REVIEW: Roca Verde by Richie Patterson

Few climbing areas are as instantly inspiring as the crags in the mountains around Teverga, just one of the climbing areas in Asturias, Northern Spain (nearest airport Asturias, a 90 minute flight from London Stansted). Visiting twice: the first to climb Picu Urriellu (Naranjo de Bulnes) and the second with family (including non-climbing teenagers in tow), I climbed at a variety of crags and was impressed by the quality and variety of the routes. However, the caveat is that we only scratched the surface as there is a ton of stuff to do on very high quality rock.

Roca Verde cover, 139 kb

With so much to go at, a good guidebook is an essential requirement. This has been thoroughly met by the second edition of Roca Verde, compiled by Brit Richie Patterson, who lives in the area. Written in Spanish and English, the guidebook is aimed at both locals and visitors. Chock full of routes, this second edition adds a bit of weight to what was an already chunky guide.

"Asturias contains some fabulous climbing areas, and Roca Verde makes an excellent companion"

There are good overall area maps showing where the crags are to enable you to plan your day, and very clear individual location maps so that you can find them (sometimes rather lacking with foreign guidebooks). You also get a table of symbols covering orientation, sun times, walking times etc. The topo-photos of each crag are excellent, which also enables you to see what you are aiming at on the longer walk-ins and find the routes once you are there. Importantly, the grades seem about right, though it has to be said the routes are never over-bolted. There are also plenty of good action photos, showing what the climbing is like and giving an indication of the atmosphere and views at each location.

With jagged valleys and sharp peaks the region is in some ways reminiscent of a giant version of Snowdonia, right down to the bright green grass. And yes, it is bright green due to regular rainfall (though there are plenty of wet weather options, in caves and the adjacent ‘deserty’ areas) but once the sun comes out the comparisons stop – this is Spain after all. Richie recommends May through December as the best time. I was climbing in early summer this year. The shade was perfect and then as the sun struck the crags it was just a little overpowering – meaning a midday break until the ‘evening crags’ were back in the shade.

Roca Verde sample map 2, 94 kb
Roca Verde sample map, 142 kb

And maybe this is the killer ‘USP’ of Asturias; it can be a great summer destination, unlike most of the rest of Spain, as the average temperatures of 24 degrees in mid-summer mean that there’s a good part of most days that is very acceptable. So as a summer venue it’s also worth mentioning that for family trips there are generally options for non-climbers, whether that’s a trip to one of numerous beaches or cycling on the many ‘hors-category’ passes (or the much easier ‘Senda del Oso’), MTB, outdoor pools or simply walking. Or for those breaking off for a few hours from a family holiday, there is mention of a few bouldering areas, with clear diagrams for how to find some of them - though Roca Verde doesn’t contain lists or topos of the boulders.

My criticism would be that Roca Verde is perhaps a little light on information about where to stay/camp/shop (apart from ads for his own rental house), but then Richie probably had to economise somewhere in this 3,400 route, 500 page epic.

Overall, Asturias contains some fabulous climbing areas, and Roca Verde makes an excellent companion!

Shirley Masterson at Muro Techo, 144 kb
Shirley Masterson at Muro Techo
© Richie Patterson

  • Roca Verde, written and published by Richie Patterson, is priced at £30 and available now at climbing shops in the UK, and on Richie's website here

About Ben Masterson

Ben Masterson or ‘Scotch Ben’ has been climbing for 30+ years. A regular on the early 80s Sheffield scene, he never tires of telling people he was once ranked 8th in the world in climbing. Still climbing between 7a+ and 7c, depending on the day, he tries to climb abroad at least two or three times a year.

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