Key information: Jermoso Traverse
- This tough but superb-two day traverse crosses the south-western shoulder of the central massif of the Picos de Europa, the remarkable, jagged range of limestone mountains running along Spains northern coast.
- You will traverse giddy cliffs, pant up steep couloirs and cross high summer-grazing land, all beneath dramatic crags and rocky spires, as well as enjoying outstanding views from the high points. Unrivalled flora and fauna.
- This is high country, exposed to Atlantic weather; rain is common, trails can get cut off by snow in winter, and the area is famous for sudden and dramatic mists.
- Walkopedia rating91
- Natural interest17
- Human interest6
- Negative points0
- Total rating91
- Length: Variable
- Maximum Altitude: 2,319m
- Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
There are various ways across the south-western shoulder of the central Picos massif, via the amazingly situated Ref. Mella just beneath the Jermoso col, but the best is probably the well-established trail from Cordianes in the upper Cares valley.
You will soon be scrambling up a dramatic, exposed path, up and round the cliffs in Pea del Porracho, then continuing round into the beautiful forests of the lower end of the huge gully, the Canal de Asotin.
At the brief respite of the lovely Vega de Asotin, flatter meadow surrounded by the most spectacular of cliffs, you will be directly below the days destination and the main path does climb, precipitously, a direct way up. The better alternative, though, is to continue the long climb up the Canal, until you reach a classic high, broken limestone plateau below the long cliffs that screen off the true highlands.
The path then strikes up another heartstoppingly-exposed path that steadily climbs round the long upper cliffside. At the top of the cliffs, a trudge over more broken limestone and another long climb get you to a grassy little shoulder with miraculous views. Another half hour of superb viewing traversing above and below vast drops gets you to the antiquated (no loo when we were there in 2010 renovations in progress following a complaint by no less a person than the King) but amazingly situated Ref. Diego Mella, just below the Jermoso ridge.
The Second Day is also marvelous walking. You retrace your steps back to the top of the long line of cliffs above the Vega de Liordes, then continue across rock broken by deep fissures and clefts to the 2,300m Pico de la Padiserna, an impossible looking spike from most angles, but an easy climb at the back. Take a leisurely lunch at the top in the company of outstanding views all around, to the lovely Cantabrian mountains and beyond to the plains of Castile to the south, and the high peaks and towers of the Picos central ridge to the north, the beauty of Vega de Liordes directly below.
From here it is a long descent, at times an easy scramble, across brief pasture and plenteous rock, to the top of the Fuente Dé cable car. You are unlikely to relish the steep and very long walk down from here, so be prepared to wait for the too-small cable car, or, better, plan your timing so you avoid high season and weekends.
WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk
This two-day hike traverses the south-western shoulder of the central Picos massif, via the amazingly situated Ref. Mella just beneath the Jermoso col. Read more...
There are various ways up, but the best is probably the well-established trail from Cordiñanes in the upper Cares valley. You will soon be scrambling up a dramatic, exposed path, up and round the cliffs in Peña del Porracho, then continuing round into the beautiful forests of the lower end of the huge gully, the Canal de Asotin. An odd feature.....READ MORE
Other accounts: share your experiences
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
Books on this Walk
Picos de Europa Car Tours and Walks – Teresa Farino/Sunflower Landscapes. Exhaustive step-by-step route summaries
Walks and Climbs in the Picos de Europa – Robin Walker/ Cicerone: Essential, good background information, but it has a heavy focus on rock climbing and is a bit “hair shirt” and a bit laborious to use.
Picos de Europa - Cordula Rabe/ Bergverlag Rother
If you read Spanish:
Guia del Parque Nacional de la Montana de Covadonga – E. Rico and others.
Picos de Europa – P. Pidel and J. Zabala
Picos De Europa, Macizos Central y Oriental (Central and East) http://www.mapsworldwide.com/sku_10236.htm.
Picos de Europa National Park – Editorial Alpina http://www.mapsworldwide.com/sku_10237.htm
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
Mid-June to late September, the latter probably being the best time overall, with generally good weather and fewer people. May and June have wonderful wild flowers, but less predictable weather.
The Picos’ maritime climate makes rapid weather changes, rain and sudden, thick mist quite frequent occurrences; afternoon thunderstorms are common in summer. The thick sea of cloud that can blanket lower ground is a common and (from above) beautiful feature – but is not a sign of bad weather. A lot of rain all year, particularly in winter (when it often falls as snow) and spring. Bring waterproofing and warm layers, even in summer, and stick to paths. Trails can get cut off by snow in winter.
There is an airport at Santander, and buses (run by Palomera: http://www.autobusespalomera.com/1a.htm) run from there to Potes, on the south-west of the region. The mountains’ deep rural communities are spread over three administrative regions, so buses are both scarce (aimed more at the locals’ work commutes than visitors’ convenience) and not-joined-up. The other main bus company is ALSA (www.alsa.es).
People also fly to Bilbao.
Travelling by car is much the most feasible option.
See Walk Summary above.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
Mountain weather: Rain and thick sudden fog are possible at any time of year. Heavy snowfalls can cut off trails and roads, into May. Wear appropriate clothing, carry a compass and stick to paths. Rock falls can be a hazard; always follow posted advice.
Heights: can be dangerous; some walks are not for those who have difficulties with heights.
This is remote country: It may be Spain, but some areas of the Picos are true wilderness.
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Guided or independent?
You can do this walk independently. The maps are not that detailed, and do not show all paths, so take great care and only do so if you are suitably experienced and equipped.
A number of excellent operators run walk-stay holidays here.
- High Places: www.highplaces.co.uk - We used them for a Central Picos Circuit and were delighted. Our guide, Geraldine Westrupp, is an exceptional person.
- Pura Aventura: www.pura-aventura.com/
- Walking Europe do eleven-day self-guided tours: www.walking-europe.co.uk
Refuge or camping, when in the mountains.
See Picos de Europa for general information.
Hostelbookers usually has a good selection of cheaper-end accommodation.
Other information and tips
Useful websites and information
There are many websites with information on these walks. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.
- Spanish National parks Picos website, translated by Google: www.reddeparquesnacionales.mma.es/
Other things to do in the area
Many. See our Picos de Europa page for ideas.
Canoeing/rafting: lovely river routes here, from the doddle to the daring.
Caving: the peculiar geology of the Picos has left it riddled with caves and potholes; it’s described as “the caver’s Everest”. Do not attempt without a guide unless very experienced.
Eating: Superb, sustaining bean-based peasant grub in every corner café. The area is also famous for its cheeses.
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more