These day’s Puerto de Pajares is best known locally as a ski station however, for many years it was the main route in and out of Asturias. With the construction of the Motorway, traffic levels dropped significantly but it is still used by many transport companies wishing to avoid paying the motorway tolls; so expect a few large lorries creeping past you on the way up.
The start of the climb is about 6 km’s away from the town of Campomanes with the main 13km climb starting at the Puente de Los Fierros (although you will see profiles with the start at Campomanes as it’s all up hill from there). The first 3 km’s hover between 5 and 6 %. The next 3 km’s are somewhat steeper averaging 8, 9 and then 7% before dropping down to a welcome 2%. The gradient increases a little over the next 2 km’s and then you arrive at the village of Pajares itself. However, this is not the end of the climb, indeed, it’s the start of the really tough stuff. From Pajares you start to get more ramps of around 14% (there is one earlier in the climb at La Romia), there is some respite along the way but it’s pretty much hard work all the way to the top. The toughest is saved till the very last with the final half kilometer reaching gradients of above 17%.
The views are great all the way up and there are a couple of viewpoints where you can stop and take some great photos. Once at the top you can always pop to the ski station and ride the Cuitu Negro, which is a brutal climb of around 3km which averages 15% with ramps of 24%. Pajares and the Cuitu Negro have appeared in previous versions of the Vuelta with the Cuitu Negro often proving an important GC decider.
At the top of the main climb you will see the, now abandoned, parador. An impressive building that, although on closer inspection is somewhat dilapidated, from a distance is an impressive sight.
All in all it’s a great climb and a pretty tough one too.
Average Gradient: 7.1%
Max Gradient: 17%
Elevation Gain: 912m
Road conditions: Pretty good