Trip Report
12 Days in Spain: A Bit of Climbing, A Bit of Rest
Tuesday November 3, 2015 8:17pm
Title photo of trip report: Naranjo in Picos de Europa.
Title photo of trip report: Naranjo in Picos de Europa.
Credit: Ney Grant
Our goal is Picos de Europe, a spectacular but under-the-radar limestone climbing area in Northern Spain and to get there we fly from California to Dallas to Madrid to Santander and drive to Potes, Spain, one of the two main villages in the area.

Potes, Spain.  I think we ate in every eatery you can see here. Some w...
Potes, Spain. I think we ate in every eatery you can see here. Some wonderful, though late meals.
Credit: Ney Grant

Disclaimer: Each year Betsy and I do a guided trip which allows us to climb stuff we normally couldn’t climb on our own and last year I caught some grief on ST for doing this. So I’m just saying this up front in case this offends you – we did it again this year using Sierra Mountain Guides out of Bishop. For full disclosure, we also stayed in mountain huts, took a tram and I pulled on some gear. More than once. Just saying…


DAY ONE: Rest & Jet Lag day – Nope, let's Climb
Well, the thing is, the next two days were supposed to be rainy, so perhaps we should climb while we can? Surprisingly, Betsy and I feel OK so off we go, with the assumption that we’ll surely crash in the next day or two.
A tourist tram Fuente De takes us up to the hiking trails and climbs of the upper reaches of the range, and we do Aguja Cannelona, an awesome 5.10 limestone spire that starts the one-week process of removing the skin on our fingers.
Aguja Cannelona, or something like that.
Aguja Cannelona, or something like that.
Credit: Ney Grant

Nice steep climbing.
Nice steep climbing.
Credit: Ney Grant

Credit: Ney Grant

DAY TWO: Rest day – Nope, a tad of sport climbing at Rumenes
Surely a rest day, but the thing is it isn’t raining but is supposed to start later in the day. Perhaps we should get on a few short sport climbs until the rains come? First off, Betsy and I are older trad climbers and live an area without a gym. Further, this summer we’ve spent rebolting and developing an area of mainly slab climbing on a granite dome. Not a lot off super-steep stuff.

Betsy on a sweet 5.10
Betsy on a sweet 5.10
Credit: Ney Grant

We had a blast on steep, almost vertical 5.10a/b limestone with incut holds and positive edges. However we were stunned to hike up around the corner to find wildly overhanging cliffs with massive tufa holds. What the hell …. is this like 5.14 or what? Nope, there are a few 5.11s with huge holds since it is so overhanging – if you pop off down low on a top rope without directionals, you are swinging out 50 to 60 feet from the wall.
Way overhanging...
Way overhanging...
Credit: Ney Grant
Credit: Ney Grant
We thought this guy looked a lot like Peter Croft, but at this moment ...
We thought this guy looked a lot like Peter Croft, but at this moment he took a whip we knew he wasn’t in fact Peter Croft. Still, we decided to call him Peter for the remainder of the trip
Credit: Ney Grant

By the time we were done it was 5:00 pm, it still hadn’t rained and our fingers, hands and arms were completely spent. So much for a rest day.
In addition to Howie Schwarz of Sierra Mountain Guides we were climbing with a guy who led a lot of the harder stuff, including some climbs we could only dream of doing.

DAY THREE: Rest – No, a bit more Sport
Another threatening rain day, and another day of sport climbing. Not sure why we didn’t rest. Howie had heard of this place next to the quaint village of Urdon and it was only a few minutes off the road in case it rained. By the time afternoon café con leche called for us from the nearby village, we had climbed some great limestone pitches, not too inverted.
Betsy. It doesn't look like it, but the green rope is straight down to...
Betsy. It doesn't look like it, but the green rope is straight down to the belayer.
Credit: Ney Grant
Me mounting a feature on a climb called "Balls of the Devil".  I'm not...
Me mounting a feature on a climb called "Balls of the Devil". I'm not sure why its called that.
Credit: Ney Grant

DAY FOUR: Hike – no, alpine climb
The other main town on the border of the national park is Cortes, so we decided to head that way for a canyon hike in the rain as somewhat of a rest day. I’m not even sure why we put our climbing stuff in the car but apparently we did. We stopped in a village along the way for more café and decided there in the café that since it wasn’t raining, perhaps we should do a moderate climb instead, Pena Fresnidiello.
Cotes, Spain
Cotes, Spain
Credit: Ney Grant
Cotes, from another angle.
Cotes, from another angle.
Credit: Ney Grant
Credit: Ney Grant
What a fantastic, fully European climbing experience, complete with clanging cowbells, a picturesque village in the background and a yipping herding dog and his master down below driving the cows to fresher pastures. The climbing was steep but doable and now we are getting used to ridiculously steep rock with great little holds. The climbs had been freshly rebolted in recent years (all with Fixe hardware, made in Spain) but old funkiness remained in the way of rusted cable threaded through holes as fixed gear.

