The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Tuesday 21 November 2017

The Cares Gorge (Desfiladero de Cares)

I'll start by quoting a bit of what The Rough Guide to Spain says of the Cares Gorge:

Deservedly the most popular walk in the Picos [it] takes hikers into the heart of the central massif along the Cares Gorge. Its most enclosed section, between Cain and Poncebos - a massive cleft more than 1000m deep and some 12km long - bores through awesome terrain along an amazing footpath hacked out of the cliff face.
(see my Footnote 1 regarding the stated length)

What an excellent outing it proved to be! It started, within five minutes of leaving Bertie, with the sighting of an otter in the Cares river, and proceeded with a few hours of wide-eyedness at the magnificence of our surroundings.

Everything I had read about the gorge was based on walking it from south to north (from Cain to Poncebos). We had pretty much decided that we aren't going to venture further south into the hills on this trip, plus the road to Cain is a lot less accessible than the road to Poncebos. I couldn't see any reason why we couldn't start at the northern terminus, involving a perfectly good road. Google StreetView confirmed that there would be somewhere to leave Bertie at Poncebos (footnote 2), so that's what we opted to do.

I took masses of photos, but the scenery is so towering that my camera could not possibly capture what I was seeing.

Here are a few snaps, not presented in order:

There are people in these three, which hopefully helps to give a bit of scale. What they don't convey is how big the drop down into the gorge is. At some points it is not just sheer, but the path is hewn out of rock part way up an overhang:

This one looks a bit blurry, but it's probably the best shot I've got showing a long section of the path as it proceeds down the gorge:

And here are just a few more. I think that the path is again visible in all of these, but it's difficult to tell on the screen of my phone:

Unfortunately, neither of us took a photo of the wooden walkway bit, where an information sign showed the 'before' and 'after' of a tunnel section that fell, in its entirety, off the side of the gorge. Although mainly wooden (on a steel frame), there was one section that had been made in mesh, so that you can look down into the abyss below.

The only downside of the day was the schoolboy error of completely failing to pick up our water bottles on our way out. We noticed at the furthest point where we could conceivably have chosen to go back for them, but we opted instead to manage with just our flask of coffee, accepting that we would have to cut short the outing instead. As it went, the going was so easy (once over the high point, it was mainly akin to a forest track, albeit narrower) that we made it to within 2km of Cain before turning back. Even then, it was more the want to find some sunshine in which to drink the coffee than the lack of water that turned us around. Our entire outward leg had been in the shade, but we could see by then that the sun had hit the path behind us, and we couldn't see that the same was true ahead.

In total we covered around 11 miles with 1800 feet of ascent.

1) The distance signs within the gorge were not consistent, stating the path's total length to be between 10.3 and 11km. The GPX file I downloaded had it at 11.5, but due to the nature of a gorge probably suffered some error due to 'wandering'. I think 12km is an exaggeration.)
2) The parking turned out to be better than expected. I had thought that Bertie would have to be left alongside a road that was sloping to the extent that it may have troubled his fridge. It turns out there's a flat car park too, and whilst it's not massive (and the spaces are small, even by car standards), by arriving relatively early, we were able to find the one slot into which Bertie could be squeezed.)


  1. I remember it well. In fact I’ll never forget it.Absolutely wonderful and I’m very jealous.

    1. Quite a feat of engineering, in such an awesome location, isn't it?

  2. Wow! The photos are superb when enlarged on my large screen.

    1. I'm glad the photos are okay - it's so difficult to tell on the screen of my phone.

  3. So glad you got there. This quote is the biz:

    ‘Caves, hermitages, megaliths, cloisters, remote sanctuaries, cults of impossible saints, faith healers, magic mountains, occulist chapels, alchemical capitals, paintings with unusual symbolism, body mummies, memories of incredible wonders, stories of vampires and wolf men, miraculous seers and mythical legends are still, if not exactly our daily bread, then the salt of another reality that sprinkles our peninsular with the marks of a strange universe, incomprehensible and all the more disquieting as we succeed in penetrating its essence, so distinct from the logical discourse of our dirty days in the city.’