“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 6 – Bouldering – El Gachu, El Cantu and Cabo Negro – Central Asturias
Although not perhaps the strong point of Asturias, Richie was keen for us to sample some of the bouldering, and he’d planned out one long, crazy day to take in all Asturias had to offer. Knowing me quite well I think he knew that I’d appreciate it a bit more than Caro, and promptly warned her that it would be somewhat of an acquired taste…English style!
We began the day at El Gachu, a hidden gem, tucked away on a hillside, halfway up the 1200m pass of San Lorenzo. It’s a super steep wall of quartzite that reminded me heavily of the Bowderstone in the Lake District, with a load of hard problems up to 8b+, 50 meters long and overhanging in its entirety, the problems climbed really well, even if they were not the most inspiring of lines. The location however was a spectacular, isolated from the rest of the world as you look down on the Teverga spread out far below.
Once again pushed for time, we hopped in the car and dropped back down to Teverga. El Cantu is a somewhat more typical bouldering area; a jumble of big limestone blocks on the slopes below the crags. With around 100 problems of all grades spread over a wide area, there are plenty of things to go at. El Cantu is superb, compact, grey limestone, which forms frustrating slopers in equal measure to tiny crimps. One of my favourite problems from El Cantu was Houdini, a rather short, 5 move 8a, which ended with a spectacular sideways double dyno! The easier problems are just as good, and brought with them something that limestone bouldering so often lacks – lines… After a few more problems across the various blocks we settled for lunch of fresh cooked empanada, a local treat of a flat bread filled with chorizo, and chilled out as the sun danced across the hillside opposite lighting up the sectors we’d climbed on previously.
Tired but happy we dozed in the car as Richie drove us North to the coast, to the last venue of the day, and the trip. Very much a coastal region, Asturian climbers had been exploring the cliffs and boulders next to the Atlantic for many years and found some impressive venues. Cabo Negro was one of the most famous and popular, a bunch of rough black boulders sat on a wide tidal ledge, just above the pounding sea. Facing west there were views of the port of Aviles and Richie swore it was perfectly placed to enjoy superb sunsets!
Arriving at the boulders after a short walk along the cliff top path, it was atmospheric to say the least. Substantial waves were crashing in, over the ledge, and sending plumes of spray 10 metres into the air. Sadly, this combination of wind and waves meant that much was too wet to climb, and we began to get a little nervous as we realised the tide was already on its way back in.
Then, whilst traversing the thinnest part of the ledge to check out the furthest boulders, I turned back as I heard a high-pitched scream and several choice French curse words. For a moment Caroline disappeared behind a huge wall of spay, luckily to re-appear a second or too later, although by now soaked to the skin! At this point we decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and that perhaps we should cut our visit short. I was reluctant to leave without trying a single problem, and so grabbed my boots to quickly play on a few of the drier boulders as Caro shivered semi-naked!!
Day 7 – Homeward bound
Settling down on the plane and thinking about the week that had whizzed by, I thought back to Richie’s emphasis of the ‘difference’ we’d find in the north of Spain. This was Spain, but not as we had known it before: the crags were empty and unpolished, the climbing superb, and the ambience was like a snapshot of the rural past, all in the most spectacular, and very, green settings!
Caro had christened it ‘tufaland’ on day one as we marvelled at the amount of rock in La Hermida but the truth was that there seemed to be a bit of everything, especially in the west. With Quirós and Teverga providing complementary and contrasting venues so close together, there are a ton of great routes across all grades and styles, enough for even the pickiest of climbers.
Although far too short, our trip had given us a taste of these “new” regions of Spain, and all they have to offer – and we hadn’t even made it to Leon (the remaining third of the Roca Verde guide) We left surprised, happy and content, knowing that Roca Verde was one part of Spain to which we cant wait to return.
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