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Looking back to the Lakes of Covadonga on the final ascent to the Cotalba Peak

This is a classic walk in the Western massif of the Picos de Europa and this time I found myself doing it on the 8th of September; the day of Asturias. We were experiencing an Indian summer so I wanted to start walking at first light of day so as to avoid the mid day heat and left Arriondas at just gone 06,00am. To my amazement at that time in the morning I passed more than 30 people walking towards Cangas and on to Covadonga as a part of their pilgrimage to celebrate the day of Asturias. I thought it would be nicer to be walking in the mountains rather than along the road side, but each has his own beliefs.

On the route up to the Mirador de Ordiales

I started walking at about 07,00 am from Pan de Carmen (just beyond Lake Enol) and as sun rise wasn’t for another 50 minutes (or at least that’s what my gps told me) the first part of the walk along the track was in the dark. It took about 10 minutes before there was sufficient light to see the unevenness in the track and then it felt a little safer walking.

Vega La Piedra sort of meaning the pasture of stones! (On the way to Vegaredonda)

The Vegaredonda refuge is about one and quarter hours from Pan de Carmen and just before you reach the refuge many of the higher peaks of the western massif become visible. By now the first rays of the early morning sun were hitting the tips of these mountain peaks lightening them up in a majestic way and signalling the start of another hot day.

Chamois in the distance just beyond Vegaredonda

From the refuge onwards there is a section of this walk which is some what rockier though the path is well defined all the way. From here onwards you often see chamois and at times they can be quite close to you but today they were remaining in the distance. You soon come to the Ordiales refuge and beyond this point the path is slightly less obvious and you wonder where your going as nothing looks that impressive in front of you. Then almost with out realising it you’re at the Mirador de Ordiales where Pedro Pindal (the founder of the national park Picos de Europa) was buried and suddenly it’s a 1000m sheer drop down to the Angon Valley. There’s a sort of outcrop you can hold on if you want to lean over, I did and my stomach suddenly felt a little queasy, 1000meters is a long way down. I decided it was less unsettling to stand back a bit and appreciate the Ponga Mountains in front of me. No wonder the founder of the park wanted to be buried here.

Part of the view from the Mirador de Ordiales

To start the ascent to the Cotalba peak you retrace your footsteps back to the refuge and then carefully follow the waymarks in the form of piles of stones up the mountain side. There’s an interesting little scramble just before you reach the top, nothing too complicated but a definite scramble. Once on the summit what can be said? The high peaks of the western massif almost close enough to touch, the lakes can be seen in the distance and the Ponga Mountains look as fantastic as ever. Luckily there is an alternative way down so as to avoid the scramble which might have been a little more difficult going down than up.

 Technical Information

Contour Profile Pan de Carmen Ordiales Cotalba

Map Mirador Ordiales and Cotalba

Download GPS trail from wikiloc

Self guided walking notes and GPS trail available for guests from the hotel

Type of walk There and back
Starting Point Pan de Carmen 2km from Lake Enol
Finishing Point Pan de Carmen
Acces 35km from hotel, 50 minutes by car
Public transport options Buses from Cangas de Onis only in summer months
Grading Difficult to Ordiales, very difficult to Cotalba
Total Length 16,5km to Ordiales, 19km to Cotalba
Total Ascent 760m to Ordiales, 1185m to Cotalba
Altitude 1100 – 1700 – 2026 – 1700 – 1100
Total Walking time 5 ½ hours to Ordiales, 7 hours to Cotalba
Terrain Rocky mountain paths, some scrambling to Cotalba
Navigation Medium to Ordiales slightly more difficult to Cotalba
Refreshments Bar at Lake Enol
Map Adrados Western Massif Picos de Europa

 

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