Historical route to ascend to the Vega de Urriellu, with an equally geological interest as you walk through the ancient trajectory of the longest glacier in the Picos de Europa. It is also a route of great scenic beauty and absolute tranquility due to the little movement of people along this road. In winter it is the approach with the least risk of danger to the avalanches, of all the existing ones to reach the Vega de Urriellu.
To go from Bulnes to Vega de Urriellu by Camburero, we must pass Bar Bulnes and take the road that runs after La Casa del Chiflón. A few meters from this house we left the town and just after a boathouse very close to the river, we have the La Reguina fountain. It consists of a tube almost at ground level, but drinking water.
We left Bulnes leaving the river on our left and we started to climb by a little marked road to reach Las Castas Waterfall very soon. Beautiful waterfall that practically dries out in summer. Attention on this site: located right on the stream of the waterfall, which will be on our right, we will see a path next to it that is very steep and slippery. Let's abandon all attempts to climb this place. Conversely, we will cross the stream and immediately we will go up to our left along a steep path in which at the beginning we will even use our hands in one step. Continue climbing until you reach the top of a rocky mound in a prairie area. Let's look back: Bulnes is offered in all its splendor.
We are in the key step to take the road well. Here many people get lost and go out of the way to their left, going up the slopes of Mount La Varera.
To guide our steps correctly, we must enter the throat that is in front of us leaving the village on our right. We have to go right to the water channel that gives rise to the waterfall. To do this, we will descend slightly from the mound in which we are among tall grasses (Notice the few existing rocks that have yellow arrows, there is also a metallic sign of the Park that indicates towards the Balcosín Channel) and we will go straight to the entrance of the throat in the place called The Castisierra Voluga (Voluga: narrowing in the river). The waterfall, which we will be hearing, will be below us on our right. Having entered this throat, the road no longer has any loss. We are in the bed of the Balcosín Riega and carefully when the stones are wet, not to slip, we will go around the river.
This place can present problems, in times of thaw or heavy rains, because of the enormous amount of water that the water can carry, which can turn into a real torrent. In this case, there is a step to avoid the throat through the so-called Sedu Balcosín. It is difficult to explain the same in this writing, for which I advise you to ask the neighbors in the town.
The Balcosín Gorge is a dark place in which the sun does not enter due to its narrowness, here we will see an old cabin that was used as a cellar to cure the Cabrales cheeses: the cabin of the Tíu Sindo. Soon the throat opens giving rise to a wide valley and if you look closely, in front we can see the summit of Picu. This road runs alongside a dry riverbed that shows the enormous amount of water that once circulated in this area. Now the waters go underground.
On one side of the road to our left, we can see a quadrangular well, as if it were the base of a hut dug in the ground. It is "a caleru". The neighbors of Bulnes threw from the top of the mountain to our left, entire trunks of beech from Monte de La Varera. They were introduced into this well, on them they threw stones and set fire to the trunks. For days these trunks were burning and undoing the stones that in this way became lime to make the mortar of the buildings of their houses.
At the end of this valley of glacial origin we come to a place where the waters of the river flow again and we pass between some rocks in the place called The Poses the Throat. Here there was a huge triangular stone that was torn off at the beginning of the century by a "poveriu" (snow avalanche) that descended from Carnizoso (next to Urriellu) and dragged it with its enormous weight until almost where the width of the Valley of Balcosín. It is right at the foot of the path where we passed. You can even see the mark of the stone where it used to be, and under which the cows took shelter from the sun in summer. The road begins to narrow again and we pass by the place called La Garganta to reach a llambria (smooth plate of rock) through which the river bed falls. We have to climb this place by holding hands or try to avoid this step a few meters before throwing us to our right through the grassy area. The road is not marked as before, so the route is not very visible. If it is dry it is not difficult to overcome this step.
We quickly enter Jou Baju about 1.050 m. of altitude. This is a small circular cirque glacier in which we will see on our right the steep Canal de Camburero. To climb this channel it is more advisable to lean to the right towards the existing walls. At the beginning of the channel there is a water outlet where it is convenient to provide it, since, although there are two later sources are not easily locatable and even one of them is lost by the dirt existing in it. We will climb the channel that unfortunately is full of loose stones that have covered the road, because of the people who dedicate themselves to go down the quarries have dragged them. From Bulnes to Jou Baju we will take little more than an hour.
