Thursday 11 August 2011

Holiday in Spain: Picos / Vegebano

Somehow, we ended up having only one night up in the Picos proper. Miriam arranged the refuge (Vegebano), and whilst it wasn't the one I'd have chosen (too low down) it actually turned out well and anyway, I can't complain if I can't be bothered to organise it myself.
Drive to Soto de X. Park, temporarily. To cafe for drinks because this is good, and to avoid walking up in the heat of the noonday sun. Move car to top of village where we find space, and pack bags for a night, and walk up. Takes 1.5 hours, and is mostly in forest - quite open forest, similar to Ashridge. Agree on the 15-mins-walk-then-5-mins-rest deal with the children, and this works, and we get to the top not too whinged at.

DSC_8176And so the next day I got up at 6:30 (thanks to D's watch), put on socks and trousers, felt my way down the ladder, picked up my pre-packed sac and headed out of the hut into the pre-dawn. The sky is faintly light, and thanks to M and I having scouted out the route yesterday (a very good idea) I know to go back, down and round to start off. After about an hour I've come out of the forest, out of the low scrub, and am sitting on a ridge overlooking the other refuge, which is plainly unused. OK, so no need to waste 20 mins visiting and drinking its coffee. Now I need to head on up. It is still early - first light is tinting the peaks off to the W, the sun itself hidden by the massif to the E. Rocks and rocks, not an easy path. Stop every now an again to look and photo and wonder, and eat a little: I had no breakfast, so have two small marzipan bars and some jelly cubes, in total. Oh, and a bit of water. Another hour or more gets me to the top of the scree and I'm on the limestone "plateau", which has a "camino de burro". I'd hoped for a good path, but it is a true donkeys path - hard work and obstinate, up and down although overall mostly level.

This leads round a shoulder to the plateau where my map marks refugio (ruins), but as my pic shows has been put into order, though only as a tiny no-warden bunks-only hut. Not even any water nearby, except a seep (or tiny stream?) fed into ?cattle troughs? so you'd need to boil it. A few people camping there - there is green grass, unlike the rest of the plateau, which is bone dry - and they look to be climbing types. Which becomes clearer: I've now used up most of my 4 hours outbound, and have perhaps 3/4 h left, so I head towards the massif, well actually the rock/grass ridge running up to the left, and end up around 2200 m (Ag Corups Christi). This gives a fine view of the main wall, and I see some tiny dots of climbers. It looks quite intimidating. See walker on scree below. Mountain deer.

And then back. Not a lot of time to spare, but am down almost to my time - just after 1:30 - 7 hours, 4 up, 3 down. M, D and E have just got back 5 minutes earlier, having not quite made it to the ridge - E got a bit restive - and dilly-dallied in pleasant fashion on the way back. Have a drink and some lunch, pack up, head down though the greenwood. Car in about an hour, repack it, head off. Initially the high Picos, lovely, but then go down, in the pitiless sun (well it certainly looked pitiless outside, inside the a/c made us comfortable). Somehow none of the village cafes this side looked quite inviting enough; past the big lake (at Riano) the land starts to turn dry, then we're out into the lower hills/plains heading into Leon.

Of the refuge: E liked it a lot: very friendly, she said. The guardienne spoke passable English. Dinner good (too large, if anything: meat balls, slices of ?pork?; two soups; mashed potatoes) breakfast (apparently, I skipped out early) OK too. Distinct "celtic" / elves feel to decor. Bunks in ledges above common room (per pic) and in two other rooms: we had a shelf for 4 in the third level of our room, which worked well. No mains electricity (e.g. for charging things), no internet. Toilet and washbasin, one loo, shower but paid for (and at 3.50 euros, not cheap). In grassy meadow, with stream, surrounded by colchique.


Refugio Vegebano, interior of main room
Refugio Vegebano, exterior with D and E.

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