Ascent of Pico de Teide on 2018-01-30

Climber: Mark Trengove

Others in Party:7 (including me) on KE Adventure Travel trip
plus guide Cao Sanchez.
Date:Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Pico de Teide
    Elevation:12198 ft / 3717 m

Ascent Trip Report

After a lazy breakfast in a beach café, Cao drove us in the minibus up the steep winding road through the town of Vilaflor and into the Teide National Park. We parked by the Parador Nacional de las Cañadas del Teide - the modern government hotel, café, and visitor centre, at an altitude of 2150m. To the south of us was the wall of the great collapsed caldera of Las Cañadas, which reaches its highest point on Montaña de Guajara 2718m/505m, a fine peak accessible by a trail from the hotel. To the north, the cone of Teide dominates the view, while the nearby spiky rock formations of Roques de García and Montaña de Roque to the west attract attention in the mid-ground scene. The plateau between the caldera rim and Teide is a desert, with sparse vegetation dominated by white broom and other hardy shrubs that can survive the dry harsh climate at this altitude. Desert it may be, but in the spring it is enlivened by a profusion of wild flowers and blossom, with the white broom's effusive petals providing a spring landscape of white. In a way, it could be said that this area is an extension of the Sahara Desert on the African mainland. Strong winds blowing off the Sahara deposit between 25-40 grammes of silica and quartz sand on every square metre on the plateau every year.

In January, however, the Teide desert is dormant. I saw little in the way of wildlife during the trek. This was not helped by the fact that a very strong gusting north-west wind was blowing, which necessitated the adding of significant extra layers as soon as we got out of the minibus. However, the sun shone from a cobalt blue sky, and most of the cloud that often rings the island at around the 2000m level was below us. We set off in single file along a narrow sandy path through the scrub, led by Cao, our guide. He had a wide-ranging knowledge and deep love for the area and his enthusiasm for it was infectious. Skirting round the south-west flank of a 2259m 'knoll' called Montaña de la Cruz, we reached the main TF-21 road that crosses the plateau on a generally south-north axis. To make quicker progress we walked along this for about a kilometre, taking care to keep to the edge as much as possible to avoid passing traffic. Near the access road to the bottom cable car station we took to a safer route on a path adjacent to the road, stopping for lunch in one of the lava fields near Mirador del Tabonal Negro. By this time the cloud had prevailed, pouring over the caldera rim to limit visibility.

Crossing the road at a parking lot at about 2300m, we began our ascent to the refuge on a wide grit track that winds eventually onto the summit of Montaña Blanca 2748m, the south-eastern subsidiary top of Teide. As we progressed, visibility and temperature dropped still further and it began to sleet and then snow. We stopped briefly to add layers, including waterproof trousers, and then plodded on against the wind. By this time I was feeling (literally) under the weather, what with the after-effects of my flu-bout and insufficient time to acclimatise to the altitude. Still I plodded on upwards, dropping behind the rest of the group who kindly waited for me to catch up before I became too distant. Despite wearing three layers of gloves, I was losing all feeling in the tips of my fingers and had no further gloves to put on. I suffer from poor circulation in my fingers as it is and should have taken the five layers I normally take to Scotland in winter. As the two days on the trek made clear, it is wise not to underestimate the challenges of climbing a peak approaching 4000m in January, even at this latitude.

On the col between Montaña Blanca and the main summit, we left the wide track for a narrower steeper path which zig-zagged up a dry couloir on the east flank of the mountain, and then more steeply still up the east ridge. Most people we met were on their descent. As we got higher the only way I could make slow progress was by reverting to a series of nearby targets to reach, like the next bend in the path. By this time the snow shower had passed and the sun was shining. It did not provide any warmth for my fingers, however, as it was near sunset. I was not the only one in our party who was suffering. Another of us complained of feeling unwell, with a bad headache. Cao came back to assist him and help him to the refuge, which was now near. Eventually the radio aerial at the refuge came into view and, slowly, I reached the terrace shortly after sunset. Stopping to take a few pictures of the sunset view, I dived inside the refuge to join the others.

My first task was to try and restore some feeling in my fingertips, so I kept them under my armpits to warm them up. Feeling soon returned - pain. However, this passed in half an hour, and I was ready to claim my bunk bed in the dormitory with the rest of the group. The dormitory was clean and spacious, and not too cold, though I was pleased I had brought with me my fleece inner layer sleeping bag to supplement the rather thin duvets provided. After a rest on my bed for half an hour I felt sufficiently restored to seek out the washing facilities. There are no baths or showers in the refuge (which sleeps a maximum of 54 people for one night only), and only one wash basin for each gender. However, the two toilets in the mens' (and, presumably, ladies') are proper flushing WCs - a most welcome sight when compared with the facilities I have experienced in some mountain refuges.

I joined my group in the dining room for a ready-meal of instant soup and pasta, made in the one microwave in the refuge. The refuge does not provide food or drink (except from a vending machine). Over our meal Cao gave us some news that was not unexpected for me. He told us that the refuge manager had informed him that a storm was blowing in that night with snow and very strong winds, making summit attempts next day dangerous and without full mountain-rescue cover. We went to our beds early, prepared for a later start next day, and in a downwards direction.
Monday 29th January 2018. The second day of a two-day trek on Pico del Teide 3718m, Tenerife, Canary Islands.