Cervesas fria and huevos dishes in the quaint village of Cortes rounded out the day before the drive back to Potes.

DAY FIVE: Rest Day / Hike
Now the weather is great, we somehow are on the right time schedule (except you can’t get dinner before 8:00 pm which constantly drives us all nuts) and a full rest day just doesn’t sound right. What about if we go for hike?
Fuente De
Fuente De
Credit: Ney Grant
We take the tram at Fuente De and before we know it we are top of one of the main peaks, Torre de Horcadas Rojos. We also get a look at Naranjo, our big wall quest coming up in a few days and what you see if you google “Picos de Europa”. We did rest our arms.
Naranjo
Naranjo
Credit: Ney Grant

DAY SIX: Sport Climbing at Rumenes
We all talk about rest days quite a bit, but for some reason they don’t happen. This guy Peter loves to climb - it is infectious and we love to climb with him. My arms and fingers are not at all rested, but I’m not saying a thing so we head out for more stupidly upside down sport climbing. I do OK on 5.10 vertical, but when it goes upside down and 5.11+ my technique sucks and it is only a matter of time before I come off. Unfortunately, my best technique is climb fast, not smart. Betsy does better, having long ago developed some of the finesse I lack. Hmmm, I think gym climbing definitely has some benefits here.
Peter - Amazing
Peter - Amazing
Credit: Ney Grant
DAY SEVEN: Approach to Naranjo
Naranjo is a spectacular formation in Picos de Europa with a mountain hut for hikers and climbers right at the base to access over a hundred routes on it. The hut was quite large with bunks that contained one continuous mattress with about 10 people on each one. I had to remember which side to spoon.
Betsy and Naranjo
Betsy and Naranjo
Credit: Ney Grant
Peter, Howie, the "hut" and Naranjo
Peter, Howie, the "hut" and Naranjo
Credit: Ney Grant

We were the only Americans around and the Euros wanted to know how we knew about the place and wanted to know if we had climbed in Yosemite. A Spanish climbing guide thought he recognized Peter from a Youtube video featuring Peter and the route Venturi Effect on the Incredible Hulk and based on this small amount of Youtube fame wanted (and got) a photo with Peter. He probably likes that photo.
A little bread, cheese, wine.  Awesome.
A little bread, cheese, wine. Awesome.
Credit: Ney Grant
Family style with great conversation.  No, wait, I don't speak Spanish...
Family style with great conversation. No, wait, I don't speak Spanish so I didn't understand anything.
Credit: Ney Grant

DAY EIGHT: Naranjo
Alpine starts are not popular. The Spanish guide mentioned above told his client they would start climbing at noon, after breakfast and after the sun warmed the rock a little. Since we didn’t bring any of our own caffeine alpine starts are not popular with us, either. Luckily with the hut only 30 minutes from the rock we can wait for the café con leche to be served at 7:00 am and then head out before most are out of bed.

Howie and I head up one of the best climbs I’ve ever done, Sagittario (rated 6B or 5.10c/d) while Betsy and Peter head up Leiva, another great climb at 7a. Sagittario was 8 pitches of sustained vertical 5.10 climbing and everytime it looked like it wasn’t going to work, little incut holds would appear.
At one point I looked over and saw a Spanish team climbing and whenever the leader got to a bolt, he would clip and yard on it hard until he was standing on it in one smooth motion. A few times I looked straight up with tired arms and thought I would probably have to give that technique a try, but never did. I fell (not on lead) at the crux but the fall got me lined up properly for a better sequence of moves.
Bets and Peter on Sagittario
Bets and Peter on Sagittario
Credit: Ney Grant
Doesn't get much better than this.
Doesn't get much better than this.
Credit: Ney Grant
OK, a little bit better.
OK, a little bit better.
Credit: Ney Grant
Both climbs eased off at a large depression in the rock and Leiva continues on to the top via easy aid climbing on a blank wall to a 5.9 stemming finish. However unknown to us there were some local bolt-wars and half the aid bolts were chopped so we were stopped without enough time to try another route. We did have time to descend, swap routes and climb the lower half again, although my arms were spent so the 5.11 climbing on Leiva was a struggle. However it was a blast hearing Peter and Betsy whooping it up on Sagittario, obviously enjoying it as much as we had.

