Last time our guide, Jorge Talus rode trails by Picos de Urbión, in Castile and Leon, was about two years ago with a friend. As María Sánchez, owner of Entrerrobles camp place at Valdeavellano de Tera, knew about our MTB trips she invited us to her place and was looking forward to be included in our destination catalogue. Nestled in Sierra Cebollera, Entrerrobles camping is well known in the mushroom culture world, this and their famed roast were the perfect excuse to go back to Urbión, explore a new trail and produce a nice feature and video.
On Saturday we woke up at 6am and drove to Montenegro de Cameros, the last village of Soria province, enclosed at the bottom of a gorgeous valley. Our idea was to climb to Pico Urbión (2228m) from Santa Inés pass, riding trails on a crest and passing through a very exposed area to reach the summit. Then we’d go round the cirque to make a downhill to the lake searching what on the map looks like an amazing singletrack that ends in the road that links Montenegro de Cameros with Viniegra de Arriba and Viniegra de Abajo. We decided to leave the van in Montenegro to avoid climbing two mountain passes at the end of the day. At 8am we start climbing Santa Inés pass, 10km of road with nice weather and with no cars at all, strange thing on a Saturday morning. It’s because we are in one of Spain’s less inhabited areas. Beech forest and pines lit by the early morning rays and our amazing Canyon Nerve 29er bicycles with locked suspension that climb and make the way up faster. In less than one hour we are at the bar on top of the road, already with warm legs. There’s a small ski station in the middle of nowhere. But as the bar is open we get some Spanish chorizo sandwiches we hope give us strength, it’ll be a long day.
Once off road the trail starts going up gently from Santa Inés, there’s a couple of steep climbs but nothing serious. Until we crown the summit we’ll be riding the border between La Rioja and Castile and León. Landscapes that start to disclose in zones without threes as we climb and go down over the crest impress us deeply with its beauty and majesty in a way that shrinks our souls. Over to the right are mountains, valleys and ranges of La Rioja, Sierra de la Demanda, etc. Over to the left we have Soria, Picos de Urbión, a spectacular valley with the monumental village of Vinuesa at the end, Quintanar de la Sierra, Duruelo de la Sierra, etc. Suffering starts to reward.
A few kilometres further we turn left and start climbing over a steep trail covered with grass that makes it even worse, it’s nice… but hard. Trees star to vanish slowly and our GPS says we are reaching 2000m high. The trail starts to be more technical with stones and wait… snow! It’s not deep but it’s impossible to ride. In dry conditions, even being so steep we could probably ride the bikes. To escape suffering we stop to shoot some pictures and video, we came here to record our experience for those who’d dare to come with us in the future. Temperatures start to drop and the wind starts to blow and we confirm we are reaching the high mountain area. As we go up over the alpine zone Pico Urbión reveals its pile of rocks, we cheer up, already there! done! it looks like we can reach it with our own hands… Talus calculates with our GPS and tells us that we are at 2km “straight”. This is the majesty of mountains, of great outdoors, its magnitude makes us do mistakes, miscalculations. It might look like done but there’s still much effort to be put in to achieve.
As we start reaching “small” 2100m summits hike a bike segments appear, we have to carry the bikes over our backs. Anyway, in between those little peaks we enjoy short dream down hills with views to the cirque with its lakes and the snow. Shortly it looks like we are watching one of those spectacular videos that crowd the internet… Nepal, Canada, Alps… The solitude and no sign of civilization on sight during many kilometres make us feel like we are in The Andes. We laugh, climb, carry, suffer… sometimes we look at each other perplexed for today’s great feat. This amount of snow was not on our plans for today. Feelings invade us, maybe today we are crossing the line, risking more than we should. But there’s no option, we only have this day to make this trail and produce a feature. Many emotions come to us.
Almost without noticing we are on the last climb to Pico Urbión, over the crest. This one is tough, impressive. Bikes again on our backs and we climb, it’s better not to think, in this situation you’d better focus on the ground and watch where you step, one foot after the other.
And so, step by step we make it to the first ledge, right before the summit, just a few meters to the peak. The most difficult part is done, that’s what we thought, but mountains always have unexpected plans. Amongst narrow passages in the pile of rocks that make Pico Urbión, a few brave hikers look at us astonished as some Ibex did in Gredos. Their eyes wide open make us guess the questions that go through their minds. Why? How? As one of the hikers passes by Alvaro carrying his bike over a snow climb she tells him “you are really brave… you rock guys!”