Almost at the end of the Camburero Canal is where the fountain of the same name is located, but which is practically blocked by the stone drag. We arrived to La Majada de Camburero, on the 1.300 m. Here you can still see remains of old cabins. This was a traditional grazing place for the residents of Bulnes who spent the summer here with their livestock and elaborating Cabrales cheese. There existed in this place a bar and boarding house (first refuge built in the Picos de Europa) that even had a bowling alley in front of it. It was in service about 15 years, until 1.935. That gives an image of the number of people that could be in place. As an example, we can say that now in Bulnes there are some 20 people, but it came to have a population of more than 200. In this Majada de Camburero they spent the nights of the 4 and 5 of August of 1904, the Marquis of Villaviciosa and the Cainejo, when they climbed for the first time in history the Picu Urriellu. The shepherds of Camburero gave them shelter and dinner. In this place it will not be difficult that if we go in silence we can surprise some herd of chamois or some loose specimen.
Overlapping the Majada de Camburero We went up the Peña les Cuestes. On our left, next to the road, there is a well that served as a cave for the maturation of cheeses. It is known as the Friero Cave. It is currently abandoned. And immediately, if the weather accompanies, the magnificent and great vision of the Picu Urriellu (Naranjo de Bulnes) in all its splendor. The view of this mountain from this place is impressive, one of the most beautiful we can admire. His view will no longer abandon us in the whole journey to follow. To our right and under the walls of the Frailón a steep and loose stones road climbs. Slightly to our left and in a downward direction continues another that goes to the bottom of Jou Lluengu, which is the enormous valley that we have in front of us. If we go in summer, take the latter, the first is advisable only in winter or down from Urriellu.
The road through the Jou Lluengu is a succession of terraces with slight climbs that allow to advance without a strong physical wear, also, if we go in summer and we have early in the morning, we will be able to do almost the whole journey in full shade. At the end, the road climbs and passes through a narrow gorge: The Canal del Jou Lluengu, where there is an old fountain that is now out of use because the prevailing winds in the Vega de Urriellu drag a multitude of objects that accumulate in this narrowing and dirty their waters.
Continue the road almost under the walls of Picu that dwarfs us given its dimensions. In this area it turns to the left, leaving to our right a mouth of chasm that belongs to the Torca de Urriellu with more than 1.000 m. of depth. The Picu "only" has 510 m. vertically on his face O.
Soon our route to join the road that comes from the Collado Pandébano and leads us immediately to the Vega de Urriellu where the Picu Urriellu or Naranjo de Bulnes and the shelter Julián Delgado Úbeda to 1.960 m. So far we will be walking about four hours from Bulnes. Although it should be taken into account that the schedules are relative, depending on the physical conditions of the people, the state of the terrain according to the climatic situation and the weight to carry, apart from the more or less deep knowledge of the route. The distance between Poncebos and Vega de Urriellu in a horizontal route does not reach the 9 kilometers.
The refuge, better known as La Vega de Urriellu, is at the foot of a fountain and consists of 96 squares. It is run by Tomás Fernández and is equipped with an emergency and telephone station: 985.92.52.00. There are meals, drinks and blankets. It is open all year round, although in winter it is advisable to inform yourself in advance by telephone. Given the huge influx of people who register in the area (who will not climb our route) it is very important to book in advance if we intend to spend the night in the refuge.
At the moment the camping ones in the National Park are being controlled and it is not allowed next to the refuges more than one 10% of the capacity of the same one. In this case, no more than 10 stores.
The Picu Urriellu, known since time immemorial by the neighbors of the area with the name of "El Picu" went on to acquire an undeserved fame as a murderous mountain through a series of accidents and attempts to conquer its west face in early winter of the 70 years. It was the media who, using their other name of Naranjo de Bulnes, brought it to the attention of the general public.
This name of Naranjo, of unknown origin, began to be used by the German geologist Guillermo Schulz. At present, this mountain is more known worldwide by this name than by the ancestral one of El Picu.
And finally, we record a sentence pronounced by an old lady from Bulnes, now deceased ...: Why do you call me Naranjo if I can not give fruit? Call me Picu Urriellu, which is my natural name !!
Text and photo report The Chiflon HouseText: © Ramón Molleda for desdeasturias.com
Information of interestDeparture point and altitude: Bulnes (La Villa neighborhood) to 656 m.
Point and altitude of arrival: Vega de Urriellu to 1.960m.
Difference to overcome: 1.304 m.
It is necessary a good physical background and a certain capacity to know how to develop in the frame of the high mountain.
Duration of the excursion: About four hours. Calculate another (eight hours) in case of returning to the starting point.