Ascent of Montanha do Pico on 2014-04-19

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Bob Packard
Adrian Rayner
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, April 19, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Montanha do Pico
    Elevation:7713 ft / 2350 m

Ascent Trip Report

This was my first ultra since Colombia's Ritacuba Blanco three months earlier. We climbed it the day after our Cabeço Gordo ascent, in bad weather, although it should be a straightforward day hike. It may be advisable to allow a few days, or perhaps visit in June when the weather is good but the place is still quiet, but it suited us to visit at Easter.

One is supposed to sign in at the Mountain House (visitor centre) at the trailhead, but as it opens at 0830 and we wanted an early start, we didn't do this, although Adrian had registered our intended ascent on their website. It wasn't a problem: we called in there after our ascent and received a friendly reception, albeit a little bemused given the bad conditions.

We park at the Mountain House N38.47059 W28.42646 (1220m) and see a couple of lads camped beside the road, hoping to make the climb. However they've had a rough night and don't really seem equipped for the conditions, and we later learn they walked back out down the road. In contrast, the 78 year old Bob makes it up and down, despite pretty nasty conditions.

We start hiking at 07:25. The route starts up the flight of steps from the parking lot and is fairly obvious all the way to the crater. It is marked with smart new 5 foot wooden posts, numbered from 1 to 45, although we fail to find #26. At #2 is a cave-like depression containing a deep chasm walled off.

It rains intermittently and the very strong wind makes for unpleasant climbing, especially above 1900m where the rocks are covered with fresh wet snow. There are plenty of rocky sections, needing the occasional handhold in these conditions, probably warranting YDS 2+

At post #34 the trail bends R and climbs at a more gentle gradient to eventually reach the crater rim. It is extremely windy here and we struggle to make the very short descent into the crater (N38.46667 W28.39882, 2240m, large cairn). Thankfully, as we head for the summit cone, we are more or less sheltered from the wind until the summit. We follow what appears to be a trail (under two inches of fresh snow) then as the angle steepens we climb loose soil and stones to the foot of a narrow rocky gully which is snow free, perhaps due to volcanic warmth. This we climb, with a few moves of easy YDS 3 scrambling leading to the summit N38.46867 W28.39933, 2343m, 12:15), which has a badly battered square triangulation pillar.

The summit is Bob Packard's 168th ultra, but more significantly his 1000th P2k summit (2000 feet of prominence) - he's the first to achieve this and Adrian and I are honoured to witness it. Just a shame the conditions are so poor - I grab a rainy photo before we head down out of the wind and rain.

We pause at the foot of the snow-free gully for some food, knowing it will likely be our only chance before the car. Descending, we fight our way back across the crater rim; the rest of the descent isn't too bad despite the wind and intermittent rain.

We're down at 16:00. We report in at the visitor centre as Adrian had registered our ascent, but the system doesn't pass this info on to the visitor centre staff! Still they're glad to know we're safe.

After some food we drive back to Lajes to our hotel to a very welcome hot shower, and later a celebratory meal with a bottle of authentic Pico red wine.

The following morning the cloudbase is are higher and in time we are treated to a view of our summit with its neat sharp summit cone. We take the morning flight to the island of Terceira, planning to climb Serra de Santa Barbara before heading back to Lisbon.

Pico photo album
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3742 ft / 1139 m
    Extra Gain:16 ft / 4 m
    Round-Trip Distance:5.7 mi / 9.2 km
    Route:Normal route (west face)
    Trailhead:Mountain House (visitor centre)  4003 ft / 1220 m
    Grade/Class:YDS 3
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Scramble
    Weather:Raining, Cold, Very Windy, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Time:4 Hours 50 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 45 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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