Orienteering up in the mountains is key to safely navigating through Picos de Europa. The Valdeón Valley boasts incredible scenery. If you ever have the opportunity to hike around this region, it is a fantastically enriching experience.
Mountain orientation techniques.
There are many ways to orientate yourself within the realm of mother nature without the need of specialised equipment.
Despite the fact you can navigate without specialised equipment, it is recommended to carry a compass and a map at all times in the mountains. Be that as it may, if it so happens that you find yourself without them for whatever reason, the following techniques could save your life.
1. Finding your way using the stars.
When in the northern hemisphere, the most important star you need to be able to identify is the Polaris star (North star).
The North star is aptly named as it shines bright directly north. From this star we can work to navigate in all directions to get back on the right path.
To be able to identify the north star you’ll first need to find the Big Dipper, otherwise known as the Plough. It is a constellation which looks like a farmer’s plough. From there just draw a line between its two exterior stars forming the end of the plough and extend it out about 5 times, and eventually you will arrive in the vicinity of the north star.
2. Finding your way using the sun.
If you find yourself astray in the daytime and don’t want to spend the night lost in the country, using the sun to orientate yourself could be your only way to safety. Depending on the sun’s position on the sky, you can navigate roughly towards where you want to go.
Firstly, you must know the basics. You must know that the sun rises in the east, sets in the west and around midday is in a southward position in the sky.
From this, you can roughly work out where north is and from there find the path back to base.
3. Finding your way using the moon.
To orientate yourself using the moon, you must know when the it is in its waning stage. This can be determined if its two edges point towards the right, forming the shape of the letter ‘C’.
Conversely, whilst the moon is crescent shaped at the start of its cycle, its two edges point towards the left, forming a backwards ‘C’.
Depending on which phase the moon is in, and if you’re able to tell when it is midnight, you can roughly determine the cardinal point by which direction it’s bright side ‘points’ to.
For example: with a new moon, it will point north; with a first quarter moon, it will point west; with a full moon, it will point south; and with a final quarter moon, it will point east.
The importance of planning your route.
The most important thing to do when thinking of going hiking through mountains and the country is to plan correctly.
Ideally, you want to look at and assess the safest and then the most difficult routes; depending on how hard you want your adventure to be and if you want to venture out of your comfort zone.
Also, you will want to pack a map and a working compass to be able to orientate yourself if you find yourself adrift, in which case you can also phone the emergency services on 112 as they will help you get back on the right path.
The best map of Picos de Europa.
Choosing a good map is pivotal to making sure you can easily find your way back to safety if you end up astray.
To avoid this, we recommend getting yourself a map made by Miguel Adrados.
The high-quality maps are professionally made by Adrados and are the best value in terms of mountain orienteering. Therefore, hiking in Picos de Europa with one of his maps offers a trustworthy guarantee of safety.
Depending on the type of excursion you plan to do and where you plan to do it, you need to choose an appropriate map.
For example, if you decide to hike through forests in Picos de Europa, we recommend the following map: Picos de Europa and east coast of Asturias, Topographical map for hiking at scale 1:80,000.
This specific map offers fifty different routes; many of which are very well signposted in the national park and easy to follow.
You can also supplement the map with the book ‘PICOS DE EUROPA, ASCENSIONES Y TRAVESÍAS DE DIFICULTAD MODERADA.’ However, the book is only available in Spanish.
There are many different and exciting routes which start at Camping el Cares, all of which venture through forests and ascend the surrounding mountains.
This material Adrados, you can find it at the reception of camping Cares. You can also get the tracks provided by Miguel Adrados on his infopicos site.
As we are located at an altitude of 1,200 meters, we are well placed to access the Central Massif. It is just one of the many advantages of being an authentic mountain campsite.