Sunday, August 09, 2015

Walking in Asturias: Collado Jermoso refuge

My last outing with the Peña Santa mountain walking group was one of the most memorable walks in the Picos Mountains National Park I have so far had. It was a two day walk with an over night stay at Collado Jermoso refuge, one of the several manned mountain refuges dotted across the National Park.

Only 15 members of the group undertook this particular walk which entailed a two hour journey via a small minibus that could pass the small roads that would take us past the stunning scenery of the Beyos Gorge and El Ponton mountain pass before we could reach the start of our hike in the Valdeon area at the edge of the Central Massif.

The Central Massif has the highest peaks within the three massifs that comprise the Picos National Park and I have always been mesmerised by the beauty and sheer drama this part of the mountains presents those who walk any of the many hiking routes that can be undertaken across a sea of limestone that at times resembles a lunar landscape. Conquering one or several of the peaks over 2000 m high is always a choice depending on personal experience and/or technical ability required.

Salinas Tower
During the first day of this outing, we conquered a peak known as Salinas Tower  at 2450 m high, a peak with fantastic views in all directions. Climbing this peak as part of a rather large group of 15 people poised some challenges especially when we were required to scramble up some mountain passes or when extra care need to be taken to avoid been injured by a falling loose rock accidentally been dislodged by someone higher up the slope. 

Having left our rucksacks at the base of the peak (as they were rather heavy not only with water but also food for the two days and the required equipment to sleep in the open at high altitude), lunchtime was delayed until we had descended. I have always enjoyed eating outdoors and doing so in this part of the mountains is something I value as it is a great opportunity to admire some fantastic scenery while listening to those who are familiar with the terrain identify some of the many peaks before us or the paths that cross the mountains pastures and slopes.
With renewed energy levels, we took the path that would lead us to the refuge were we would spend the night.

Collado Jermoso refuge. Image by Silvia Castro

Within the several mountain refuges dotted across the entire National Park, the refuge at Collado Jermoso is without doubt the one that rests within the most dramatic and beautiful setting of them all. As you approach it from the south, the most common route to reach it, you can appreciate the drama as it appears to precariously perch at the edge of a precipice while to its right the peaks tower up to dizzy heights over 2600 m while a few meters behind it the Cares Gorge also known as the Divine Gorge drops over 1000 m. The back of the refuge is a particularly beautiful and much loved beauty spot where those staying at the refuge for the night can enjoy the drama of a sun setting behind  the Holy Crag of Castille within the Western Massif. Within this vantage point, the views down into the Cares Gorge below and the Valdeon valley opening towards the West adds to the overall drama and beauty of this particular area and certainly attests for the Jermoso name, a word that means beautiful in Bable or the dialect that is spoken within Asturias.

Sunsetting behind Holy Crag of Castille.

Sleeping in the refuges at this time of the year requires booking a place early but you can always have a drink, dinner and breakfast even when you sleep outside as we all did on this occasion. As darkness approached, we settled into our sleeping and bivouac bags and waited for the stars to come out. The beauty of the night sky and the shadows the moonlight cast onto the rocks is something I will never forget and certainly made up for the lack of sleep. A sloping ground was certainly not the best place to lie down to sleep.

The climb up La Palanca with Salnas Tower behind
 to the left and Friero Tower right behind.
After a much welcomed breakfast and coffee at the refuge, we were eager to start climbing up the second peak, La Palanca at 2614 m. The hard efforts rewarded us with magnificent views of the Salinas Tower, the peak we climbed the previous day.

Sitting with our feet dangling at La Palanca's summit was a great photo opportunity and provided perspective to the background peaks one of which is Torrecerredo, the highest peak in the National Park and one I plan to conquer this Summer.

From La Palanca, a 2200 m descent was certainly a challenge and the reason why we all ended with stiff legs the following day. The scenery we walked through and the views down towards Cain, a quaint little village in the heart of the Cares Gorge and where the bus that would take us back after having a drink at the local bar made this tough descent a little more bearable.

Walking through an area still covered with snow is something you can still anticipate when hiking in this part of the National Park but with a little care and attention there is no reason why these areas cannot be crossed safely. Safety should always be paramount and we certainly had a reminder of the risks this type of activity entails when we saw the mountain rescue helicopter in action in our vicinity. We would later on, sadly discover that it was a serious accident the rescue team were taking care of. One reason why appropriate equipment, insurance and going out with experienced and competent guides is essential when venturing in this stunning part of the Asturian landscape.   


  1. It looks amazing, but I like to keep my feet on terra firma, I have a 'thing' about heights, wish I didn't.

  2. Stunning scenery, though looks almost like mountain climbing than hiking to me! I'm scared of heights too, so that's one 'walk' I won't be doing..... :-)


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