Climbing Mount Teide
Walking up Mount Teide
When I tell people I've climbed Mount Teide, their first response is usually to ask "Why?" and point out that there is a perfectly good cable car that will take you up 9 tenths of the way. When I tell them that in autumn 2009, I climbed the mountain 3 times in 3 weeks, they begin to look at me like I've gone completely bonkers.
The truth is, only other hikers truly understand the hill-walking bug. The desire to conquer a Mountain and reach its summit for no better reason than "because its there" is a difficult thing to verbalise. There's an element of masochism involved for sure, but that's true of heading down the gym to work off that festive flab too. I think hill-walking has more to do with pitching yourself against the elements of nature and what better place to do that the highest volcano on European territory?
For the uninitiated, Mount Teide, is a stratovolcano rising 3,718 metres above sea-level and is situated the middle of the Canary Island of Tenerife. Technically the volcano is classified as dormant. That said, after burning the soles of my feet on a hot-spot near the summit and gagging on the sulphur fumes, Teide seems very much awake to me.
The most popular route of ascent is from the base of the neighbouring peak of Montaña Blanca. There's a small car park on the main road (TF-21) and a dirt track winds its way up around the north side of Montaña Blanca. It should take about an hour to reach the point where the dirt track runs out and steep rocky footpath up Teide's main bulk begins. Take heart though, because at this point you will have already climbed around 400metres.
Still the bulk of the Mountain still lies ahead. Another 500m of calf burning ascent brings you to the Refugio de Altavista, the mountain cabin. Which if you pre-book, you can use for an overnight stay.
By now you are well over 3,000m above sea-level and there's a real risk that some people may start suffering the effects of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Symptoms include: headache, dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite or a general malaise. AMS can hit anyone, regardless of physical fitness and the only cure is to descend. To keep climbing is folly as AMS can lead to cerebral oedemas which tend to be a quick way to ruin a perfectly good day.
Put simply, if you get any symptoms of altitude sickness, get off the Mountain - you wont feel better by popping an aspirin.
From the mountain cabin, the next leg towards the upper reaches are the toughest, the summit is obscured by the bulk of mountain and your lungs burn due to the lack of oxygen. Still there are a few highlights. The ever improving view and the ice-cave (cueva del hielo) which can be found by following a small detour to the right of the main footpath. As the name suggests, the ice cave is full of ice. Even during the summer months. A rusty ladder allows you descend into the cave and have an impromptu snowball fight with any friends who you have coerced into joining you.
Onwards and just when you are deciding that perhaps the beach would have been more fun, the summit comes back into view and your goal is in sight. You emerge near Mirador de La Rambleta just below the summit cone. At this point you are roughly level with the upper cable car station and you'll meet all sorts of people many of them dressed for the beach, rubbing their arms or blowing their hands. Still as a serious hill-walker you don't have to suffer these touristy types for long.
Armed with your summit access permit, which you would have obtained at least one week before from the park rangers office, you can gain access to the exclusive Telesforo Bravo path which leads to the summit.
Whatever pace you started your walk at, by now you can guarantee to have slowed to a virtual crawl. 4 hours of walking and nearly 1500m of ascent at high-altitude is sapping. The last 180m to the summit takes around 40 minutes. In terms of scale the crater summit of Teide is smaller than you might think, especially if you've glimpsed it from the coast. Small fumaroles emit a noxious stench of sulphur-dioxide and you'll look for opportunities to stick your head up above the crater to catch some breaths of fresh air from the north-easterly trade winds.
Still few mountains have such prominence coupled with such a relatively small summit, so standing on the summit of Teide gives you that unique, almost vertigo-like feeling of standing on the roof of the world. The view is naturally stunning too. On clear days you can enjoy 360 degree panoramic views of Tenerife and see across the ocean to the neighbouring islands of Gran Canaria, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro.
With a lungful of fresh air, an eyeful of great view and a head full of vertigo, its now time to head back down. If its before 16:45 you could get the cable car, but I'm crazy hill-walker so I'm going back down the way I came.
Want to Climb Mount Teide?
Best Time to Go:
April-June or Oct-Nov. Avoid the summer heat and the winter cold, Teide can be icy and snow-capped for much of winter.
What to take:
At least 3 litres of drinking water, fleece/sweater, water-proofs (just in case), torch, sun protection and enough food for 8 hours walking. Camera optional but recommended.
Who to do it with?