The Picu Uriellu is the dominant mountain in the heart of the Picos de Europa. You can reach the shelter at the base of the mighty west wall in a three hour climb from Sotres through an impressive landscape of mountain pastures and rocks.

Alexander Huber and Fabian Buhl free "Sueños de Invierno”

The north-west wall of Picu Urriellu is the most unapproachable side of the mountain. The large, overhanging area on the lower part of the wall is called “Desplome de la Bermeja” (light-red) due to its striking colour, which is where the popular name of “Naranjo de Bulnes” comes from. The "Sueños de Invierno" route was not just the first route in the Bermeja, but is also the most direct and impressive route on the whole mountain.

Alexander in the middle of the 60-metre-long endurance climb, leading directly through the immense overhang of the Bermeja. There were good holds everywhere, not a single difficult climbing move, but in the end the total number of moves takes its toll.

Plomo, the Spanish version of the copperhead we know from Yosemite. A lead lump with a thin wire loop – the ideal means of climbing up this wall made of compact limestone using bolts, but completely unusable for free climbing. It is not the actual difficulty, but the minimal safety provisions that make the "Sueños de Invierno" so demanding.

Fabian climbs in the grey sea of vertical limestone, mainly just above the Orbayu, the infamous coastal fog of Asturia.

Alexander Huber and Fabian Buhl free "Sueños de Invierno” (540m, 8a) on Picu Urriellu, Spain 

While the first ascenders, José Luis García Gallego and Miguel Ángel Díez Vives needed 69 days in the winter 33 years ago, the German climbing duo of Alexander Huber (47) and Fabian Buhl (25) required only 9 hours: they free climbed the infamous "Sueños de Invierno” route (literally winter sleep) on the Asturian monolith Picu Urriellu – in the climbing world better known as the “Naranjo de Bulnes” – and created a sensation in the whole of Spain. This was because the time of over two months non-stop on the rock by the first ascenders is still a record to this day – no-one else has climbed for so long without a break on a rock face. The puristic protection they used contributed to the myth – apart from at the belay stations, the first people to climb this route almost completely avoided the use of bolts, which is precisely why repeats of this route are very rare. Huber and Buhl invested five days in checking the puristic route, before daring to try redpointing it on 23rd September, which they managed at the first attempt. During their climb the first Spanish media representatives made their way to Asturia, to report on this sensational ascent.


Pico Urriellu, Spain

The Picu Urriellu (2518m), better known as the “Naranjo de Bulnes”, is the most important mountain in the Picos de Europa. It is a pronounced limestone monolith with lots of climbing routes on all four walls. For the Spanish, the Picu Urriellu is equivalent to the Eiger or El Capitan – a mythical mountain with a long climbing tradition, associated with absorbing legends and tragedies. The first ascent was done on 5th August 1904 by the Spanish politician Pedro José Pidal, accompanied by the shepherd and mountain guide Gregorio Pérez Demaría, called El Cainejo. They climbed the north wall without using a single bolt on a route known today as the "Via Pidal-Calnejo". They were followed in 1906 by the German Gustav Schulze, who climbed the Eastern wall solo in 3 hours. In the sixties there were two tragic winter ascents: the first group suffered a fatal accident due to the whole belay station breaking away, while the second group froze to death after eleven days on the wall. In the winter of 1983, Miguel Ángel Diez and José Luis Garcia Gallego spent 69 days non-stop on the wall (a world record) and created the “Sueños de Invierno”, the first A4+ graded route in Spain. Since this time, the Spanish media have followed all ascents with great interest. 

Sueños de Invierno

The first ascent was done by Miguel Ángel Diez and José Luis Garcia Gallego from 1st March to 8th May 1983, wall height: 540 metres, A4+/6a or, for free climbing, 8a

Photos: Heinz Zak