Ascent of Torrecerredo on 2011-08-12

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Geoff Pettengell
Date:Friday, August 12, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Ski Lift
    Elevation:8691 ft / 2649 m

Ascent Trip Report

I climbed this superb and quite challenging peak with fellrunning friend Geoff who had a holiday home near the Picos and had been up Cerredo before. In view of the often changeable Picos weather he had advised allowing an extra day so I arrived on Thursday.

Thur 11 Aug: After an early flight to Madrid and a 4.5 hour drive, I met Geoff at the Embalse de Riano which is ringed with dramatic peaks including Penas Pintas which rises directly above the reservoir. We drove the dramatic winding road east to the tourist honeypot of Potes, called at Espinama for a few provisions, arriving at Fuente De (N43.14373 W4.81223) at 6pm. Straight to the teleferico (E9 single, E16 return): 1h15m waiting time even on a Thursday evening. Time to organise our kit, then wait for our numbers to be called. 20 people crammed into a small cabin – not much of a view but we can see the footpath crossing under the cableway – looks spectacular (1 exposed section by the looks of it).

We’re soon up, and tumble out at the top station of El Cable, among the throngs of (mostly) day trippers. We start hiking at 19:15, taking a wide jeep road (one Landrover passes on its way from a hotel). In 10 minutes we turn sharp L (signpost with a shortcut just before it) and take a level traverse path which crosses the foot of the very attractive Pena Olvidada. Across the main valley are the less rugged Cantabrian hills. The wide track turns L toward some mines; we take a good path which forks R at N43.16919 W4.81547, 1904m. The path heads up a rocky valley then zigzags steeply upwards. Near the top of the zigzags, at N43.17664 W4.82390 (2222m), a small path turns off R for Pen~a Vieja, apparently a steep scrambly route, but we have no time for side shows this evening. At the top of the zigzags a path continues L for Caban~a Veronica, an odd domed metal structure which is apparently the turret of an old US aircraft carrier. We keep R here (N43.17793 W4.83324, 2269m) and in a few minutes are at the main col, Horcados Rojos (N43.18055 W4.83274, bivouac shelter, 2357m). Ignore two false straight-on paths: our route turns half-R, ascending a little to cross a ridge, levelling off then descending. The descent becomes very steep, protected by a cable (quite new, with protective sheathing, easy and safe to handle). The cable descent is 100m or so then a path continues to the foot of the slope, scree in places. The path turns R at a junction and passes R of a large jou (pit, actually a very large sink hole), then a second, even larger one, then a short climb to another col – the final climb involves a 5m headwall, easy YDS 3 scrambling by the easiest gully (look for the cairns). An easy descent leads to the Refugio Vega Urriellu, at the foot of the iconic Picu Arriellu (called El Naranja after the orange coloration especially at sunrise). We arrive at 10pm, almost dark – just got there without using our head torches, taking 2h45m from El Cable, travelling light and pushing fairly hard.

The hut’s not serving much of a range of food: supper consists of soup, crisps, almonds, kit-kat, beer and lemonade – not quite what we’d hoped for. The Urriellu has about 100 beds of which 50 can be pre-booked; the remainder are first come first served. Accordingly we had brought light sleeping bags and bivvy bags, and although the place didn’t seem crowded we decided to sleep under the stars. Many flat tent sites are set out but we find a nice little grassy groove (N43.20240 W4.82243) which provides a comfortable bivvy for the night. I wake a few times; on one occasion El Naranjo is bathed in the light of the full moon.

Fri 12: 07:00 we awake to an inspiring pink dawn. We quickly pack up, leaving our overnight gear in an (unlocked) locker in the hut (we are later taken to task as these are reserved for people sleeping in the refugio, but there were plenty empty). Breakfast was coffee, biscuits and a small cake – the trip was memorable, but not for the food! We set off at 08:10, obvious path heading NW then steeply N (some loose scree) to the foot of a small cliff. Here an obvious steep narrow gully leads sharply up L, 10m, easy YDS 3 scrambling although very polished. Immediately above is a small saddle: path heads L along a short ridge then bends R and contours across a stony slope, heading for a well defined saddle, Horcados L’Arenara, N43.20907 W4.83882, 2289m, immediately L of a very striking peak. The main trail descends half-R, heading for the Cabrones refuge. We follow this 70m to an obvious sharp turn (N43.20919 W4.83938), follow this south (route mostly obvious – watch for cairns), contouring into a small stony valley, crossing it to reach another col, N43.20554 W4.84056, 2289m, unnamed on the map, with a trail fork. Here is our first view of our goal – looks very impressive - quite challenging. The L fork heads for Torre de la Pardida and apparently crosses its ridge to serve as a high level route to Cerredo. We took the R fork (downhill). In 120m is another fork (N43.20504 W4.84186), at the head of a stony valley leading into another very large jou (pit / sink hole). We turned R here. The L fork is more direct and a little more technical (moderate YDS 3 scrambling – easier than the Cerredo summit climb) - we came back that way. The well defined RH path skirts R of the large pit, then rises a little, to a point (N43.20735 W4.84887) where there is a view down to the Cabrones refuge (this refuge is useful for an ascent from the N). From here the route curves L (less obvious – look for the cairns) with the big pit still to the L. To the R is a smaller steep-sided pit with the sheer slopes of Cerredo rising directly out of it – the peak looks superb from here.

