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.


On crest during strong, cold wind

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.


Ridge trail

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.


Rock formations

Cool rocks. The wind didn't abate even as I descended.


Picos de Europa in sight

I would descend in the valley and climb back up to the tallest mountain in Los Picos.


Pico Urriello or Naranjo de Bulnes

The tallest vertical rock behind me is El Pico Urriello, which is also called Naranjo de Bulnes in Los Picos de Europa.


The Atlantic Ocean is behind me

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.


Just to the right of my hand, or knee, you can see the Refugio, which looks tiny compared to El Pico Urriello

Look closely, just right of my hand, you will see the shelter. It's tiny compared to the massive limestone monolith.


Torre Cerredo is distant mountain and is 2,648 meters

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.


Torre Cerrero vertical climb

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.


Steep mountain face

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.


Picos de Europa

We're not in the flat Camino anymore....


Tree at dawn

At dawn, this tree looked nice.


Church near Pio, Spain

Nice church near the mountain village of Pio, Spain.


In the pre-dawn darkness, a yellow salamander is sneaking around

This guy was sneaking around in the pre-dawn darkness on the trail.


At a mountain pass

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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