I never sleep well in dormitories, and my night's sleeping was intermittent at best. I woke before dawn to overhear a conversation between our guide and the hut manager, who had entered the room. I have very little Spanish, but I did pick up that the conversation was about the weather. Later, when we were all awake, Cao explained that the storm had passed overnight to a cold but clear pre-dawn and that our summit attempt was now on again. We were running late due to the original plan to descend after a later start. After a hasty breakfast of instant porridge we put on every clothing layer we had brought with us and set off into the night with head-torches lit.

Although as steep as the day before, I found the going easier, despite a slight headache. My fellow group member, who had suffered on the day before, was also in better shape. I still got left behind the others, despite my better progress upwards. As we got higher the path levelled off a little. By now the sun had risen, bathing the rugged landscape in a rich warm orange hue. It looked more like a scene on Mars than on Earth. I caught first sight of the summit cone off to my right. I met my companions again by the top station of the cable car (not running today, due to the weather conditions), sheltering from the wind and cold. As the summit was only some 270m of ascent away, I determined to reach it, rather than stay in the station and await their return. We set off again up the laid stone path towards the summit, with me lagging behind. We had permits for the summit, but there was nobody there to check them.

I found it hard, but the proximity of the summit kept me moving upwards. I passed my group resting below the summit. They had been up, and waited for my return from there while Cao accompanied me for the last twenty metres of ascent to the top. Clouds of sulphurous steam were venting from cracks in the rock near the path, making the route to the top all the more stimulating. I was soon there, and Cao congratulated me when I told him this was the highest peak I had climbed to date. There was little in the way of a view, as cloud was streaming in from the north-west and the sulphurous steam was shrouding the summit cone. We did not linger long there and soon began our descent back to the upper cable car station, where I rejoined the rest of the group.

We took a different route for our descent - mainly down the south flank of the mountain. As we departed from the top cable car station the weather changed in a trice. Cloud enveloped us from the north-west and it began to snow. It continued to do so quite heavily for several hours, for the most part of our descent. A good paved path led south-west to Pico Viejo 3135m/c.50m, the south-west top of Teide, and the going was easy on this path, despite the snow accumulating. We reached a path junction, turning south onto a more rugged steeper path. By this stage it was snowing hard with very limited visibility, and the accumulating snow made route-finding more difficult. Cao did excellently in finding our way down, but I got left behind at one stage as my progress was getting slower and slower. This was mainly due to tiredness and hunger - I had not eaten for several hours - but also to a stabbing pain on the bottom of my right heel, where a large blister had developed. I slipped and fell twice, but no damage was done to me.

Eventually we made it down through precipitous lava fields to a more gentle section which resembled a lateral morraine, but obviously was not as there are no glacial features on Tenerife. The going was easier for a time, but more rugged lava flows had to be crossed to access the gentler couloirs down the flank of the mountain. I gave up trying to keep up with my companions, and was grateful for the help of Paul C in our party who took up a position behind me to see me down. The descent seemed interminable, what with the pain in my foot on every step I took.

When we were about two kilometres from our starting point on the previous day, the snow ceased and the sun shone - so warmly that the snow in the valley through which we were descending rapidly melted. A magnificent scene was revealed, as we passed the jagged rock pinnacles of Roques de Garcia and Montaña de Roque, with the fine peak of Montaña de Guajara, now picked out with snow, forming a backdrop to the hotel and visitor centre. A good path was laid down this valley, which aided my limping progress to the road and our starting point.

See also at

Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Me on the summit (2018-01-29). Photo by Mark Trengove.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2230 ft / 678 m
    Total Elevation Loss:5872 ft / 1788 m
    Round-Trip Distance:8.6 mi / 13.9 km
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Guide, Hut Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Snowing, Frigid, Windy, White-out
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1574 ft / 479 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 1535 ft / 467 m; Extra: 39 ft / 11m
    Loss on way in:39 ft / 11 m
    Distance:0.7 mi / 1.1 km
    Route:Path 7 to Rambletta - Path 10 to summit
    Start Trailhead:Alta Vista Refuge  10663 ft / 3250 m
    Time:1 Hours 15 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:5833 ft / 1777 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 5177 ft / 1577 m; Extra: 656 ft / 199m
    Gain on way out:656 ft / 199 m
    Distance:8 mi / 12.8 km
    Route:Path 10 - Path 12 - Path 9 - Path 23 - Parador
    End Trailhead:Parador  7021 ft / 2140 m
    Time:7 Hours 30 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: Teide Traverse (1 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Pico de Teide2018-01-302230 ft / 680 m
Total Trip Gain: 2230 ft / 680 m    Total Trip Loss: 5872 ft / 1790 m

Statistics by Day

Day Elev. Gain Elev. Loss Distance Hiked Max Elev. Camp
# Date Description Ft M Ft M Mi Km Ft M Name Ft M
129/01/2019Parador to Alta Vista Refuge410112504591408.01612.9106963260Alta Vista Refuge106963260
230/01/2019Alta Vista Refuge - summit - paths 12, 9 and 23 to2231680587317908.63713.9121983718Parador70212140

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