Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Friday, 15 July 2016

Pena Prieta (2) and back to Timperley

I'm writing from EasyJet's Airbus A319 from sunny Bilbao to Manchester. We've had a superb week at Collett's Picos de Europa base near Potes, the highlight being yesterday's fine walk up Pena Prieta from Puerto de San Glorio (1600 metres).

Compared with earlier days the air was cooler and perhaps a little clearer. Crystal clear. The ten of us on this walk comprised Emma, Nicol and Lorna, Peter and Paula, the other Andrew, and four fifths of our team, Andrew having chosen a ride on the Fuente Dé cable car and a short walk from the top station (which he very much enjoyed).

We moved slowly, with lots of pauses, taking a leisurely nine plus hours over the 18 km walk with about 1000 metres ascent. Emma and Oscar had done the recce a week earlier in five hours. The going was easy, though some faltered during the final descent of cow tracks through rampant broom, and Paula didn't like reversing a short scramble on the final stretch before the long, broad ridge pictured in the previous entry.

Unlike our earlier high level walks, this one  enjoyed some fairly flat sections and featured many superbly positioned 'pause points'. Views extended from the Picos massifs to the Spanish plains to our south. There were lots of flowers, many of which will be pictured later, including an exciting (for Sue) discovery of Winged Greenweed. The local variety of chamois were frisking on snow slopes far below us.

We were late back, leaving us just a few minutes to change and shower before dinner, which was postponed for a few minutes to allow for beer o'clock.

Later, the other Andrew entertained us with the film from his video camera, played back through the Posada's TV.

We slept well and today enjoyed a leisurely start in the company of Oscar, upon whom 'cleaning duties' had fallen on another glorious day. Then we visited the museum, just a few hundred yards down the road, with its superb exhibits covering the fauna and flora and geology of the area, with films about cheesemaking, clog making, spinning, distilling, shepherding, etc, accompanied by discreet comments on the adverse effects on the environment of tree felling (reduces oxygen levels), cattle (too much methane) and other detrimental features of alpine industries.

After this pleasant interlude we hopped in the cars and visited Humphrey's recommendation, the church of Santa Maria de Lebeña, a wonderful building  that dates from 925. It has a separate clock tower. There are some later additions, but the main interior space is Mozarabic - pre-dating romanesque and perhaps reminiscent of a small mosques. For €1.50, visitors like us are locked into the church and treated to an entertaining talk about its history from a little old lady. There were laughs, but none of us knew enough Spanish to understand the jokes. We just sat there and absorbed some of the ambience of the place. Humphrey would no doubt love to have been there.

Then it was an easy journey via coffees outside a café in Panes. Once we were on the scenic motorway we stayed in sixth gear all the way to Bilbao. If only UK motorways were as free of traffic...

Hertz managed their (and most other major car hire companies) usual trick of upsetting me. The car was vetted and no damage and a full tank were confirmed. However, in order to get a receipt I would have been required to wait in a long queue, so the paperwork was handed in and I have no record of the clean bill of health, as getting the flight home was a higher priority than waiting in a Hertz queue. How do these companies survive/get away with their atrocious attitude to their customers?

PS All that Hertz stuff is fine I suppose - probably no repercussions. Manchester Airport wasn't much better today, with only a few e-passport readers working (long queues - good practice for Brexit repercussions) and nobody available to unload the bags from the plane. Otherwise a smooth journey with no 'Stag and Hen' problems - unlike on the outward flight!

PPS Can you spot all nine walkers descending through broom in the third picture from the bottom, taken near the end of yesterday's walk?

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Pena Prieta (1)

Today was a fabulous mountain day for the ten of us who climbed Pena Prieta, in the Cordillera Cantabrica. The return trip took nine hours, plus nearly an hour's drive each way. So we haven't had much spare time as we've also enjoyed a most sociable final evening here in Tama.

I will add more, but for the moment a picture taken near the summit of Pena Prieta, looking in the direction of the Picos de Europa, may whet your appetite for this area.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Pico Jano and a Monastery

On another fine morning with high cloud, all five of us enjoyed this short 9 km stroll from Dobargans including 500 metres ascent. (Yesterday's stats were about 27 km with 600 metres ascent.)

We were soon joined by another chap who we named "Go Away". In time, however, this friendly soul was renamed "Dog" or "Mutt", and Andrew protected him as we passed a herd of goats that were guarded by a couple of fierce looking Pyrenean Mountain Dogs.