DAY NINE: Long hike home
Planned was an easy hike back to the tram and “home” to Potes. However we hadn’t climbed Naranjo so we got up “early” for 7:00 caffeine and headed out to hike down and around to the South side to climb the 5.8/5.9 trade route to the top. Unfortunately, the universal rule in guiding was in effect – if you want to get your clients up something popular, start early. Even in Spain. There were 9 parties in two guided groups at the base of Naranjo, and since the route down is well known for rockfall we decided instead of doing any of the routes on that side, we would hike the long way back to the tram.
Betsy and back side of Naranjo
Betsy and back side of Naranjo
Credit: Ney Grant
This Peter guy has obviously spent a bit of time in the mountains and hikes cross-country like it was the Whitney trail. Off we went on a speedy half-trail, half cross country romp through the heart of the Picos De Europa. It was a stunning hike between towering peaks, gnarled limestone badlands and green picturesque meadows. We stopped at a valley overlook for a while and reflected on life, then stopped again at the top of the tram purely for the café con leche.
Credit: Ney Grant
Limestone badlands
Limestone badlands
Credit: Ney Grant
Chamois.  Not the cloth.
Chamois. Not the cloth.
Credit: Ney Grant
Never Stop Exploring.  I don't think The North Face will mind if I say...
Never Stop Exploring. I don't think The North Face will mind if I say that.
Credit: Ney Grant
Credit: Ney Grant
Betsy, well along in effort to remove all the skin from her fingers.
Betsy, well along in effort to remove all the skin from her fingers.
Credit: Ney Grant
The best place for café con leche
The best place for café con leche
Credit: Ney Grant

DAY TEN: Rest day / via Ferrata
A rest day, however Betsy and I have always wanted to do a via Ferrata route, there was one nearby at Los Llanos, so off we went. It sounded like fun to Howie and Peter too so we all conquered the hill together. It was a lot of fun and somewhat restful. Interestingly, when we show non-climbing friends photos of the trip they look at the via ferrata photos and say, “You did THAT? Are you CRAZY?”
That is crazy, man! (and fun)
That is crazy, man! (and fun)
Credit: Ney Grant
Credit: Ney Grant
Credit: Ney Grant

DAY ELEVEN: Alpine Climb to Cueto Agero
One of the best parts of this climb was the small village and corals that we hiked up past, and the shepherd down below minding his herd as we climbed. The climb itself was good, although it was more like a Sierra alpine climb with cracks, flakes and blocks instead of the vertical climbs with sharp limestone holds. It was definitely old-school as there was a lot of obviously old fixed pitons and I missed a good photo op of a wooden wedge stuck in a crack from ages ago, however it was in a crux crack section that was slick from use and I didn’t stop.
Cueto Agero, or something like that.
Cueto Agero, or something like that.
Credit: Ney Grant
Credit: Ney Grant

DAY TWELVE: Rainy rest day
We get up for our last day of climbing – why not, it is our last day – and it is raining. We all laugh. It has been an awesome trip and the rain isn’t a problem. We all need a rest.
Rain in Potes
Rain in Potes
Credit: Ney Grant
We pack up and head out, stopping for the critical café con leche at a village at the edge of the park. Peter says, “hey, it actually says in the guidebook which climbs are good in the rain, and it isn’t raining all that hard…”. So with grimy climbing clothes, no lunch packed and half-filled bottles of water we head to a nearby crag to perhaps just pull off a few more climbs before the trip’s end.
Credit: Ney Grant
It turns out to be a very picturesque setting with more inverted tufa climbing. We are getting a little better at it and Betsy and I both top out on a fully overhanging climb. Peter and Howie did a stunning overhanging climb a few feet over and it was great to watch how it’s done. We are stoked! What a perfect end to the trip.
Howie - Amazing
Howie - Amazing
Credit: Ney Grant
Betsy
Betsy
Credit: Ney Grant
Naranjo in the center, from the other side
Naranjo in the center, from the other side
Credit: Ney Grant

REST DAYS
It turns out we all had some rest days coming. We all got sick. All four of us. I think we were all fortunate that we all hung in there until the end the trip!

