Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Walking in Asturias with Peña Santa Mountain Group

We have always enjoyed walking and since we arrived at La Pasera in Asturias, we continue to explore and enjoy the varied landscapes this region in Northern Spain has to offer. There are several walking groups in the region and I recently joined a local one that shares the name with one of the main peaks in the Western Massif. The Peña Santa mountain group is the largest of the groups and based in the nearby town of Cangas de Onis, one of the three main gateways into the Picos De Europa National Park, it is the oldest and an efficiently run group.

There is a yearly membership fee to join the group and once you are a member, you can access insurance cover at a much lower rate. This insurance card also gets you a discount when you stop overnight in a mountain refuge.

Other benefits of going out with the group when taking into account my lack of orientation skills is, that all the walks are led by guides who knows the mountains and the particular routes we are doing.

On each walk, in addition to the guide, there is also a person who closes the walk and whose role is to ensure no one is left behind or gets lost. Luciano is a group member who enjoys this particular role and lately I find myself joining him as he is someone very passionate about the mountains, nature, a way of life that is rapidly disappearing and whose knowledge of local history is incredible.

Luciano telling me about water and wildlife. Image by Cristina Perez.
In addition to the two monthly walks the group organises within different parts of Asturias, the organising committee also celebrates what is knows as the "mountain week" in early February when during the course of the week there will be a series of events celebrating outdoor activities in the mountains with numerous exhibitions, projections and presentations given by local and national mountaineers.

El Friero Peak, simultaneous Peak Climb, Summer 2014. Image by Sergio Perez Castaño

The calendar of activities and events for 2015 also includes 3 mountain bike rides, two walking trips with overnight stays in Madrid and the Basque Country, the 9th Lakes of Covadonga Marathon Xtreme and the simultaneous multiple peak conquering when the group splits into very small groups and tries to conquer as many peaks as possible within one of the three massifs that comprise the Picos National Park. This year this event will take place within the Eastern Massif and I already have my mind set in one of its peaks.

The group's yearly calendar always closes with a climb to a suitable peak just before Christmas when young and grown ups can accompany the group taking a Nativity set (Belen de Cumbres) that will be left on top of the chosen peak, a tradition celebrated by most of the mountain groups here is Asturias.

Belen de Cumbres 2014. Image by Silvia Castro
Image by Silvia Castro

In addition to the monthly outings, smaller groups of members get together to do more challenging and technical walks not suitable for a group of up to 25 walkers with varying abilities and ages ranging from 11 and 83 years of age.

The group has recently seen and increase of younger members lowering the average age of the group. One must not forget the coach driver, Javier, who after dropping us at the start of the walk would patiently wait for us at the end of the day and would always allow us time to stop at a local bar were we can enjoy a drink and come together to celebrate after a hard day's walk.

Bustiellu horreo (granary). Image by Gema Castaño
What is clear is that the group never cancels a walk come rain or shine as I have realised after some walks when the use of waterproofs and umbrellas was a must. The rain never bothered me and in spite of the limited views when walking across valleys or having to slightly adapt the route to take in the day's adverse weather condition. The warmth, friendship and laughter from the members of the group never fails to brighten up the mood on a rainy day. After all, it is the rain that adds to the beauty we enjoy in Asturias. Cheers to the group and future days enjoying the stunning scenery in Asturias.


  1. How lucky to have joined such an interesting group of walkers. Rather like our Ramblers here in the UK. I look forward to hearing of your adventures. Jenny

  2. Thanks Jenny, lots of stories to tell no doubt and such a beautiful place to explore.


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