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words by Alexander Huber pic by Heinz Zak
While the first ascensionists, José Luis García Gallego and Miguel Ángel Díez Vives needed 69 days in winter 33 years ago, the German climbing duo of Alexander Huber (47) and Fabian Buhl (25) required only nine 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 wall by the first ascensionists is still a record to this day. No-one else has climbed for so long without a break on a rock face. The purist protection they used contributed to the myth: apart from the belay stations, they climbed this route almost completely without the use of bolts, which is precisely why repeats of this route are very rare. Huber and Buhl invested five days in checking the route, before daring to try red-pointing it, which they managed on their first attempt. During their climb in September 2016, the first Spanish media representatives made their way to Asturias to report on this sensational ascent.
One of the mythical routes in the history of climbing – 69 days on one wall without returning to the ground once. That’s a real world record. And it wasn’t just that. The route on which José Luis García Gallego and Miguel Ángel Díez Vives demonstrated their abilities is a true statement of climbing in the eighties. When you know that the ascent began in March 1983, you realise that it was no camping trip. This was a real adventure, in the truest meaning of the word, right in the middle of civilised Europe.
The Picu Urriellu, a peak known better as the Naranjo de Bulnes, is the most prominent climbing peak on the Iberian Peninsula, at least from an international perspective. No other wall has a combination of factors that comes close to its size, steepness, difficulty and rock quality, as well as all the routes, many of which are historically important. Rabada and Navarro were the first to climb the west wall, following in the footsteps of the legendary Cainejo, who made the first ascent of this free-standing limestone monolith in 1904, together with his client Pedro Pidal.