Thank you Howie and Peter, and thank you Betsy. What a gift to know all of you. Um, especially Betsy.

  Trip Report Views: 4,295
Ney Grant
About the Author
Ney is a trad climber from Pollock Pines.

Comments
Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
  Nov 3, 2015 - 08:30pm PT
We did something similar at the other (south) end of Spain a bunch of years ago, and pretty much felt the same about it as you do.

Great TR.
Dapper Dan

Trad climber
Redwood City
  Nov 3, 2015 - 08:59pm PT
Jeez that guy did look like Peter Croft.... Nice report .
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

climber
Out Of Bed
  Nov 4, 2015 - 07:16am PT
Your 'chops' trad or other wise are well in evidence! The discliamer is just a curiosity!
Good for you for having fun.
& For making it fun and valuable for the folks who take you up things.
All climbs so far flung, that they would be on the other side of possible with out you!
I am jealous-
and I thought I was jealous of the obscure Nevada stuff
or of your sweet ride
or of the photos that ou share
or of the life you lead !
Now it is with All Ernest - and fandom
Ney the great !
You Rock!
Thanx for a full value share! From Spain!
Fritz

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
  Nov 3, 2015 - 09:38pm PT
Thank you for taking the time to post this great adventure report & all those wonderful photos. I can't wait to go back to Spain for more exploring.

limpingcrab

Gym climber
Minkler, CA
  Nov 3, 2015 - 09:43pm PT
Beautiful
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  Nov 4, 2015 - 05:21am PT
Awesome Ney, thanks for the stoke! Such a beautiful place.
Howie Schwartz

climber
Bishop, CA
  Nov 4, 2015 - 06:13am PT
Awesome TR Ney! So fun climbing with you and Bets in Spain. Can't wait for the next adventure together.
crankster

Trad climber
No. Tahoe
  Nov 4, 2015 - 06:54am PT
Well done!
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Nov 4, 2015 - 07:04am PT
Thanks for the great TR!
Mike Friedrichs

Sport climber
City of Salt
  Nov 4, 2015 - 07:15am PT
Nice. Thanks for sharing. Spain must have more high-quality climbing areas than anywhere. I'd love to get back there again.
kaholatingtong

Trad climber
The fake McCoy from nevernever land.
  Nov 4, 2015 - 08:59am PT
Preciosa!
ddriver

Trad climber
SLC, UT
  Nov 4, 2015 - 09:10am PT
What a superb TR! We wandered into the north end of the Picos in '92 without a clue and happened upon the British Walker guide in a book store in Comillas or San Vicente. We walked in to the Naranjo and did the Via Murciana, one of the best limestone routes I've ever done. Hiked the Rio Cares gorge and went to Covadonga. But, there is a ton there to do, obviously, and you found some great stuff. Definitely want to go back now.

Thanks
mcreel

climber
Barcelona
  Nov 4, 2015 - 09:43am PT
Muchas gracias for the TR! I'll have to try to get back over there some time. Those are some nice looking tufas at that sport area.
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Nov 4, 2015 - 10:04am PT
That looks like so much fun.
Thanks for the TR
fgw

climber
portland, or
  Nov 4, 2015 - 11:02am PT
Always wanted to climb in the Picos. Great TR! When did you guys go there - weather looks prefect (sorry, maybe it's in there but I missed it)?
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Nov 4, 2015 - 11:41am PT
What a fantastic, fully European climbing experience, complete with clanging cowbells, a picturesque village in the background and a yipping herding dog and his master down below driving the cows to fresher pastures.


Simply fantastic. Thanks for a great write up and for taking us along.

Scott
Banks

Trad climber
Santa Monica, CA
  Nov 4, 2015 - 11:53am PT
Beautiful. Great trip report for a great trip. You may want to ditch that Peter dude, he sure climbs like a noob!
RonV

Trad climber
Placerville
  Nov 4, 2015 - 11:57am PT
What a great trip Ney. Thanks for sharing this.
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
  Nov 4, 2015 - 11:58am PT

Fantastic TR. What an area... TFPU!
skcreidc

Social climber
SD, CA
  Nov 4, 2015 - 12:11pm PT
Excellent!!! What a fantastic area to visit. Thanks for posting it up.
Ney Grant

Trad climber
Pollock Pines
Author's Reply  Nov 4, 2015 - 05:33pm PT
fgw - We went not too long ago - end of September, first part of October. It can rain then and it was supposed to, but we lucked out and it didn't until the last day and then only in the am. The weather was cool and crowds were non-existent so it turned out to be a good time to go. Definitely under the radar as we didn't run into another American in town, climbing or anywhere.
phylp

Trad climber
Upland, CA
  Nov 4, 2015 - 06:20pm PT
Wow, this was a really fantastic TR. It really made me want to go there.

