If you get bored with the flatness of El Camino Frances, you will love this mountainous variation of El Camino Santiago. It takes you through Los Picos de Europa and Asturias.
Start by heading toward Los Picos de Europa and then hiking your own hike on the various trails that head west through Asturias.Whenever you feel like it, head southwest to reconnect with El Camino Frances to join the many pilgrims.
I was thrilled to be back in the mountains, but the wind chill was intense, even at 10 a.m. I was celebrating my first glimpse of Los Picos de Europa.
We are not on the flat El Camino Frances anymore. Just above my shadow, you can see a faint trail that goes around the steep drop.
In the upper right hand corner, you can see the Atlantic Ocean behind Los Picos de Europa. The wind was intense here! It made me slip and nearly fall over right when the timer shot the photo.
Cool rocks. The wind didn't abate even as I descended.
I would descend in the valley and climb back up to the tallest mountain in Los Picos.
The tallest vertical rock behind me is El Pico Urriello, which is also called Naranjo de Bulnes in Los Picos de Europa.
El Pico Urriello reminds me of El Capitan, in Yosemite. El Cap is twice the size though. Behind me is the Atlantic Ocean. Some say that Los Picos of Europa got their name because they were the first picos (peaks) that the Conquistadores would see when they returned from the New World.
Look closely, just right of my hand, you will see the shelter. It's tiny compared to the massive limestone monolith.
El Torre Cerrero is the most distant mountain in this photo. With a little claw poking out just on the lieft side of the summit.
I climbed up past the 2nd small ledge in this photo and a bit up the vertical portion before giving up. With daylight running out fast, I didn't want to risk climbing the vertical face. I had already climbed high enough where a bit of rock broke away and I nearly fell to my death. That rattled me. Plus, my hands were cold, descending is always harder than ascending, and doing it in the dark would be asking for trouble. So for the sake of my worrying mom, I did something I don't like to do - back down a mountain.
I often think of Reinhold Messner, the greatest mountain climber in history. What many people don't know is that he retreated from the 8,000 meter peaks a high percentage of the time. I'm not sure the exact percentage, but I believe it was 20-30%. In short, what made him great is that he knew when he was in over his head.
We're not in the flat Camino anymore....
At dawn, this tree looked nice.
Nice church near the mountain village of Pio, Spain.
This guy was sneaking around in the pre-dawn darkness on the trail.
This is a mountain pass, deep in Asturias. I had all my clothes on even after trying to generate heat by hiking hard up the mountain. But it was still quite cold. I would eventually descend back to El Camino Frances once the snow started coming down regularly in the end of October.
This whole section was the highlight of my way to Santiago de Compostella!
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