It was maybe a bit overconfident of ourselves to make this walk our first, but the weather looked great on our first day and looked less stable on the next days, so we just went for it. The guidebook said the walk would take us 4 hours and 30 minutes, so that sounded doable. We had forgotten that last year in Ordesa we usually needed a lot longer than what the guidebooks told us. But as I said, the weather looked nice, the mountains looked inviting, and the hike was going downhill for the most part.
We had breakfast at 8 AM and made sure we arrived at the cable car before 10 AM when it opens. At 20 minutes before 10 AM there was already a queue. We put our walking boots on, filled our water bottles (we bought a large 6 liter water container in the supermarket), and joined the people waiting in line. The doors opened at 10 AM sharp. The ride costs 11 euro for a single ride and 17 euro for a return ticket. There are reductions for children, schools, people over 65, groups and large families. We eventually got into the third cable car ride. The cable car can hold 20 people at a time, and went up at 10:20 AM. The ride takes less than 4 minutes to get to the top. Don’t forget to enjoy the beautiful views from the car when going up.
At the top you can enjoy the fantastic views of the Picos from a viewing platform. There is a cafeteria and a little shop. We bought the English language guide for Picos de Europa, with all the walks and three maps that cover the whole area of Picos the Europa (15 euro). There is also an information centre which wasn’t open yet. Walk 24 makes the transition from high mountains to the Atlantic forest passing through pastures and meadows.
All walks start together at the cafeteria. You first make a brief climb to the Horcadina de Covarrobres. At the first intersection you can take a left for the PR PNPE 23 , a walk we want to make later on in the week. For the RPN 24 and 22 you just continue straight. There are quite some bird watchers who come to the top of the Fuente De. There is a special route marked for ornithologists. There were still some snowpatches left on this height, and some deer were resting on a slab of snow.
During the first hour of the walk you pass the Royal hunting lodge of Alfonso XIII on your left and then reach the Aliva hotel/refuge. You see the peaks of the Oriëntal part of the massif: Pico de Camara, El Jisu, El Pico Cortés. In the meadows, cows, sheep and horses roam. At the hotel you can enjoy a drink or a bite on the terrace with a magnificent view of the road ahead.
Most of the road goes downhill, you pass some tracks to the left going to Sotres and Mogrovejo. The road follows the course of the river Nevandi. We watched an Egyptian vulture hunt in a meadow next to the track. When they walk they can be mistaken for a simple chicken from where we were watching.
You pass a gate to prevent cattle from passing, and from here the descent to Espinama starts. From Espinama you have to follow the asphalt road for 3 km to reach the cable car. We took the track to the right that goes directly back to the start of the cable car without having to walk the main road. The descent is quite long and steep, with some ascending parts in between. The route follows a beautiful forest trail on the southern slopers of the Valdecoro, through oak and beech forests.
The walk ends at the Parador of Fuente De. The walk is said to take 4 hours and 15 minutes. It took us 6 hours, but we tend to pauze a lot to take pictures and enjoy the views. And we rested often in between because the walk is quite difficult and tiring, especially with the sun beating down on us in the afternoon. The weather was magnificent all the way, sun, blue skies with a breeze in the higher parts of the mountain. The views are just wonderfull all the way. It is a highly recommended walk, but which can be crowded during July and August. In June it is just great, nice and quiet, with little other walkers, so you are alone on most part of the walk. Just make sure you take enough water, some snacks, a rain jacket, a sweater and sun cream.