I can't believe somebody gave you grief after last year's report for hiring a guide!! I'm sure the guides are happy to have the work and they get to go climb in a beautiful place too.

Thanks again for the TR.
Darwin

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Nov 4, 2015 - 08:02pm PT
I loved this report, but who didn't? Thanks

The wonderful David Yohalem lives near there, and I want him to chime in . I hiked to the base of Naranjo with Spanish relatives in the '70s, and even without any climbing it was one of the coolest trips of my life. Too bad the wine around there is so bad: NOT .
rick sumner

Trad climber
reno, nevada/ wasilla alaska
  Nov 4, 2015 - 09:59pm PT
Looks like a trip of a lifetime Ney. Between that, other areas you are developing, flying, and your ongoing careers you folks couldn't possibly ever have a dull moment.
Daphne

Trad climber
Northern California
  Nov 5, 2015 - 08:13am PT
What a great trip report! Thanks for posting and for taking so many great photos. I can never seem to portray the rock in a way that shows how each climb is different. And I second phylp, what gives with giving you grief about a guide.
Ney Grant

Trad climber
Pollock Pines
Author's Reply  Nov 5, 2015 - 04:42pm PT
Wow, thanks everyone for the nice comments.

Regarding the photos, I got lucky. Betsy and I typically climb alone together so we have a lot of butt shots. But that day on Naranjo with Peter and Bets on the route to the side of Howie and I, with the afternoon light - was both unforgettable and photogenic.

fgw

climber
portland, or
  Nov 6, 2015 - 10:21am PT
Ney - thanks for the info. Again, great TR - really psyched up for a trip to the Picos.
RyanD

climber
  Nov 7, 2015 - 04:23pm PT
High value!!!!


Ed H

Trad climber
Santa Rosa, CA
  Nov 7, 2015 - 05:45pm PT
Great TR - thanks for posting!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Nov 8, 2015 - 03:17am PT
This is a great TR, thanks.
Yet another place to visit👍
yanqui

climber
Balcarce, Argentina
  Nov 8, 2015 - 06:34am PT
I wannna be there too
pvalchev

Social climber
Truckee, CA
  Nov 9, 2015 - 03:01pm PT
Looks awesome, thanks for the trip report!

And if anyone gives you grief, I promise you it's because they are jealous that they don't get to climb with legends! :)
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Nov 9, 2015 - 05:36pm PT
This was included in SuperTopo Climbing News Check it out here >> http://goo.gl/AvcFOq
melski

Trad climber
bytheriver
  Nov 17, 2015 - 04:22pm PT
So basicly ,you clip the pro ,belayer takes,,[without verbals] and rest /assess next moves,,then climb,,,,wow the spans got it going,,I like it,,,
Yafer

Trad climber
Chatsworth, California
  Nov 17, 2015 - 09:01pm PT
Great TR!
overwatch

climber
Arizona
  Nov 18, 2015 - 06:55am PT
Nice pics and write up. I may be going to Spain in 2017 and hope to get some climbing in. Definitely looks cool. Thanks
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Nov 18, 2015 - 10:24am PT
Great TR!

Hiked the Rio Cares gorge a few years back on a rainy stretch of weather in the spring. Climbed in the Valle de Quirós on the west side of the Picos...fantastic and none too crowded.

Really would like to go back...especially to those spots in your TR...thanks!
MH2

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
  Nov 20, 2015 - 11:44am PT
Much to enjoy.
carlos gallego

Ice climber
Spain
  Nov 21, 2015 - 08:33am PT
Good trip, Ney.
Next time you have to climb the "super classic" line in the west face of Naranjo (the correct name is "Picu Urriellu", but it is usual to name it as "Naranjo de Bulnes").
This line was first climbed by Alberto Rabadá and Ernesto Navarro in 1962.
This photo shows the famous traverse in the middle of the west face.

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