The route was marked with at least 38 carefully positioned wayposts, so there was no chance of losing Dave. A proliferation of flowers and Sue's discovery of a Tasty looking Boletus mushroom illuminated our journey to the prominent summit at 2446 metres for a minor European convention with a Belgian mountain biker, a Dutch/German couple and several others. We got on fine once we'd all nailed our 'Remain' flags to the trig point.

Yesterday we saw Crag Martins and Short-toed Eagles, as well as the usual vultures and wheatears. Today's birds were tuneful but well camouflaged songbirds.

There were great views from the summit of both the Picos de Europa and the Cordillera Cantabrica mountains to the south.

An easy descent led us back to the car in 4.5 hours including lots of long stops.

Afternoon tea at Posada El Corcal was enhanced by the last of the brownies and a big slab of one of Cary's birthday cakes. We were joined by Nicol and Lorna, guests from Inverness who are warming up for a hut to hut traverse of the Picos arranged by KE.

Sue and I then visited the nearby Monasterio de Santa Toribio. It allegedly contains part of Christ's original wooden cross in an elaborate display. A nice chapel, and pleasant cloisters, briefly held our attention before we returned to base in keen anticipation of beer o'clock, which tonight was in Potes as Collett's have Wednesdays off.

Dinner at the La Sol Ore Ria restaurant rounded off an excellent day.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The Cares Gorge

The Cares Gorge is a 'must visit' for anyone on a Picos de Europa holiday.

The five of us headed to Poncebos, just over an hour away, and enjoyed a coffee whilst hordes of folk set off on the path to the gorge. It took all morning to pass them.

Apparently the cloud was down to around 1800 metres, but this didn't hinder us on what was another fine day.

We met other Collett's clients as we progressed towards Cain, on the southern end of the deep cleft through which a canal runs deep and fast, providing hydro electric power for the area.

The gravel path is wide but it has steep drops that are reminiscent of Madeira's leads.

Lunch was taken by a busy bridge, from which Andrew retraced his steps, armed with instructions on how to order two (one would apparently be too hard) beers on his return to Poncebos.

Meanwhile, the rest of us found an ice cream shop in Cain. Sue found a cuddly cat. Then we returned by the same route past goats to join Andrew and his two beers.

Later, another lovely evening was spent on the Collett's table at Posada de Curcal. 

Monday, 11 July 2016

A Circuit from San Pedro and a Walk to Potes

On a drizzly morning we elected for an easy walk in the woods. As did all the other clients apart from Mike and Sue, who needed a dentist. (For once, not me!)

The two Emmas from Collett's joined their 15 clients on this pleasant 4.5 hour stroll. 10 km with moderate ascent. The cloud slowly lifted and the drizzle stopped. Vultures soared high above whilst a buzzard lounged on a nearby roof beyond a cannabis van.

Lunch in a churchyard was a leisurely affair, as was the walk back to the cars past cherry trees and vineyards. Much fruit was devoured.

The afternoon brought a walk in Potes and back. This brings us to the bottom three images:

1. Looking bak to our hotel.
2. Graffiti en route.
3. Strong beers in Potes.

We never really recovered from those beers!

Sunday, 10 July 2016

A Circuit from Fuente Dé

Today the fine weather held for yesterday's foursome plus Collett's Oscar and a new guest, Andrew.

Whilst 'our Andrew' enjoyed a shorter outing, the six of us spent 8 hours on an anti clockwise circuit of 14.5 km with over 1000 metres ascent. A fair proportion of the 8 hours, unlike yesterday, was spent on our backsides. Resting. Eating. While Sue took pictures of flowers, and chamois froliced on distant snow slopes.

Occasionally Griffon vultures soared overhead. A flutter of snow finches swarmed past at one point and choughs chattered on their training flights with their youngsters. Blackbirds sung melodiously and wheatears and stonechats worried about our presence on their patches.

The wild flowers were wonderful. They will be paraded at some point in a slideshow, but for the moment you will have to make do with the images above, which summarise the day as well as any words I could concoct after enduring a Brexit debate and a failed attempt to get interested in a football match.

Well done Andy Murray and Lewis Hamilton. We were lazing in the mountains whilst these two tried to relieve the continuing post Brexit depression.