Guest Blog – Mike Owen on his visit to Asturias….

Mike Owen visited recently and here are his thoughts on the area and in particular a couple of the steeper crags (being a big tufa fan) Poo and Rumenes:

“The main objective (of our Spanish trip) was to visit Cantabria and Asturias in northern Spain as a result of buying Richie Patterson’s excellent new guide “Roca Verde”.

However, with a poor forecast we started in the east of Spain and the  first destination was a fairly new cliff called Culla about an hour north of Valencia. Thanks to Dave and Rhian Cross for the excellent info. However it was very tough on the Scali (van) getting down the 2.5km track to a perfect doss spot overlooking the crag. The crag was in the shade with plenty of wind, we had the place to ourselves and the routes were on fantastic colonettes.

It was finally time to drive on to Asturias at last. Driving along the autopista the scenery reminded us of North Wales. The mountains rise very steeply just a couple of km inland from the Atlantic in much the same way that the Carneddau rise above the villages of Penmaenmawr and Llanfairfechan. There was another similarity in that they were very often hidden by dark clouds and rain!

From the topo we sussed out the places that would keep us entertained: Poo de Cabrales and Rumenes. Both crags have plenty of colos (tufas) and enough shade for summer cragging. The lower sector at Poo has great short routes from 6b+ to 7a which are super warm ups. The upper “Chorreras” crag is great for onsighting from 7a to 7b+ (the harder routes are not as good). The best routes we did were Mociviellos (6b+), Cencerrada (7a), Alanvista (7a+), Entremedusas (7b) and Kalima (7b+). Richie says that the 7c+ at El Corralito is very good and the 8a+ looks brilliant (though has probably only had one ascent apparently).

Dave and Rhian Cross on the 7a+ part of El dia del arquero at Rumenes

Ahhhh, Rumenes. What wonderful climbs there are to do there, long colonettes and not too steep. The canyon is so impressive and there is so much rock everywhere. It is an equippers paradise, if you’re prepared to walk some. There will be a lot of development in the coming years. DON’T FORGET TO BUY THE TOPO BECAUSE RICHIE IS DONATING 20% FOR EQUIPPING. PLEASE DON’T PHOTOCOPY.

Sindrome de Stendhal, 50m of tufa heaven makes a great 8a (photo by Richie Patterson)
Jan from Czech Republic on the brilliant Rumenes power y al vino, 7a+

 

 

Asia from Poland flashing the excellent Cinderella Man, 7c

 

All the climbs at sector Chorreras are well worth doing, especially Rumenes power y al vino (one of the best 7a+’s anywhere) and the 50m 8a classic Sindrome de Stendhal. There are plenty of places to park up in the camper van in peace. On rest days the food and beer is very cheap in the climbers bar in La Hermida (Posada la Cuadrona) and there is a hot spring under the bridge.

We didn’t get to Teverga which is the other must go to destination, though much more sunnier. That’ll be at the top of the list for next time. The region is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to, the climbing is fantastic and the topo is amazing and so inspiring. I can’t wait to go back.”

Rumenes – the best tufas in Roca Verde??

An amazing venue and the best ‘tufa’ climbing in Asturias. The walls and routes at Rumenes are simply phenomenal and amply demonstrate the potential in this valley. The upper crag for the most part is literally tufa-strewn and provides a series of long, stamina testpieces.

Rumenes is probably  the most popular area in the Desfiladero – especially now there’s a good guide – and it was interesting to see people there from across Europe. Chatting to an Austrian team they were very impressed with the area (and the guide)…!

Austrian visitor becomes part of the spectacular scenery of Rumenes on Satanismo en el Alpinismo 7a+

Austrian visitor becomes part of the spectacular scenery of Rumenes on Satanismo en el Alpinismo 7a+

Shade arrives at Rumenes about 2pm but we arrived late at around  5pm after a long day at chilling out and bathing at the enormous beach of San Vicente about 30 minutes away (good tip). Already at the crag were a bunch of friends of ours – all ex-pats, some living in France some in Spain. The stamina legend that is Mike Owen was working the incredible stamina pitch of Síndrome de Stendhal, a super long 7c+ while his wife Elaine patiently nursed a very sore finger and belayed.

Mike Owen Sindrome de Stendhal 7c+

Mike Owen Sindrome de Stendhal 7c+

As we chatted to the Brits a French couple arrived and we realised it was a couple we’d seen at Teverga a few days before. They were enjoying their visit to Asturias and set about sending a few classics: Rumenes power al vino, 7a+, and Invocando de Onan, 7a one of the most ‘tufariest’ routes at this very ‘tufary’ crag!!

As I watched and snapped away I realised how burned I had got at the beach and my keeness to climbed waned…however, watching Marek Cincio from Poland absolutely fight his way up the 38 metre pitch of El día del arquero, 7c,  got me inspired. A brilliant effort he nearly fell several times before topping out on one of the best pitches there…

El dia del arquero, 7c. 38 metres of pure pump!!

Marek Cincio on El dia del arquero, 7c. 38 metres of pure pump!!

Our day eventually started about 6.30 and I warmed up on my favourite, La Tufa, 6b a great little route. However, after a bright start things went rapidly downhill as Mary started to feel a bit ‘sunstrokey’ and my pink flesh was feeling the pinch squeezed into my harness. An abortive attempt on a couple of routes failed and we slunk off down to La Cuadrona bar (another top tip) to be refreshed and revived by Chucho!!

All’s well that ends well and we ended the night chatting away to friends we hadn’t seen for a while and vowing next time to use a bit more sunblock!!

