Arriving at the La Vega campsite wearing full winter cycling kit I felt a little over dressed for the spring sunshine, even though I was only beginning to feel my fingers and toes after the 16km descent from Puerto de San Glorio. Our priorities were shelter, food and warm showers as we tried to recover from the cycling of the previous two days.
When we started out from Cangas de Onis on Monday afternoon the sun was shining and we had a lot of highly anticipated riding along the western edge of the Picos de Europas ahead. After a night spent in a wet free-camp located high above a rushing river we began to climb slowly through the spectacular Desfiladero de los Beyos gorge. We passed up the one open cafe we saw anticipating further towns and cafes ahead. By mid morning the weather had begun to clear, the climbing had got harder and we had seen no further cafes. Stopping for a brunch of bread, jam, nuts, biscuits and water we were unsure how much more climbing we had before the pass at 1280m. When the snow started to thicken on the ground around us it quickly became clear that 1280m on a map seemed a lot more achievable than when your legs had pedalled you there on only bread and jam.
We reached the Puerto del Ponton pass and felt a huge sense of achievement at having cycled to the highest point either of us had ever reached by bike…so far. Our descent from the pass lasted about 1km before we turned off towards what we expected to be a further descent to a campsite. Closer inspection of the map showed otherwise.
We began climbing again to Puerto de Panderruedas levelling out at 1450m where we stopped for a quick snack of some more bread and jam at a set of very snowy picnic tables. The descent into Posada de Valdeon was followed by a stiff climb to the shut campsite at Sta. Marina de Valdeon. After pitching our tent outside the gates a local took pity on us and we were invited to camp under the eaves of the campsite office for the night out of the bitterly cold wind from the mountains surrounding the valley.
Up bright and early the next day we began another ascent out of the valley to the pass at Puerto de Pandetrave 1562m followed by a desolate and bone chilling descent to the village of Portilla de la Reina. Sheltering from a passing snow shower in a bus stop we changed into all our warmest winter gear and ate some of our remaining nuts, fruit and you guessed, it bread and jam.
As the weather looked to clear a little we began our final ascent of the day to Puerto de San Glorio at 1609m with a stiff tailwind filled with snow and ice. A passing bread van gave us some much needed fresh bread before the wind literally blew us the final 5km to the pass. The 16km descent from the pass where Emma had met some passing cross-country skiers (they were as surprised to see somebody on a bike as she was to see skiers), saw us walking our bikes down some switchbacks due to the wind strength, sheltering from more snow showers and finally reaching the welcome and open campsite at La Vega.