Friday, April 13, 2012

Cycling in Asturias: The challenge of cycling to the mountain lakes.

Trip Report by Luis 

Asturias is a beautiful region with a dramatic landscape where you are never very far away from the coast, luscious green valleys and the majestic Picos de Europa Mountains. Setting off cycling from La Pasera  to the surrounding villages is a flat and enjoyable ride and if we go further afield along the coastal plains it starts to require a certain affinity for cycling up and down hills and mountains.

When we first moved here I disliked venturing further afield due to a lack of fairly flat terrain and well defined off-road paths. Cycling along tracks where you have to get off your bike and carry it for a considerable length of time as it may be too rough even for a proper mountain bike, is not my kind of cycling.

Eventually I decided to limit myself to cycle along the numerous rather quiet lanes and roads where coming across other vehicles is rather infrequent. Spanish drivers seem to be well-used to cyclists on the road and the driving code stipulates that a cyclist has the same rights as any other car on the road. I remember when we frist drove up to the Picos de Europa mountain lakes (Lake Ercina and Lake Enol) in the car and spotted a professional looking cyclist who was steadily gaining altitude. I remember thinking then that such strenuous cycling would not be enjoyable.

Overtime...I started cycling up some of the easier mountain routes and I started to see cycling up to the mountain lakes as a possibility. After some weeks of training, I have recently cycled up the lakes for the second time, some would say I am a glutton for punishment.

Torimbia beach
During my training I cycled to one of my favourite beaches in Asturas, Torimbia. Once you reach the car park and before you start walking down to the beach it is worth stopping a for a while to admire the beautiful views of the Asturian coast with its dramatic cliffs and golden beaches.

El Fito looking towards La Pasera
Further training saw me cycling on the coastal road to the West which took me toward El Fito viewing platform at an altitude of about 700 m that offers some magnificent views of the coast and of the Picos National Park. Once I'd cycled up El Fito I knew that physically I was ready to undertake the challenge up the lakes.

It is one of the toughest challenges within the "La Vuelta" or the cycling tour of Spain. This cycling route up to the Lakes of Covadonga entails a 1056 m ascent over 12.6 Km that starts at the base of the sanctuary of Our Lady of Covadonga.

Our Lady of Covadonga

As I commenced the climb I cycled under the shade of the luscious mixed perennial woodlands that had started coming into leaf whilst the ground was a carpet of colour provided by the wild flowers, grasses, mosses and lichens. Concentrating on the flora and the sounds of the numerous songbirds is an interesting distraction from the physical hard work and the rising body temperature from hard cycling.

Eventually the clearings in the woodland became greater as I continued cycling up the road but now the vistas across the green valleys are stunning and for a short while I almost forgot how tired I was becoming. Cycling on up the road, the mountains start towering on my left while ahead of me I noticed the distant cars climbing the famous La Huesera section, 800 m with a 15% gradient that I needed to tackle as I reached the half-way point in the climb.

Psychologically, it is the toughest section but thankfully, numerous people cheer you up as they drive past. God knows what they think as you brave a smile trying not to loose concentration on reaching the bend on the road ahead of you. After La Huesera you hope for the lakes to be just around the corner while at the same time you know that you only just passed the halfway mark a short while ago.

The alpine flowers I encounter on the roadside are like eye candy whilst I considered if there is the energy left to continue the ascent. Eventually the mountain peaks start appearing closer and closer with every bend I conquer, until I eventually cycled around a massive rock to a first glimpse of Lake Enol  which greeted me with its waters reflecting the rocks and greenery that surrounds it.

Lago Enol

At this point the sense of joy and achievement starts setting in as I know it is only a few more hundred meters before I will reach Lake Ercina where I can draw breath and admire the snow covered peaks reflecting in the water.

Lago Ercina y Luis

I usually ask one of the numerous people visiting this beauty spot to take my photo as I try to control the big smile that I hardly can contain. After a much deserved rest, it is a matter of starting the free ride back down while keeping a good hold on the breaks to prevent the bicycle getting too much speed. You can never forget that the impressive views come with significant drops on the side of the road.

In total, this circular ride from La Pasera is about 95 Km and a refreshing shower is always much appreciated before relaxing in the garden with the cats playing in the grass.

Luis y Gawber


  1. Some good riding there.
    I'm not keen on hills...especially going down!!

  2. Via Twitter @annlprintmaker
    @la_pasera What an absolutely stunning landscape. I thought cycling up 'our' hill here was hard work but that is some climb!


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