 

Teverga – Entecampos delivers as ever…

We were slightly worse for wear after the ‘bonitada’ (tuna festival) in the village of Aciera (just under Quirós). As ever Spanish hospitality was fantastic so after about 4pm the next few hours were taken up with a proper siesta (2 hours sleep). After that we managed to get back in the camper van and drive the 10 short minutes from Quirós to park up at a busy Teverga.

Men and grils...doesn´t change the world over... The next morning the parking  was, as usual, buzzing and there were a lot of climbers milling around ready to go…although as usual in Spain loads of them didn’t make a move particularly quickly.  So after a quick coffee in the always friendly Bar Sobia we decided on Entecampos – almost the closest sector and still with plenty to do; even though we´d been there loads.

Mary sends the first pitch of Nirvana 6b...

Mary sends the first pitch of Nirvana 6b…

Starting on Nirvana 6b we enjoyed the cool fresh air after the previous days storms and marvelled how the crag was completely dry even after the near wash out of the Saturday.  I then jumped on Diablo 6c, the short version and got a shock as it seemed hard than I remembered; fingery and intrictae it would be easy to fall of this neat little route.
For a change we the moved to the top of the sector: always empty yet with some of the best routes around. I had done Tijeruca 250 7a/+ before but the quality once again impressed. 35 metres, 16 bolts and a gently ‘leading you on’ feeling culminating in a pretty tricky move high on the route.

A very foreshortened view of the route...

A very foreshortened view of the route…

Mary did well on a top rope and my arms seemed as though they recovered / warmed up so I picked a route I’d wanted to do for ages – El último flote 7a+/b. Another long route, this time 28 metres, the start had always put me off – a decidedly thin looking tufa/groove which led to the steep roof and the superb looking tufa groove above.

The very thin and tricky initial groove of El último flote 7a+/b

The very thin and tricky initial groove of El último flote 7a+/b

Well the groove was a grim as it looked, super thin and a bit dirty I slapped for the finishing jug of that section very, very relieved!! Motoring through the roof I felt Ok but at the top of the tufa strewn groove the pump hit and form then it was ‘sh%t or bust’ to the top. Crawling higher and higher I though I was going to make it but confronted with the last move my arms failed and a desperate lunge for the top failed….

Shit or bust...bust!!

Shit or bust…bust!!

Lowering off i was both happy I’d got so close but pissed off that this was the first 7a+ i’d fallen off across the whole of Entecampos!

Still a great day out and as ever Entecampos delivers!!

Niall Grimes reviews Roca Verde climbing…

My memories of Asturias are strong: long, sandy surf beaches populated by locals; rolling green hills not ten miles from the coast; wide open, quiet countryside with a ruralness reminiscent of quieter parts of Provence; drinking strong cider in cider-bars in quiet country towns. And being on the wrong route on a fabulous sport crag.

Asturias is the coastal province on the northern coast of Spain. Think ‘left of France’. It’s a big holiday destination for French and Spaniards, although little known outside these two countries. While this may be true from a tourism point of view, it’s an undisputable fact when it comes to climbing. Well perhaps this is about to change.

Roca Verde is a new guidebook from British ex-pat Richie Patterson. Richie has been living and climbing in the region now for eight years and has dedicated the past few to bringing information on the local crags together into one volume. As is often the way in Spain, some of these crags were covered in small, area specific guides, and some never recorded before. The result is a book which throws a whole new climbing destination onto the table for rock-hungry Spainophiles to get their teeth in to.

It looks amazing. The action shots reveal the blockbusting quality limestone that we have come to demand of Spain – steep walls, overhangs, tufas, orange-and-blue streaks – these are all in evidence here. The routes look cool and well featured and the photos – mostly Richie’s own – make me want to be there. I must point out one thing here: the author has allowed himself the indulgence of putting an okay shot of himself on the front cover, something that hasn’t happened since Andy Pollitt’s day. But we’ll overlook that for now.

+Gema Lanza climbing in the amazing Desfiladero de la Hermida, 222 kb
Gema Lanza climbing in the amazing Desfiladero de la Hermida
UKC Gear, 15 Jul 2014
© Richie Patterson

One thing that turns me on about the photos is the background. There’s more green around than we have come to expect from Spanish climbing settings. Trees and grass attest to the area’s higher rainfall when compared to the Costa Blanca, but all that dust down on the east side does my head in after a while. I’ll take the odd shower, especially since there are plenty of crags in this book that are weatherproof.

There’s a huge amount of rock in these pages. As well as Asturias it covers the neighbouring regions of Cantabria and León combining to nearly 3,000 routes from 2s and 3s right up to tediously-hard 9as. It seems best, in general, in spring and autumn, although lots of the crags I looked at were goers in summer and winter too.

The book itself seems to work very well. It is functional, fact and number heavy, as is the way with continental sport guides. Maps aren’t beautiful, but who cares. Out of curiosity I picked a few at random and compared them to Google Earth and they all seemed spot on. Scales would be handy, all the same. Topos are excellent, taken in great light, and serve to showcase crags really well.

One last point I had to broach with the author, was what relationship Richie had with locals. To my relief it turned out to be a constructive one. Locals were a big help and in the production and have received the guide well, perhaps helped by the fact that Richie actually lives there. This impression is helped by the fact that, going by the names at least, the people in the action photos are locals. In addition to this, Richie has pledged some of the profits from the book towards local bolt funds. I imagine that goes a long way to making locals happy.

Niall Grimes (or Grimer) is a fixture on the UK Climbing scene, publishes climbing books for a living and is welcome to visit any time!!

Bovedas in Teverga features 6b slabs and 7b+ tufas!!

Bovedas in Teverga features 6b slabs and 7b+ tufas!!