I slept in till about 9am as I had only a short hike of 2 hours today, or at least that was the plan. I spent yesterday looking out the door of the hut at the path I had to take to get to Refugio Cabrones and it was not looking very attractive. I took solace in the fact that it seemed like it would be the only tough part of the hike.
I finally started off and the temps were up as usual. In the center of the picture below you can see a left to right 45 degree slope. That was the path, followed by a vertical climb at the highest point on the right
It was a slog, but made it to the vertical section and fortunately there ware chains and some iron bars
At the peak I ran across some climbers and even a lady hiking with her dog. She invited me to bag the highest peak in the Picos before carrying on to the Refugio, but I felt that if I did not follow my route, I would end up lost like yesterday and that would be bad news. Little did I know.
Another drop down and below you can see Refugio Cabrones just right of center.
It was only noon and this hut was tiny. I could not sit around for 8 hours until dinner and did not want to sleep in these cramped quarters. I met 2 people from the Netherlands while sitting there in the shade and we all decided to push on to Bulnes. I was not scheduled to get there till tomorrow evening, but we figured we could make the hike today and find a hostal overnight and have a good meal and a few beers.
The Hut host said it would take us about 3 hours to get down, so we set off. The going down was rough
We kept losing the trail. It was more complex by the fact that there were a few trails marked by rock cairns. What we later learned was that you need to follow the yellow blaze trails and ignore the various rock cairns that random people make. Also, if you do not see a yellow blaze after leaving the last one for about 2 minutes you need to back track and search for it. Again all this was learned later, I mean like days later. There was a spine on or left that we hugged going down, at some point we missed the left turn over the spine and kept heading down. After that point the downhill became much more of a scramble. my friends were a little unsure of continuing with their limited experience in climbing down rocks. Not like I was some expert. I was not much better off then either of them. At one point we ran into a cliff and my 2 apps showed us actually between 2 trails. We tried traversing left and then right to pick either up either but ran into cliffs in either direction.
At this point I went to look down on a lower ledge to see if I could find a way down for them. I had to shimmy down a slot and was unable to turn back around so I was committed to keep going down from here, regardless of what I ran into. Amber was not feeling very safe about moving on. She wanted to go back, and we yelled phone numbers and promised to make sure we connected when we got back to civilization.
The below picture is where we said our goodbyes. They are in top left corner of shot
Now I was on my own to make this happen. I had a third app, and using that I was able to get it working and find an alternate trail downhill that eventually intersected the main trail we lost at some point way down in the valley. Unfortunately I lost that route rather quickly and was back to descending over ledges, taking breaks where I could find shade.
It was at this point I became a bit morbid. I started coming up with percentages of whether I was going to make it down today and if I would make it down at all, or fall of a cliff. I was about 80% I would survive, and 60% sure I would not have to sleep in some shade overnight and possibly use my rescue beacon if not located in another day.
At this point I saw the remnants of a house down below me. It is directly in the middle of the picture.
I raised my percentages and headed straight down towards it, unfortunately as I got close I came upon a very steep cliff and nearly slipped over he edge. Just past my shadow in below shot is the drop off. The percentages went back in the wrong direction.
It's in situations like these I make somewhat poor decisions. My impatience to get down and reluctance to return the way I came push me to make unnecessary risks, like trying to hang over a ledge and work my way down, then getting overcommitted. Fortunately, I did not do it. I went back and found some shade, drank some more of my dwindling water and thought through my options
The main trail was somewhere to my left and the alternate was somewhere to my right. The terrain to my left looked doable but it was also really close to the cliff and I didn’t really trust all my faculties at this point
I looked to the right and it looked like I could get down to the house that way. I waited about 30 minutes and headed right. As I moved in that direction there was not the easy scramble I thought I saw before, but steep drops. Did I hallucinate seeing an easy route? I decided to continue anyway as I really didn’t like the idea of going left. I threw my pack off a ledge and reversed down the wall, able to find enough holds to get to the next landing. I did this once more and I was down to the house. I looked back at the cliff and area I came down and was glad to be in one piece. You can see the house on the right and the part I came down on the left
My percentages were going back in the right direction. In the below picture I saw a trail way down in the distance. It is hard to see in the picture
My biggest fear keeping me from relaxing was there might be another cliff and gap that I did not see down there. I ran into 2 more but were able to get around them. At one point I ran into grass and was able to just sit down and do a controlled slide through the brush, it was that steep.
I finally made it to the main trail. I was relieved but really too exhausted to celebrate too much. I was about out of water and did not know how far I still had to go to Bulnes. I ran across this group of bulls.
