and wide foot path, which now is cliff side. I believe
that this trail exists because of the well-built water canal that runs along
side it, sometimes above your head, sometimes somewhere below you.

But the gorge--how impressive. I loved the orange and black streaks on the
vertical gray face, the dark wet streaks from rain and melting snow from high
above. It was cloudy around the peaks and sprinkled a bit early in the day,
but eventually the clouds dispersed and I could see the nearest ridges and
peaks and as I neared Cain around 3 p.m., as well as little spots of blue and streaks of sunshine.

What else did I see... The trail cuts through a few short tunnels in the rock, and as I emerged from one, I saw maple leaf swirling in the air towards me, stem down. The leaf danced horizontally within the faintest hint of wind that existed. If I hadn´t been totally in AWE, I would have tried to catch it, but it shocked me as it literally came from nowhere. After I watched it land, I could only stand and look at it thinking, ¨That is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life.¨

I love watching leaves fall--you´d think they´d go similarily, but no, their unique shapes and contours give them their own soaring and floating capabilities.

Just as beautiful were little cascades along the gorge, abandoned stone houses in the middle of nowhere, ivy hanging from ceilings of caves and coves reaching over the trail, foot trails on the other side of the gorge that zig-zagged up steep slopes to little caves, which were sprinkled everywhere throughout this beautiful rock (human or creature made trails?).

As I neared the quiet meadows of Cain, I crossed several large bridges, high above the river, and JUST before the meadow, I traveled about 5 minutes through a length of very wet and dark tunnels in the rock, which occasionally have a few natural windows, giving light to the path (but of course, I carry a head lamp, quite useful!).

I took my lunch at the meadow, with a view of a white washed house with terra cotta roofing (ever popular in the north), fall colors in the trees, and snow capped mountains.

The 2.5 hour return to Poncebos was a happy one, although I really didn´t want to leave. I ended up walking behind 2 couples traveling together; I passed them, they passed me, I passed them...and as I got to the point where I´d originally ascended to the main trail (not very well marked), I stopped to ask the younger couple whether the trail that continued to ascend to the east also returned to Poncebos. The incredibly handsome dark haired man gave me that smile of someone enjoying the stutter and accent of a foreigner, while the charming brunette chimed in from time to time. As both trails went to Poncebos, I took the higher route, which had an incredible view 360 degrees around before returning down to Poncebos. I got an incredible rush of adreneline as I was ascending, which made the ache in my tired feet completely disappear (after 16 miles already), as I thought of how beautiful the alpine glow was beginning to look, how truly happy those lovers behind me looked, and how happy I was to be there.

I enjoyed saying ¡Hola! to everyone that I passed, which usually occurred at a beautiful point on the path, but there was this one chubby man by himself, the only person I´d seen smoking a cigarette along the path, and we passed each other over a very large pile of cow poop, which was difficult for both of us to navigate around at the same time. And when I said Hola in the middle of it all, it somehow seemed inappropriate...bad timing? And you wouldn´t believe it, but I caught up with him on the way back and I passed him AGAIN over a pile of poop. You just have that connection with some people I guess?

Upon my return to Poncebos, I started to walk the country road back to Arenas, but the same 2 couples stopped in the middle of the road and squished me into their compact car, while everyone else I had tried to flag down visibly had more than enough room for one more person...and a cute girl, at that! :o) But I must look threatening, as no one had stopped to give me a lift...except for this wonderful group of happy hikers.

---

At Poncebos, you can either drive or hike up to the tiny pueblo Camarmeña, which has a lookout to the ever beautiful Naranjo de Bulnes, a classic climbing challenge in central Picos. I headed up to Camarmeña before the whole trek to enjoy the view of where I would not be climing, alas, and chatted with a lovely señora there for a bit, which is why I didn´t make it to Cain until 3.

There are a gazillion more details that I would love to share, so if you´re interested, feel free to ask. And if there are any spanish phrases or words that I can help you out with, let me know that too!

I´m currently in Huesca in the north, and look forward to spending my last week strolling in the Pyrenees.

Forgive any errors in my english skills, as I have been practicing a new set
of language skills.

I´ve been checking out some of the trip reports from the club here and there, and the club sounds like it has had a burst of energy this season...due to a number of factors perhaps? I am glad to hear the details of the fun times, and I hope that everyone is doing well.

I´ll be back in the Wisconsin for x.mas with the family, and I might make it out to Seattle yet this winter season. Make sure there is plenty of snow waiting for me this year!

Lots of lovin´

_________________
Lissa Wanserski


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2005 1:29 pm 
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UW Climber

Joined: Sun Jun 13, 2004 3:24 pm
Posts: 122
Location: Seattle, WA
¿los españoles besan cómo apasionado a sus mujeres? :wink:


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2005 11:16 am 
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Alpine Bod
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Joined: Wed Sep 04, 2002 1:31 pm
Posts: 1330
Location: Los Americanos


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