Sunday, March 15, 2015

Walking in Asturias: Carria Peak in Winter

This is one of the latest Winter walks I recently did with the  Peña Santa walking group as part of my ongoing training for the three challenges I will undertake this Spring to raise money for the Donkey Paradise.

Going out with the group when your orienteering skills are not very good is a good opportunity to walk across some beautiful valleys and mountains as was the case with this stunning walk I did on a beautiful and sunny Winter's day in the area locally known as Ponga which lies next to the Picos National Park.

In Ponga the mountains are lower that those found in the Picos National Park and in Winter the snow soon melts so as a group we have an area where we can go out walking without the need to use crampons, snowshoes or skies, equipment that will be a must for those venturing at this time of the year within the higher peaks.

The drama when walking in the Ponga area at this time of the year resides primarily in the stunning beauty of its alpine meadows and woodlands surrounded by impressive lime stone mountains and ridges. The wild daffodils, of which in Asturias there are 4 native varieties, soon herald the colourful carpet that the warmer weather will bring over the next few weeks. In addition to the beautiful and brave occasional clamp of daffodils, I particularly like the vivid colours of the mosses and lichens so prolific within Ponga's limestone and, stunning at the moment as they are fully hydrated with the melting snow and rain.

Today's walk would take us to Carria Peak at 1431 meters high and was the last of a series of events the Peña Santa walking group had organized on a yearly basis and  as part of a week full of different presentations and exhibitions that celebrate the many outdoor activities that can be enjoyed in the mountains and as a result, the number of people doing this walk was slightly larger than usual.

The walk took us across some stunning scenery and as soon as we gained a bit of altitude and were out of the woodlands, we were rewarded with impressive views of the coast to the north and the snow covered peaks in the National Park to the south without forgetting the stunning area of Ponga itself.

Coming across the occasional bit of snow proved to be too great a temptation not to have some fun as was the case when Cori and Noelia decided to let themselves fall backwards and draw angels in the snow. Who could blame them with the Picos National Park as a backdrop.

The peaks are often crowned with a sort of letter box usually detailing the name of the peak, its altitude and who the sponsor for the box was. As you can see, Peak Carria had a letter box attached to a cross. There is a tradition for people to leave a note in the letter box indicating the name of those who conquered the peak, the date and any other information they may wish to share. The walking group usually leaves one of its publicity cards.

Reaching the summit is always a good opportunity for admiring the views and it is always interesting to hear from those who know the mountains very well, about others walks or when they point out some interesting detail about local history.

The second part of today's walk after leaving the summit would takes us across some areas still covered with frozen snow as we made our descent towards the lowers slopes where we eventually found a suitable place to stop for lunch.

After a short break for lunch we all felt rested and ready to undertake the descent down towards the Beyos Gorge just over 1000 m below where the bus would be waiting for. We walked down the terraces that many centuries ago were created across the mountain side to provide pasture for the livestock. These pastures supported life in the now abandoned and rapidly becoming derelict village of St Ignacio. Other than for one elderly shepherd who occasionally uses one of the huts and gathers the hay as Winter fodder for his animals in a traditional Asturian manner around a long pole, the village and grass terraces are rapidly been reclaimed my nature, an indicator and consequence of a rapidly disappearing way of life.

We came across a lady who as a child would have to walk up the slopes to gather the animals and whose knowledge of the area is invaluable and one of the reasons it is always nice to stop and talk with them as they are a great source of information as Jar, the main group leader would tell us.

Here is the link to my sponsorship page, please visit and if possible make a small donation or help us to promote this worthy cause. Many thanks.

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