I felt like this was going to be retribution for me attending the festival in Pamplona. I was too tired to try and go around them. I pretended I was Bilbo Baggins, and slipped the “precious” ring on my finger and just walked right past all of them.
I had been hiking for 8 hours today and I still did not see the town. Another hour and I finally saw a couple roofs leading me to believe I had made it. I gulped down what was left of the water and walked into the small village. I found a small café and just asked for a beer and 2 pitchers of water. I promptly drank them all in under 2 minutes and then threw up.
I originally was planning on hiking down from Bulnes to Poncebos, maybe another 2 hours, but I was not keen on that anymore. I caught the last funicular down instead.
In Poncebos I caught the bus down to my car in Arenas
I was able to adjust my reservation in Arenas from tomorrow to this evening.
I showered, laid in bed for an hour, hung all my clothes on the balcony to dry and went in search of my Dutch friends. I did not know where they were but I did know they parked in the same lot as me. I found a van with a KLM logo on the side and NL plates.
I was glad I found it, but concerned that they did not make it down. They either went back to the Refugio Cabrones for the night, or they were still on the mountain somewhere. I wrote a note and left it on windshield to contact me. I contacted the mountain rescue and they got in touch with the host at Cabrones. He said he had not seen them since we left at lunch. They would wait till tomorrow before getting more aggressive with their search.
I walked a bit and found a place to sit and drink/eat. Still very much in a haze
I was so hungry, the waiter asked if I wanted the bill like 3 times and I kept saying, no and I wanted more food. This is very abnormal in Europe as you are normally trying to track down anyone to get your bill after the meal.
The next morning I was on the phone with mountain rescue while walking over to the parking lot, and saw my friends!
They did not recognize me with my cleaned up appearance until I was right on them. They thought I was a crazy person yelling into a phone coming to assault them.
It turns out that they backtracked when we separated and eventually came across the right trail when they saw another person on it in the distance. Then they got lost again briefly before reconnecting.
The below picture shows the path we followed, with the circle representing the missed turn, that they eventually got back to and followed down in Red.
I had met some other friends from the Netherlands while up in the mountains and we agreed to drive out to the ocean to spend the day with them at their camp site.
We went crashing through the waves on the beach, swam in the pool and then went grocery shopping. They made a killer meal with tuna and various meats. We sat up till late talking and I slept on a borrowed mat under the stars. Another great day with new friends.
The following day Amber and Jorge (his name is different but this is what I decided to call him) left to work their way back north. I went swimming in the river that emptied into the ocean then said my goodbyes to start heading back east with a stop tonight in Santandar.
As always, returning to civilization (Santandar is a big city on the ocean) is a bit of a shock. I was not ready for it yet. I walked the marina and had dinner and some drinks before crashing in the hostel.
The following day I stayed in Zaragoza. A city with a great deal of Roman history and ruins, but it was so hot out I barely left my room.
The next day I spent in a small beach town of Tarragona, where the Mediterranean felt as hot as the open air.
I had a nice dinner in town and then made my way back to Barcelona. I was dreading this day for a while. I would have to drive the rental car downtown and then locate the underground parking garage for Avis. It was stressful. I got back to the intersection where we picked up the car and found the exit to the garage but the entrance was somewhere else. I finally dropped down into one and asked a worker where Avis was, and he said it was in an alternate garage (each garage under the streets only held about 100 cars and they were not connected). He told me a street name, like that meant anything to me. I tried to drive out of the garage, but the machine said I owed 15 cents for that 3 minutes I was in there. And to pay you had to get out of car and find a kiosk. Come On. There was no where to park the car, so I just yelled at the guy behind the glass vestibule to please open the gate. He came out with a key and complied. I drove around and found another ramp down and the guy said Avis was 2 floors down. I went down there and there was nothing there. It was the same place we picked up the car 3 weeks earlier. It felt like you were in one of those movies where the grifters set up a fake business and when you go back it is empty. WTF was I supposed to do now. I found a guy and he said the garage was under construction so Avis had moved. I was dying inside slowly. Eventually I found a place with an Avis sign on a lower level of next garage and there was a key drop box. I took a video of me physically dropping the keys into this suspect box and hoped for the best.
I checked into the same hotel from the first night of our trip and walked the park across the street at dusk. Although the city was dirty, this was a cool spot where people gathered at night and had dance lessons, music jams, workouts, yoga sessions and just drinks on blankets
My trip was at a close. The heat really made it tough to enjoy the backend of the vacation, but the time we visited small villages up front was amazing and I succeeded in challenging myself up in the mountains and learned a lot more about how to avoid dangerous situations
Until Next Time