The northern coast of Spain in the Bay of Biscay provides some excellent rock climbing, sport climbing and bouldering. This rugged, compact and incredibly green part of Spain is one of Europe’s best-kept secret climbing areas. The map opposite shows the largest rock climbing and bouldering areas in northern Spain.
Rising from the green valleys between Santander and Gijon is the mountainous area of the Picos de Europe. Here there are long Alpine style routes with some big-wall routes up to 700m long. The Picos is a huge area of wild limestone peaks offering rock climbers and mountaineers a wealth of routes in a range of styles, sizes and difficulties.
The photograph above shows the imposing tower of Naranjo de Bulnes, which is the classic Picos peak. On this peak there are well bolted sport routes and trad routes, with the shortest being around 250m. The longest are approximately 700m long, or around 19 pitches. Descents are relatively easy with well-equipped abseil points. The Free Climbing in Picu Urriellu (Naranjo de Bulnes) Guidebook describes 27 of the best routes on Naranjo de Bulnes that is available to buy from our shop.
The climbing is centred on the Cabrales valley and around the small town of Arenas de Cabrales, where plenty of accommodation, shops, bars and restaurants are found. The ideal time to climb in the Picos de Europe is from June to September when the weather is fairly stable.
To the south of Santander there are several bouldering areas that have recently been developed, with the largest being Santa Gadea. As shown on the above map there are 3 main areas, which are Santa Gadea, Las Tuerces, and Resconorio. All of these are sandstone boulders, except Las Tuerces, which is limestone.
Rock Climbing and Bouldering Areas in Northern Spain
|No||Crag Name||Type of Climbing||Type of Rock||No of Routes||Single or Multi-pitch|
|8||Villanueva de la Tercia||Sport||Limestone||84||Single|
|13||Picos de Europe||Trad and Sport||Limestone||450+||Both|
|14||Poo de Cabrales||Sport||Limestone||88||Single|
The bouldering provides a good range of grades and the landings are generally very good. Resconorio lies at an altitude of 1200m and is therefore an ideal place to visit during the summer, where as Santa Gadea and Las Tuerces are ideal throughout the year with the exception of the hot summer months.
Between the towns of Oviedo (near Gijon) and inland towards Leon are a series of limestone crags of all shapes and sizes. These crags host a fantastic selection of accessible sport climbing venues, of which the largest are shown on the above map. These limestone crags are well bolted and cared for by a committed local climbing population. There are many thousands of routes across a wide range of grades, with many routes between F6a and F8a+. What is also great about this area is that the climate is amenable to climbing throughout the year including the summer months – something that is unusual in other part of parts of Spain.
Quiros is set within a fantastic location above a lake with a wealth of climbing across all grades on over 20 separate sectors. There’s a great variety of climbing from slabs and walls, to tufas, overhangs and roofs. Here the single pitch routes tend to be long, as well as having a good mixture of multi-pitch routes. The largest sport climbing crag in this area of Northern Spain is Teverga, which comprises of over 25 sectors and more than 450 routes. Indeed Teverga would merit inclusion as one of the best crags in Spain with a huge variety of climbing styles to pick from. There are short easy routes to 40m long overhanging tufas of every shape, size and angle.
Near Leon are the major crags of Valdehuesa and Pedrosa. Valdehuesa is a well-developed crag that is a great option for climbers of all grades. The quality of the routes is excellent with the climbing generally being fingery and technical that demands a precise approach. Pedrosa is a huge crag that is almost 1km long. The climbing here is slabby and on steep walls that are perfect for the mid-grade climber.
The gorge of La Hermida, located between the towns of Panes and Potes, to the west of the Picos de Europe, is one of the fastest growing areas for sport climbing in northern Spain. The crags of La Hermida offer a wide range of grades from the amazing tufas at steep crags such as Rumenes and El Infierno to many crags that offer really enjoyable climbing at a more reasonable standard in equally impressive surroundings. The climbing is located on both sides of the river and is always on a high quality limestone rock.
There are 2 main climbing guidebooks covering the sport climbing in this area of northern Spain. “Roca Verde” covers 53 crags in this area detailing over 3,400 of the best routes. Published in June 2014, all the routes are shown on colour photo topos, and the text is in Spanish and English throughout. “Sport climbing in Cordillera Cantabrica” covers 54 crags detailing over 4,000 routes. Published in June 2017, all the routes are shown on colour photo topos, and the text is in Spanish and English throughout. Buy these rock climbing guidebooks for northern Spain from our shop.
Access to this part of Spain is very good with major international airports at Aviles, Santander and Leon. Alternatively ferries are available from across Europe to the ports at Gijon and Santander. Unlike the more popular Spanish areas of Costa Blanca and Lleida this region has relatively few local climbers providing the added bonus of quiet crags and limestone rock that is mainly unpolished. Together with a slew of very good crags to “discover” and a climate that means it is possible to climb throughout the year, this is another great option for a climbing holiday in Spain.
Click on the above images to view a larger photograph showing the excellent sport climbing to be found around Leon and Oviedo in Northern Spain.
This area of northern Spain is also a great place to go walking and hiking, particularly in the Picos de Europa and the Cantabrian Mountains. Find information about walking in the Cantabrian Mountains and the Picos de Europa.
Buy maps and guidebooks for walking in Spain from our shop.
The Free Climbing in Picu Urriellu (Naranjo de Bulnes) Guidebook describes 27 of the best routes on Naranjo de Bulnes.Buy this guidebook from our shop.
Read an article by Richie Patterson, author of the Rocca Verde Guidebook called How Green are my Valleys - Rock climbing in the ‘Valles de Trubia’ in Asturia.