“Sometimes our trips are meticulously planned and sometimes they just happen, often at the whim of others. Our Roca Verde road trip was the latter. Touching down at night in late October to Santander after a week of work in England we were looking forward to a climbing break – but we hadn’t a clue what to expect – all we knew was that we had seven days guided round the region.
Our good friend Richie Patterson, the author of the first English language guide to a block of north-west Spain he’d christened Roca Verde, had invited us; but we didn’t really know where we were going or what the area encompassed. We’d actually not climbed in Spain for a while as we are always looking to go a little ‘off-piste’ and the crowds and polish of the major destinations, however good the climbing, don’t really appeal. So when Richie promised unpolished rock, empty crags and plenty of great routes to go at – we were intrigued enough to give it a go!”
Day 3 – El Covachón – Teverga – Central Asturias
We woke up in the quaint, forgotten village of Aciera below Quirós, and enjoyed a slow Spanish style breakfast and coffee on the terrace of Richie’s guest house (www.casaquiros.co.uk), we flicked through the guide book. We decided on Teverga, perhaps the largest separate area, home to more than 25 sectors and nearly 500 routes of every style. Richie suggested the super steep cave of El Covachon, as a good friend of his would be there, trying his project.
If the cave looks steep in the guide, it’s nothing to how it looks in real life! The lip of the roof is actually lower than the apex of the cave, meaning you are actually climbing downwards for the last few meters. As seems to be the norm in this place, a beautiful view down the valley and onto the town is reward for anyone brave enough to come climbing here. El Covachón is one of the more hard core venues in the guide, with routes only beginning at 7a+, but if you’re climbing these grades is well worth a visit.
Day 4 – Quirós – Central Asturias
It wasn’t by chance that Richie’s guesthouse was located in Quirós. The hills around the village are covered in rock, and we soon discovered that Quirós was the first ‘big’ crag of Asturias and has been climbed on since the 60’s! The majority of routes are off-vertical long wall climbs, fitting to the climbing style of the time. Even the eccentric Brit John Redhead made his mark by establishing Placa John, the first 7a of the region; but it wasn’t until 1987 that Fran Blanco moved away from the slabs to take on one a short steep roof, giving Asturias its first 8a in the form of Rompedor. Always psyched to add a bit of history to the agenda we headed up to check it out. The crags of Quirós are only a short distance from the village, and walking up from the house the beauty of the area and the attractiveness of the situation was continually evident. Overlooking a lake and at the bottom of an amazingly verdant valley Quirós is now considered an everyman crag, with over 300 routes, most of which are below 7a.
Rompedor was a great little climb, and nothing at all like what we had expected. A boulder problem in the sky would be the best way to describe it, not at all like the other harder routes we had climbed in the region. Its easy to understand why, as at the time of tiptoeing up vertical walls, people really didn’t know if roofs like this were even possible. It’s logical to start with a small challenge, a few moves of overhanging terrain to test the water, and slowly move on from there. As much as these routes can seem strange to us in an age of 50m long overhanging pump-fests, we should not forget that they were in fact the beginning of it all.
Having said all that, Quirós is really best for its stunning wall climbs. La Amarilla is one of the better known sectors, with top quality, 35m long slabs on immaculate white and blue rock. Que la fuerza te accompañe 7b, and Cada loco con su tema, 6c,7a are worth a particular mention, and really showcase what climbing in Quirós is all about.
Day 5 – More Bóvedas – Teverga …!!
Teverga was just too good to spend only one day, so on day 5 of our trip, both skin and muscles sore, but psyche incredibly high, We found ourselves under just another tufa filled cave, and just another selection of incredible 5* routes. Bóvedas, in two parts is literally the central part of the Teverga massif, and is a jam packed collection of great looking sectors: Bóvedas, Pared Negra, El Canal, Pingalagua are all as good as each other, yet cover a huge variety in climbing styles. From 3 bolt 8bs to 40 metre 6bs, and crimpy off vertical walls, to pumpy overhanging tufas, La Cueva ticks all the boxes.
We chose La Cueva, which was home to a bunch of the best mid grade 6’s I have ever climbed. From the belay of these routes, it is possible to continue up through the roof and steep wall above, where things suddenly get a lot more serious! Dragón de Comorr, is a 7b+ extension to an already amazing 6c, that follows a single, eye-catching tufa all the way to a technical and balancy finish on the slab way above. An amazing route, and perhaps a little tough for the grade… after all, it was the only route I fell off all week!
You can check out James and Caro’s adventures in northern Spain in a short series of movies they made about the place: their Roca Verde Road Trip.
They’re all on Epic TV so here’s some links
Part 1 – https://youtu.be/n5bil2d1Br4
Part 2 – https://youtu.be/yq37n0zej9A
Part 3 – https://youtu.be/HQ6RheBVFog