From Sotres to Aliva’ passes

The Puertos de Aliva path is perfect to understand the glacial origin of Picos de Europa, and that these mountains were once ice, and white, the only color of the landscape.

From Pandiello we head towards Arenas de Cabrales, from here to Poncebos, where the road to Sotres starts. Just before arriving, there is a sharp bend to the left. Opposite this, there is a track to the right. This is the path that takes us to Áliva, and here we leave the car. From our house to this point, there is an abundant half an hour. 

The morning is spectacular. Shreds of mist are hanging on the rocks, and on the slopes of the mountains, autumn is beginning to show itself.

Vega of Sotres

The route is easy to follow. We only have to follow the track that runs parallel to the river Duje, which flows at the bottom of the valley.

Cabañas de pastores en la Vega de Sotres, camino a los Puertos de Áliva

Immediately after, we leave behind us on the right a wintering area of livestock huts, the majada del Texu, and some impressive stone cliffs on the left.

We follow the track, which is still gentle, to the Vega de Sotres huts, which are in continuous use and in perfect condition. They are at the foot of Pico Escamellau (2079 m). There is a fresh and delicious water spring there, the only one until the end of the route, so we recommend filling your water bottles here and respecting the environment. The shepherds, with good reason, are annoyed when people without sensibility wash their feet in it, or fill the basin with soap or other substances. We suggest respecting it.

From here the slope begins, gentle but continuous. We soon reach the final moraine of the old glacier. You can see it in the thousands of sharp-edged pebbles, deposited there thousands of years ago by the glacier’s tongue, which was consumed until it disappeared, leaving its treasure of stone as a legacy.

At the foot of Peña Vieja

A fence marks the transition from Asturias to Cantabria: this is La Raya. The track continues, and soon we reach the wandering ridge, Castillo de la Llomba’l Toro, a forgotten stone watchtower on the ridge that separates the two moraines of the glacial valley, clearly U-shaped.

Soft meadows lick the grey of the steep, bare rock. The path to the left takes us, via Llomba’l Toro, to the Áliva refuge, and from there we can glimpse, at the foot of Peña Vieja (2,619m) and the impressive Central Massif, the royal chalet, so called because it was the refuge of King Alfonso XIII, on a chamois hunting trip in the Picos area. Rumour has it that it was not only chamois that amused the king at the time, and that Bourbon traits can be guessed in some of the inhabitants of the area.

Happy End

We are only 4 kilometres from Espinama and Fuente Dé, but we need to go back, so we start our way back, now all downhill. The road has a pleasant surprise in store for us. In the area of the Llomba’l Toro castle, we find a herd of Asturcones (the ancient Asturian horse breed), who very kindly let us approach and photograph them.

Wind whistles and whines in the cliffs. Leaden sky confuses its stone grey with that of the crags. The Duje sings at the bottom of the valley. Rain is in the air. A last stop at the spring to refresh our throats and greet the shepherds, and we arrive, tired and cold, dreaming of a relaxing, steaming bath in one of the jacuzzis at La Cortina, followed by a hot chocolate in front of the fireplace. The perfect end to a perfect day.

Track de la Ruta en Wikiloc