Jerry’s Tour of the Pyrenées, Cantabria and Asturias – Saturday July 23rd

Infiesto — Lagos de Covadonga — Cangas de Onis — Puerto del Pontón — Posada de Valdeón — Puerto de Pandetrave — Portilla de la Reina (171 km, 3795m, 14-38°C)

Lagos de Covadonga

Got away somewhat late this day, but even after 10 in the morning no personell of the hotel had yet awaken. Had a coffee in bar nearby and paid the cleaning lady after first thinking I should only leave some cash on a drawer in the entrance to the hotel. The plan was very clear in my mind and I was first to go up the famous dead-end road to the Lagos de Covadonga (Lago de Ercina), which end at the foot of north side of the Picos de Europa (the highest mountains in this part of Spain). These mountains I would almost make a full circle around on this day.

Saturday (or Sunday) is obviously not a clever day to choose to visit this place as the road was full of traffic and the road is so narrow higher up that the traffic does not flow smoothly at all even if not so heavy. But, the traffic aside this is a very nice road and place to visit! Just before Covadonga the road starts to climb and when you take off to the Lagos there is a constant steepness above 10-12% for quite some time. I thought it would ease higher up, but it is surprisingly steep most of the time with up to 15%. when one reaches the upper sections there is a false summit where the road descends, only to rise again to the last summit before the descent (and then little rise and descent again) to the highest lake (Lago de Ercina (1135)).

Lagos de Covadonga

It is worthwhile to go all the way to the last parking place after the road runs out. The first photo is from after the parking place and the Picos de Europa lurks in the clouds ahead.

There were plenty of paths and people out walking on them. There were also a gravel road that possibly would make you visit a pass according to one sign. The road is famous for being a stage finish in the Vuelta a couple of times, last time this year! I just wished it had been a little less cloudy this day. I got many cheers by kids on the way up saying ”animal” (which apparently is common to call cyclo-climbers here in Spain). On the way down I had trouble overtaking cars that did not wished to be overtaken – somewhat irritating. Car drivers somehow seem not very comfortable with cyclists here around, despite that cyclists are much more common here than in Sweden (for example), but I guess it would have been a little like this in Sweden if we had some climbs like this too.

Lagos de Covadonga

I took a couple of photos on the way down, all shown here. Down at Cangas de Onis (68) I stopped to buy some postcards of Picos de Europa to send to friends a few days later.

I started out on the way up to Puerto del Pontón (1280) and Puerto de Panderruedas (1450), which is a huge climb from Cangas de Onis. The road is almost flat for a long time and I stopped just before the road started to climb a bit more to have something to drink. The restaurant did not have cold drinks in their soft drinks machine unfortunately, but I did not want to buy a cold one in the restaurant as I thought that would be a cheap trick pulled off by them, so bought a warm one, which after all gave me some energy.

Lagos de Covadonga

The road up to Puerto del Pontón is very sweet but it is also one of the worst paved roads I cycled on in Asturias. Especially so in the long gorge where many rock falls had made the road very bad. I was happy I was climbing and not going downhill here.

The climb was not very steep, but long and hot. After the pass the road goes down only a little before a road takes off up to Puerto de Panderruedas (1450) and the even lovelier south side of the Picos de Europa. There was a water tap just before this last pass, I should tell you (as there was really no water place since Cangas de Onis otherwise).

San Ignacio

The descent from the Panderruedas was lovely on a wide perfect road again. Down at Posada de Valdeón (932) I stopped at a bar and had a good sandwich and fruit juice (this bar run by some younger people seemed much better and friendlier than the most popular bar in town where they could not make any sandwich). Unfortunately I think I got really bad in my stomach that night because I refilled my water bottle again in their toilet wash basin (apparently not a good idea)!

For some reason I thought it was totally clear which road to take out of this little village, but I had gotten my sense of geographical location all wrong. I went on a road that after a while began to descend and then to descend very steeply. It was not until I was just before the end of the road down at Cain de Valdeón (from where a cyclable (with MTB) path would be possible to get down north on (I think)). I did not go down the very last bit, perhaps a bit stupid as there was a lot of cars parked down there and there as apparently something to be seen there. I have read that the farm house down there should be typical and nice, but do not know if there was also spectacular views in the narrow mountain passage there.

Puerto de Panderruedas

A bit frustrated, as the time was running away for me, I hurried back up to Posada de Valdeón on passages with up to 23% inclination! It was not only the road that was murderous, the views were murderously nice as well and I could clearly see why one would want to get down here as I believe the best views of the Picos de Europa are to be seen on this road. It might be the nicest road in that regard in Spain. The very last photo on the page is taken on this road not far from Posada de Valdeón. You have partially better views lower down, but the clouds was a little in the way most of the times and sometimes trees.

I was a little exhausted when coming back Posada de Valdeón. Some visitors down at Cain de Valdeón could not tell me where I was at all (made me wonder how they get there in the first place). I asked a local who was very occupied looking at a local game being played in the village about the road and he pointed it out to me. I actually had thought that road was a dead-end and parking place for a little shop, but lo and behold, it did continue.

Puerto de Panderruedas

I continued up to Puerto de Pandetrave (1562) at a furious speed as I was determined to get out of this valley before the end of the day. It was a bit too touristy to my taste to be stopping at and I needed to get going. It was a very lovely road up there through a very green farmland. I could not see the pass height as there was a cloud up there.

It did get a little chilly up in the mist around the pass height, but I was soon out of the mist and on my way down the barren and dry south side just before the twilight set in.

Posada de Valdeón

I was a bit worried about finding a place for the night as there would only be a tiny village before going up to the next pass, Puerto de San Glorio (1609), which might have proved a bit too much for me and too late. I asked a man upon reaching Portilla de la Reina and there was indeed two places to stay the night at in this village he told me. I decided to try the one on the main road as the other one he suggest was a casa rural, which I thought meant a farm without hot water or similar (but maybe also because it did not look open, if I understood which place it was, which I probably did not).

The little hotel by the main road was fine and the nice lady made me a fine dinner with wine. I do not believe it was her tortilla that made my stomach so bad, but rather the water from the toilet at Posada de Valdeón. I had to visit the toilet at least five times during the night, but was fine again in the morning fortunately.

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