Our eight day “El Anillo Extrem” in the Picos de Europa was the first hut to hut, carrying everything with me, trekking that I’d done since Hazel and I walked the W in Torres del Paine back in the early 2000s.
That time the “hut to hut” element was a 4-5 day side trip during a month long journey from Santiago to Punta Arenas, which meant we only had our big backpacks and probably carried too much stuff.
(Having looked at my photos from back then, we definitely carried too much stuff!)
This time round, with a fair few treks in Nepal and Peru under our belts and better kit generally I think I got the rucksack packing about right.
The day before we set off, Alfonso ran us through what he was taking in his rucksack. The main additional items were a big first aid kit, a climbing rope, carabiners and slings, maps and a GPS.
So what did I take?
- Daypack: Lowe Alpine Peak Ascent 42 rucksack
- Trekking poles: Star Rover
- Trekking boots: Salomon X ULTRA 3 GTX Mid
- Water bottles: 2 x 1l
- T-shirts: 1 x microfibre; 1 x cotton – wore one, carried one
- Long sleeve top: Ron Hill running top – borrowed from Hazel before leaving London
- Shorts: 1 pair
- Walking trousers: 1 pair
- Underwear: 4 pairs pants – wore 1 pair, carried 3 pairs
- Walking socks: 2 pairs, lightweight – wore 1 pair, carried 1 pair
- Fleece jacket
- Trekking sandals: Didn’t use; all the refugios had crocs
I wore the shorts every day, even the wet and windy ones. I could have managed with only 1 spare pair of pants. We had the opportunity to wash a few smalls in Soto and they dried overnight.
For the sun
- Buff: Lightweight Ladakh one, to keep the sun off the back of my neck
- Sunscreen + lipscreen
I wore the hat and the buff every day.
For the rain
- Lightweight showerproof, windproof jacket: my trusty Uniqlo blue one
- Goretex jacket: Didn’t use
I didn’t take my waterproof trousers. I might have worn them (and my Goretex) on the first couple of very wet days, but it wasn’t that cold. Just wet.
- Berghaus Flare 700 1-2 season synthetic sleeping bag: bought off eBay for £8
- Long t-shirt: as PJs
- Head torch + spare batteries (3xAAA)
- Watch with alarm
- Toothbrush & tiny toothpaste
- Flannel & soap in ziplock bag
- Hair brush & comb
- Shower hat: For our one night in a hotel, midway through
- Tissues: for any number 2 al fresco loo stops
- Earplugs: Didn’t use – I’m used to sleeping with snorers
- Plastic carrier bags to keep stuff dry / separate
- Plastic carrier bag for dirty laundry
Personal first aid kit
- Antiseptic wipes
- Paracetamol (headaches)
- Ibruprofen (aches & pains)
- Rehydration sachets
This is a tiny kit, which I keep in plastic zip lock bag in the lid of my rucksack for easy access. I’ve one blister pack of each of the tablets, a couple of wipes and rehydration sachets and a few plasters and compeed in a range of sizes.
Just in case
- Emergency foil blanket
- Money & cards in my travel purse
- Passport & copy of photo page
- NHS COVID pass
- Travel Insurance Policy
- GHIC (NHS) Health Card (aka the post-BREXIT EHIC)
- 2 spare camera batteries, charged
- Mobile phone (and handy as a back up camera)
- Travel diary
Things I wish I’d taken but hadn’t
- Wet wipes: If there’s one thing I’d say, it’s TAKE THE WETWIPES! It’s a hot and sweaty trek and even with bathrooms in the refugios it’s easier to have a ‘wet wipe wash’ than a ‘soap and water wash’.
- Penknife: would have been handy for our DIY packed lunches.
- Nail file: A snagged nail is a pain and an emery board weighs next to nothing. Luckily S had her nail scissors and let me borrow them.
- Another battery for my camera: I turned off the GPS, and eeked out the battery to Poncebos. So many things to photograph.
We paid to have dinner and breakfast at each refugio, and for a packed lunch most days too. The convenience alone would be worth the expense, but for the most part we were served up excellent meals, especially at Vega de Ario and Collado Jermosa.
If you get a refugio packed lunch, allow space in your daypack for it – some were pretty big!
We skipped the packed lunch option on a couple of days – lunching at the sidrería in Cangas (day 3) and the bar in Soto (day 4) – and had another couple of days where we’d not refugio‘d the night before – day 1 (out of Arenas) and day 5 after Soto. In both cases we bought a large loaf, a big cheese and fruit to share (for day 1, we bought supplies in Arenas the day before, and for day 5 we went to the small shop / bakery in Posada de Valdeón), and shared the carrying too.
We all took snacks, sweets, dried fruit, nuts. Plenty to go around.
Practicalities & Maps
The El Anillo de Picos website has everything you need to know: info & booking for the refugios, routes, recommendations and maps.
My main advice is that the time estimates are for experienced alpine walkers. Even with all the trekking we’ve done, we took a lot longer – sometimes double the estimate.
For maps, we made use of:
- Wikiloc: El Anillo de Picos (completo) from the El Anillo de Picos website.
- Paper Map: Picos de Europa National Park – Anillo de Picos (1:50,000) by Adrados Ediciones, ISBN 9788493317775. At the end of the trip, Alfonso gave us a copy of this map with the route marked on it. Although Adrados do two more detailed maps at 1:25,000, the 1:50,000 has all three sections of the Anillo on one map.
That said, having a guide who knew the route inside out meant we didn’t need to rely on maps or GPS.
On the ground, the routes are way marked – yellow and white stripes, red dots, plus PN PNPE signposts in the main places. Most of the time the trails are clear. The trickiest sections were day 1 (Puente Poncebos to Vega de Ario) over the high pastures and day 6 (Collado Jermoso to Urriellu) crossing the moonscape. On both occasions the way marks were sometimes hard to spot. You do get your eye in though.