A small descent leads to a small flat saddle (bivvy site, N43.20095 W4.84756, 2323m). Here a row of cairns leads up from the L – this is the shorter route mentioned earlier (described on the return journey). The ascent continues straight on from the bivvy site- slight descent, then crosses a small scree slope before climbing half-R up the slopes of Cerredo. At N43.19965 W4.84857, 2369m, a false trail goes steeply R up a stony gully. Avoiding this, the cairned route keeps L, round a corner then slants upward – easy YDS 3 scrambling (fairly exposed). Watch carefully for the cairns – if you can’t see one you are off route and likely to get into danger. Easier (YDS 2+) terrain is reached – follow cairns uphill to a fork (N43.19726 W4.85130, 2485m), go R here and in a few metres reach the foot of a scree slope at the foot of an obvious wide gully, with a choice of a scree path or a cairned path a little further R which climbs a rocky rib. The cairned path climbs the wide gully a short way then exits R up an easy 5m wall (hardish YDS 3 scrambling via a small chimney or easier scrambling immediately to its L). Alternatively head straight up the gully (which bends R and narrows) then exit R near the top (moderate YDS 3 scrambling). The route now angles L, crosses the top of the gully then climbs steeply (YDS 2+ and YDS 3). The most worn / better used route keeps to the L edge with significant exposure, or you can climb up more directly. Two small caves are reached (look like cramped bivvy sites). The route now traverses L a few metres then climbs R up a crack (easy YDS 3) to gain the ridge a few metres (easy ground) from the compact summit, which is marked by a rather battered cylindrical trig pillar and has a superb view. N43.19775 W4.85284 GPSr. We are there at 12:05 in 3h 55 and depart at 12:30.

Care is needed on the initial descent as there are a few false trails. Look for the crack then the two caves – then the way is obvious, albeit very steep and exposed. Arriving at the wide gully there are two options as described above. Easiest in descent is to turn R immediately and enter the gully near its narrow top end, YDS 3 scrambling, a little out-of-balance but the holds are good and there is little exposure. Then descend scree path, then pick up the line of cairns and carefully follow them back to the col with the bivvy site (N43.20095 W4.84756). Here we turned sharp R - cairned path on red scree, soon cuts back L and crosses a lower col, N43.20304 W4.84453 approx. At this col is a fork. We didn’t notice it initially and followed the main path which curves R, partway up the Pardida ridge before realising our mistake. It seems this is a high level route which crosses the ridge then descends to the 2289m saddle at N43.20554 W4.84056. We retraced our steps to the col then followed the (now obvious) path which skirts R (SE) of the large pit. This crosses limestone slabs at N43.20486 W4.84363, YDS 3 scrambling, fairly easy if you keep to the trail, but fairly exposed. The cairns then lead uphill to the fork (N43.20504 W4.84186). We then returned along our ascent route (the scramble down the steep polished little gully was simple) and were back at the Ref Vega Urriellu at 15:30 - 3h from the summit. We could see a few climbers on El Naranjo – flies on the wall – must have been hot in the afternoon sun.

We bought cans of drink, Tapas (dry bread, stringy ham and tasty salty sausage), then retrieved our overnight gear and at 16:30 we headed back towards El Cable. The downclimb from the first saddle (N43.19884 W4.82730, 2079m) is not immediately obvious from above – follow the cairns L to reach an easy gully. 2km further on, immediately before the steep cable climb, note there is a fork (N43.18305 W4.83018 approx – I didn’t waypoint it). For the direct route, fork L and follow cairns and yellow paint marks directly uphill. The R fork makes a level traverse – it is possibly the alternative mentioned in Petter Bjorstad’s report which avoids the cable section. However the cable section is easy in ascent (in good conditions) – the cable isn’t really needed – easy YDS 2+. Back at the Hercados Rojos col N43.18055 W4.83274 we meet a group who are planning to bivvy there. Continuing, we run the steep part of the descent, walking out to reach the El Cable top station at 19:15, exactly 24 hours after leaving it. This is quite appropriate as we are both veterans of several sub-24-hour hillrunning challenges including the celebrated 66 mile 26,000 ft Bob Graham Round in the English Lake District (although these don’t include a 7 hour bivvy).

There was a 1h30 wait for the teleferico. We could have taken the exciting-looking path down to Fuente De (assuming we could find its start, presumably a short way E of the top station) but instead bought some more cans of drink and rehydrated while enjoying the view from the large cafe. Back at the lower station we were away at 9pm and drove E, N to W then Geoff’s place near Infiesto, arriving at 23:40 after a long and very satisfying day. This completes my Spanish Ultras - all four are good but I have left the best until last!

Cerredo photos

We were travelling very light by the standards of everyone else we met and our times reflect this.
We didn’t use helmets – not a problem as we met hardly anyone, but on a busy day (Saturday?) helmets might be advisable.
We had Geoff’s topo map and Petter Bjorstad’s report and in good visibility we had no routefinding problems. The ascent is probably best avoided in poor visibility unless you like following a GPS track, and would be trickier in rain (wet slippery limestone).
Bad weather is more likely in the Picos than in the rest of Spain and it is worth allowing at least one extra day for weather. Also allow plenty of time for queuing at the teleferico, and for the hut approach. Petter gives contact details for the teleferico and the hut (there are 50 bookable beds at the Urriellu refuge). One assumes the 8pm summer evening cutoff for El Cable is when they stop selling tickets as they were operating until at least 9pm.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3986 ft / 1213 m
    Extra Gain:656 ft / 199 m
    Round-Trip Distance:17.6 mi / 28.4 km
    Route:Urriellu and Horcados L’Arenara
    Trailhead:El Cable (Fuente De´)  6017 ft / 1833 m
    Grade/Class:YDS 3
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:16 Hours 45 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:6 Hours 45 Minutes

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