We shoot some pictures for the memories and carry on a bit more, a few minutes and we make summit. Happiness invades us, we hug, brag our great feat. After a short break we start descending to the cirque by a trail well marked over the ledge.
We pass by a cliff called Peñas Blancas (White rocks), it’s very impressive from any perspective, the snow makes us get off the bike in some segments, but not for long.
After Peñas Claras our plan was to start the descent of the day over a trail that goes down the slope to the cirque between Peñas Claras and other 2100m peak. Here we found our big surprise of the day. The trail is covered by a huge thick snowfield, if we want to go down over here the only way is a steep snow wall. At the end of May, carrying our bikes… not an option. We could unleash an avalanche and it could be fatal.
We keep going until the next peak seeking another downhill option, the only one is a steep wall full of rocks and mud that ends in the lakes prairie. Not many more options and all our expectations are on the final singletrack at the bottom of the valley, on paper it looks like a jewel and we came here to find jewels we can offer to those who’d like to travel with us, quality has a price. We decided to take this option, not an easy one, the one that involves a considerable amount of risk. The ground is loose and wet and as we start descending the rocky and sandy ground starts to vanish under our feet. Those are moments of thick stress. So we decided to keep it calm, take our time and descend as slowly as necessary. Even so we had a bad time. This a 200m vertical descent in 500m and it takes more than one hour, placing the bikes as we go by, sometimes as brakes, others as crutches.
As we reach the fold we keep going down, in complete silence. Each one with his own thoughts and fears. After a while we decided to stop for lunch, relax and let go of this situation we got into and was totally unexpected. This is how mountains are, always keeping the last ace. As much as we see ourselves self-sufficient, it’s always the mountain that lets you go by or not.
After lunch we start riding again, descending over beautiful alpine meadows and folds. The trail is not always clear and we have to walk for moments. So we spent another two hours for 5km. Walking and riding some fun segments, crossing some creeks, what an adventure… Finally after passing a shelter the trail is more rideable and we start to have fun along Urbión creek. Next 9km are our reward, the key to all the suffering we had passed. The trail is almost downhill all the way, only a short ups that any can pass carrying speed, as we reach the last few kilometres it gets better and better, some fast segments, some sketchy, rocks and fast flow that alternate. Finally we get to the road. A sign at the beginning of the trail says Pico Urbión 4h. It’s been epic, Pico Urbión is 2228m high and we are now at 1019m.
There’s still a long climb to Montenegro pass along a narrow road at the bottom of a nice valley. Then a 5km descent back to Montenegro, the village where we left our van. Shortly we are at Viniegra de Arriba, a charming village with houses made of stone and only 17 inhabitants. Some raindrops start to fall and temperatures lower again. We’ve been riding for 10 hours. Right after leaving Viniegra, a man with a truck appears on the road, we start waving without hesitation and he stops and gives Jorge a lift to the top of the road, where he’ll feed his cattle, so Jorge can go for the van. As Alvaro and Jose Carlos keep pedalling up, the man tells Jorge about how hard is life in those valleys, despite being born in Viniegra, mostly during the long and cold winter in such an isolated and uninhabited place. He is a nice guy, gentle and looks like he appreciates some new company. Jorge and the farmer part ways at Montenegro pass, as Jorge rides at 60 km/h down the road, he enjoys the amazing views of the mountains, 5 km of cold ride until he reaches our van. Off the bike and cuts the ride on the GPS he realizes we’ve been 11 hours riding, thanks to the farmer that saved us a couple of hours more and a tough climb. He drives back to Viniegra and picks up Alvaro and Jose Carlos. We head back to Entrerrobles camping with flashbacks of today’s adventure. We are exhausted but happy we finished today’s tour in one piece despite the snow and finding that amazing singletrack at the end of an epic trail. Unharmed after that rock wall descent but with our camera loaded with pictures and clips that will give you an impression of what this experience was. Back in Entrerrobles, Maria feeds us with an amazing back to life dinner with mushroom specialities as we watch Champions League final match and tell her our mountain tales. A long day, a great day that will last in our hearts for a long time, surely forever.www.trackmtb.com
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