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La Hermida climbing guide review by Mike Owen

It’s out! The guidebook to Spain’s best-kept secret and one of the best summer climbing venues in Europe. Had enough of going to the usual places and you fancy a change? Fed up of the crowds, the heat and the polished routes? Look no further, the crags in this book have got everything you’re looking for.

El Desfiladero de la Hermida covers the climbing centred around the village of La Hermida, which is located in the gorge called El Desfiladero de la Hermida that runs north/south through the eastern end of the picturesque Picos de Europa, from Panes to Potes, on the border between Cantabria and Asturias.

El valle de La Hermida - The La hermida valley...

El valle de La Hermida – The La hermida valley…

This is a really beautiful part of Spain; known as “green Spain” due to the abundance of vegetation as a result of the maritime climate, the scenery is simply stunning. The topography is classic karst limestone. The gorge has very steep sides that are riddled with rocky gullies that lead up to high craggy peaks with breath taking views. There are crags everywhere and the potential for more development is obvious. It gets even better; the summer temperatures are typically in the mid-twenties, which make such a pleasant change compared to many parts in Europe. In fact a normal season here extends from late spring (as the tufas dry out) until early winter, when the first of the rain which keeps the valleys so green arrives. Though the addition of many quick-drying, walls and slabs outside the main valley means that there should be something to get on all year round.

The upper crag has so many great wall climbs, this time it's Orujo de Liébana, 7c

The upper crag has so many great wall climbs, this time it’s Orujo de Liébana, 7c

There is plenty to do on rest days; just a 30 minute drive away is the coast with the possibility of surfing the Atlantic swell. Alternatively, there are numerous paths that can take you up into the heart of the Picos de Europa or you can take the cable car up to the most famous mountain in the area, the Naranjo de Bulnes. If all of the above activities sound too strenuous, you may just prefer to go and relax at the climbers bar in La Hermida (La Cuadrono) and sample Chucho and Angela’s wonderful hospitality. However, if you’re staying in Potes, try the climbers bar (La Reunion) and sample some of their home made beers or enjoy a nice cheap coffee (don’t forget this is Spain, so prices are always very reasonable).

Tanya Meredith on the final slap of Karim Abdul Jabbar, 7b+,

Tanya Meredith on the final slap of Karim Abdul Jabbar, 7b+,

For years there have been rumours of great climbing in this part of Northern Spain but information was always scarce. Then three years ago Richie Patterson published the excellent Roca Verde, a selective topo covering some of the crags in Cantabria, Asturias and Leon. As a result the area started to receive more attention, justifiably so. Due to this new found popularity Richie, in collaboration with the local Cantabrian climbers, has put this definitive guidebook together, specifically covering all of the new (or previously hidden) crags in the La Hermida valley, and what a guidebook it is.

The first thing you will notice when you flick through La Desfiladero de la Hermida is the attention to detail that has been put into the presentation and that it is written in Spanish and English. The introduction is concise, yet has all the necessary information you need, including a very clear general map, where to stay and what the topo symbols mean. There is an interesting section on ‘Geography and Wildlife’ as well as a very important section on ‘Access and Etiquette’.

Mike Owen in action at Rumenes...

Mike Owen in action at Rumenes…

Each crag has its own introduction, including the style of climbing, orientation regarding the sun, walk in times and access map with GPS coordinates. The topos are very accurately drawn on clear colour photos and printed on top quality paper. All pitch lengths are given. However there are no stars. The authors don’t want climbers to be drawn towards particular routes, with the result that they become polished and end up with queues during busy periods, they want you to find out for yourself and have fun doing so. The action photos are some of the best I have seen in a climbing guide and really do give you that all important first impression; in other words they fire you up, your fingers start to sweat and you start mentally planning how to get there as soon as possible.

The valley is already quite well known for its amazing tufas at steep crags such as Rumenes and El Infierno. However, this is not just an area that suits climbers operating in the big numbers because what is not so well known, is the fact that there are also many crags that offer really enjoyable climbing at a more reasonable standard in equally impressive surroundings. In fact much of the new guide is taken up with crags with amenable grades that should allow mixed parties to enjoy the valley more; making a morning cranking on tufas followed by an afternoon on the slabs (or vice versa) a practical option!

The guide includes a total of 32 crags, of which 24 are published for the first time, including the jaw-dropping Cueva Carcalosa (which will soon become internationally important for those seeking long steep voyages in tufa paradise) and the long established, but nonetheless previously secret, Cicera (with its wealth of demanding crimpy climbing in the summer shade).  La Desfiladero de la Hermida is in A5 format, has 176 pages and almost 700 routes to choose from III+ to 8c+ and offers great value at £20. Please bear in mind that it is the only definitive guide and purchasing it will help contribute towards future equipping in the area. After you’ve been climbing, don’t forget to have a beer at La Cuadrona, followed by a swim in the hot springs up the road.

My advice: skip Ceuse this summer, buy this topo, book your ferry. Job done!

