Thursday, January 17, 2008

On Top Of Tenerife

We saw Teide very clearly as our plane came in to land at Tenerife, the day was clear and bright and the mountain dominated the view from the plane. Half an hour later the clouds had moved in and it was as if there was no Teide there at all. We needn’t have worried about the weather, the next day was sunny and clear again, and we could see our objective all the time as our bus wound its way up from the coast to the point where we started the ascent.

We began walking at Montaña Blanca, which at 2200 metres is already higher than most mountains you can visit in Spain. Despite this, ahead of us was a 1000 metre ascent to the refuge of Altavista where we planned to spend the night; meaning that we had to carry all our baggage on our backs too. After a reasonable easy beginning, walking through the desert-like landscape at the base of the main part of Teide, we took a steeper path that snakes its way up to the refuge between tongues of jagged lava left as a reminder of the last time that Teide got really angry.

Having arrived at the refuge without too many problems, despite overfull rucksacks, we dropped off the bags and carried on walking towards the summit. Something strange happened to me here, I have never felt much effect from altitude before and I have been higher than this, but despite having no rucksack to carry anymore I was unable to walk more than 40 or 50 metres without pausing. Maybe it was the change from sea level to over 3000 metres in a few short hours that had this effect. Anyway, progress was slow but steady, and I arrived eventually at the top of the mountain. Hugo Chavez would have something to say about Teide, because it definitely smells of sulphur up there! The volcano may be sleeping, but it is not completely dormant.

Smoking is permitted

From the top (at over 3700 metres) on a fantastic day like this you can see Gran Canaria, La Gomera and La Palma without difficulty. As the sun goes down the shadow of Teide spreads across the island, culminating in an amazing optical illusion as with the last light it seems as if the shadow rises out of the sea.

The shadow of the mountain

Early in the morning is also a recommended time to take a look at the mountain and its surroundings, as the first rays of sun light up the volcanic rocks, as well as providing some welcome warmth; it was intensely cold outside at night. Fortunately the heating in the refuge worked very well.

The morning sun hits Teide

Only half way through January and I have already had two of the most impressive weekends in the Spanish mountains that I can remember, and very different weekends they have been too. The route we took going down was a variation on the one we used to ascend and both are shown on the map below. Expand the map to see more information; I have GPS recorded routes for those who want them.

Expand map view to see route information and points

No comments: