Viajar a pie

"Viajar a pie" is Spanish for "Travelling on foot"

Category: Iberia (Page 1 of 2)

Cantabrian High Route East

Hiking the crest

The Cantabrian Ranges run parallel to the Iberian peninsula northern coast for 300 km as the crow flies. It’s a region of grand beauty, complex geology and wicked weather patterns that make hiking a challenge. It’s the mountains, they’re big and we are small.

Thru-hiking the watershed divide is a tough call. Doing it in November adds to the challenge.

A one week allowance is not enough to hike the whole thing. What follows is an account of a 180 km route along the Cantabrian crest divide. 8 days hiking among the limestone giants.

Daily Account

The Blue Line between A and B

The complete High Route in the Cantabrian Watershed divide would take at least 2 weeks to cover to a strong, committed hiker. This trip was 8 days long in a season where daylight is getting short, no way I could hike the whole thing. I had a starting point and a way to go. The goal was to hike and be on my own for 8 days in the most magnificent of sceneries.

View route map for Cantabrian High Route Pajares Piedrasluengas on

I didn’t record the hike so the plot above, drawn by hand, is not accurate, neither is the distance, which came out to 180 km (112 miles)

The menu on the right has the stage breakdown. The names will be meaningless but I need to put a name to the places!

Resources & Credits

You won’t find many resources on this route in anything that’s not Spanish. Actually, there aren’t many in Spanish either. Most internet resources and guidebooks focus on one-day activities and most of them will be about climbing peaks. Overnighting outside is not a popular thing, neither is long distance hiking.

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Puerto de Piedrasluengas

The high pressure conditions remain and the weather should be clear. I don’t know what caused yesterday’s fogs, maybe some cold air mass in the area. I would expect a new, clear day today no matter how dark and thick the fog was yesterday but I have a plan in case it remains: the track I was following would actually take me out of the mountains. It’d be acceptable given this is my last day of hiking.

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This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Cantabrian High Route East

Puertos de Riofrio

I wake up to a dry tarp and a view of a frosty valley below, fully endorsing yesterday’s camp choice. Actual site and orientation missed the best mountain view but I could see sunset and sunrise instead:

Good morning

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This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series Cantabrian High Route East

Pico Gabanceda

In my lowest altitude camp I wake up to negative temps, high humidity and a good frost all over the place as a consequence. This is a classic example of temp inversion driven by sustained high pressure conditions: cold air sinks and humidity condenses. During the night there’s no sun to warm things up so the system stays locked.

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This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series Cantabrian High Route East

Arroyo Vallejo

In the morning my tarp is dry and the grass around is dry as the valley bottom has frosted over. What a huge difference a short distance can make in the camping experience and how much nicer it is to pack a dry shelter.

Frost in the valley below

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This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series Cantabrian High Route East

Arroyo de Valdosin

A small cirque at the very headwaters of a cantabrian valley, that’s the definition of the perfect overnight spot and I feel fortunate to wake up in such glorious place. The only downside in a mid-November morning is how long the sun takes to shine. I leave the area before I get a chance of getting any warmth. Morning lights are beautiful anyway.

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This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series Cantabrian High Route East

Majada Vallin

Yesterday’s last effort was more than a last push for the sake of performance, it was also a statement.

It’s often easy to skip crest sections by joining saddles along the slopes or the base of the hill. This is fine as it is all part of what a High Route means: the idea is to follow a coherent line along the divide. Then there are cases like yesterday evening’s: the road to the ski resort runs parallel to the divide crest and leads to a gentle climb back to the top on a service track. I could have done all that in less than a couple of hours. It is not cheating, it’s just the -in this case- easy way.

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This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series Cantabrian High Route East

Fuentes de Invierno

The night goes in between heaven and hell. Heaven because that’s what the night usually is: a time to relax, do nothing but rest, heal the wounds of the day’s work, feel at peace with the world. Hell because sometimes the world gets aggressive and you become a tiny piece of nothing at its mercy.

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This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series Cantabrian High Route East

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