El Desfiladero de La Hermida is published by Roca Verde and available direct from www.rocaverdeclimbing.com

Gema Lanza,  7a, El Salmón

Gema Lanza, 7a, El Salmón

Vistas impresionantes, con Carcalosa detras... Alex López,
Ritmo caribeño,
F: José Alberto Puente Great view of the angle of the crag: and you can see Carcalosa behind

Cicera – Crags of La Hermida #1

A world-class venue, and possibly the crag that everyone´s been waiting for more than any other, Cicera has a selection of brilliant climbs on perfect rock. Sitting opposite, and complementing almost perfectly the ludicrous tufas of Carcalosa, the main sector is only slightly overhanging making for technical and very pumpy wall climbing.

Carlos Cué, Plataforma, 7c, Cicera, una vía muy técnica de placa desplomada.

Carlos Cué, Plataforma, 7c, Cicera, una vía muy técnica de placa desplomada.

It’s a mix of grey and orange rock with good friction and mainly long or very long routes. For those climbing in the high 7s and 8s there’s an endless supply of testpieces and, unlike much of the valley, it’s a venue where finger strength and climbing ability take precedence over big arms!

Vistas impresionantes, con Carcalosa detras... Alex López, Ritmo caribeño, F: José Alberto Puente Great view of the angle of the crag: and you can see Carcalosa behind

Vistas impresionantes, con Carcalosa detras… Alex López,
Ritmo caribeño, F: José Alberto Puente Great view of the angle of the crag: and you can see Carcalosa behind

In addition, the lower crag provides more entertainment in it’s own style with grey almost ‘Verdon-like’ fingery slabs and some tough, shorter roofs.

Carlos Cué, Mar Negro, 7b+, Sector Abajo, Cicera. Placa técnica de fuerza de dedos...One of the brilliant wall climbs on the lower crag...

Carlos Cué, Mar Negro, 7b+, Sector Abajo, Cicera. Placa técnica de fuerza de dedos…One of the brilliant wall climbs on the lower crag…

The familiar theme is the lack of easier climbs but with such high-quality routes it’s easy to forgive.

Routes Summary
V+ – 6c+ = 4
7a – 7c+ = 28
8a – 8c+ = 23

Another view of the lower crag, this time a super cool 7a, Corbatas de Unquera.

Another view of the lower crag, this time a super cool 7a, Corbatas de Unquera.

Children: Fine for older children but quite a long walk in and steep underneath.

Season: Usefully, the upper crag is almost never in the sun so it’s great through the summer and can also get a good breeze in late afternoon. The lack of sun does mean it can be cold in late autumn and spring and once wet it does seep a bit and can take a while to dry – though there are plenty of routes which stay dry all year. Overall it’s a very reliable venue for good conditions.

The upper crag has so many great wall climbs, this time it's Orujo de Liébana, 7c

The upper crag has so many great wall climbs, this time it’s Orujo de Liébana, 7c

 

Roca Verde Edición 2 – Más detalles…

La primera edición de la guía de la Cordillera Cantábrica Roca Verde se vendió en tan solo 18 meses, razón por la que acabamos de publicar una segunda edición, completamente actualizada y revisada. Esta nueva versión incluye innumerables sectores y vías de escalada de las regiones de Asturias, Cantabria y León, en el noroeste de España, un destino perfecto para el verano.

La guia nueva de Roca Verde...

La guia nueva de Roca Verde…

Gracias al trabajo conjunto con muchos de los grupos más activos y equipadores de cada zona, hemos podido incluir seis sectores publicados por primera vez, así como nuevos sectores de zonas ya existentes, y un par de sectores clásicos no recogidos en la primera edición. Roca Verde contiene ahora más de 50 zonas de escalada, con un total de 239 sectores y 500 vías más (un centenar corresponden a la zona de Teverga), lo cual supone la asombrosa cantidad de casi 3500 vías de escalada.

Todas las reseñas han sido revisadas y actualizadas, con la novedad de que los grados de dificultad se distinguen por colores, lo cual facilita la elección del sector con una rápida ojeada. Se han añadido más fotos de excelente calidad, de las mejores vías y escaladores locales, tomadas por algunos de los mejores fotógrafos de la región en su afán de capturar la esencia de cada zona. Esta nueva edición también ofrece una visión general de la escalada en bloque en Asturias, con indicaciones sobre la localización y las reseñas de algunos de los mejores lugares para su práctica.

Hay muchos búlders guapos probar en Asturias...

Hay muchos búlders guapos probar en Asturias…

Por último (y tal vez por primera vez en una guía de escalada), hay códigos QR que enlazan con vídeos de vías y problemas de escalada de la región, con el fin de ofrecer una visión más profunda del ambiente en cada zona, así como un anticipo de la sensación de “sudoración en las manos”, incluso antes de visitarlas.

Gran miguelini

En resumen: más de 50 zonas, 239 sectores y casi 3500 vías de escalada, una síntesis de la escalada en bloque, enlaces a vídeos, y más de 200 fotos a todo color, que convierten a esta guía en la más vendida, imprescindible para la “región de la Roca Verde”.

La 2ª edición de Roca Verde puede adquirirse directamente  aqui al mismo precio que el anterior, 30€ así como en comercios especializados.

Casa Quirós – our holiday cottage under the crag

We have just opened Casa Quirós – a picture-book pretty, traditional stone-built Asturian house that has been recently renovated to a high standard.

A great spot for climbers, Casa Quirós is just underneath one of the best crags in Asturias, Quirós, which has nearly 300 sports routes spread over 22 sectors. Teverga, another huge climbing area, with nearly 500 routes, is only 15 minutes drive.

The view from Casa Quirós on a summer morning...

The view from Casa Quirós on a summer morning…

The south facing house sleeps four and is situated in Aciera, a picturesque traditional Asturian village, in the heart of the parque natural de Las Ubiñas-La Mesa. Surrounded by beautiful peaks and passes the area is perfect for all types of outdoor activity including; climbing, road biking, mountain biking, trail running, hiking, fishing and birdwatching

If climbing’s not your thing (or your partner’s) then not to worry because the area has loads more to offer. The road and mountain biking, straight from the house, are both awesome. For littler legs the 45km long, mostly flat, Senda del Oso (bear path – yes, we even have bears!) wends its way along the foot of the valley beneath the village. There’s even kayaking on the reservoir just below the house.

See more about Casa Quirós here…

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!!

Sun sea and rock – Cuevas del Mar, re-equipped and ready…

Sometimes in summer it’s hard to choose between the beach and the rock. The call of the waves and a day chilling out is difficult to ignore, especially as the temperatures climb.

Luckily there’s few places in Asturias where you can do both: and on Tuesday in the company of my brother and his family on their first trip to Asturias, we called in at Cuevas del Mar.   Five minutes off the motorway between Llanes and Ribadesella this is not only a beuatiful beach but thanks to a hardworking local team has been turned into a very popular climbing spot.

IMG_2708The bay of Cuevas on a sunny day…

Recently re-equipped with stainless steel bolts and resin bolts this has turned the area into a safe and fun venue with the emphasis on easier grades and some great beginners routes.

One of the most popular routes Aficion y desorden 6a+...

One of the most popular routes Aficion y desorden 6a+…

Starting on Afición y desorden 6a+, we moved swiftly on to the very tricky route, HonorINOX 6c, two routes to the left which features rounded, almost offwidth climbing!! Not as bad as it sounds it was a bit trickier in the midday heat!!

Then it was the kids turn, and one of the great things about Cuevas is the amount of routes for beginners meaning you can brings friends along and let them have a go. So my brother and his three girls all got roped in (excuse the pun) into trying climbing.

Georgia Patterson on La Central V

Georgia Patterson on La Central V

However, there’s not just easy stuff at Cuevas and I ended up climbing with a couple of guys from León who were trying the classic tufa of Chochitos a la mar 7b+. This short but sharp route takes a very steep line and is a much sought after little tick. Jorge managed it but I managed to blow after the crux; blaming skin, thin and heat, hot!!

Jorge on the very steep Chochitos a la mar, 7b+

Jorge on the very steep Chochitos a la mar, 7b+

Another great things about Cuevas are the endless posibilities for new routing on the amazing sea cliffs nearby. A trip out in a canoe confirmed as much and with a slightly bigger platform underneath than I thought we will be going back pretty soon to have a play.

P1010039-Sea-Cliff

Cuevas del Mar can be found by exiting at junction 312 from the A8 motorway, heading into the town of Nueva and following signs to the beach.

Once again we have to thank the guys from Llanes for the great job equpping and you can see more here:

https://www.facebook.com/EscalarenCuevasdelMar?ref=br_rs

 

An Afternoon in La Hermida and Potes

In the end we only had a couple of hours free, in between delivering books to shops. We wondered if we’d get the chance to climb at all but that’s one of the many great beauties of the La Hermida gorge – the proliferation of roadside crags.  A shorter walk-in = more time to climb.  And you couldn’t get a shorter walk-in than the one to Puente Lebeña. In less than a minute from the road you can be tieing in. And we were.

Mary on Tecno Viking, 6b Puente Lebeña

Mary on Tecno Viking, 6b Puente Lebeña

Even the book delivering itself turned out to be pretty fun in the end. We discovered a couple more cool climbers’ bars in Potes that are definitely worth checking out if you visit. Set in the beautiful medieval heart of the town both La Sidrería and La Reunión offer something a little bit different to the standard local fare.

The pinchos and smoothies at La Sidrería are simply superb

The pinchos and smoothies at La Sidrería are simply superb. A great bet if you´re a vegetarian.

 

You can sip an excellent craft beer at La Reunión while checking out their wealth of topos and information.

You can sip an excellent craft beer at La Reunión while checking out their wealth of topos and information.

Of course no trip to the La Hermida gorge would be complete without a visit to the hot springs. On the outskirts of the village, underneath the bridge that leads to the Balneario Spa Hotel is this glorious free-access hot spot (literally.) A balm for tired climbing muscles and the perfect way to end the day.

Chilling in the hot springs

Chilling in the hot springs