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Sunday, 30 May 2010

Montaña Del Cedro Ridge Walk

Last Friday, I walked the hardest route I've done on the island since my ascent of Teide last year. I planned to walk the ridge running alongside the TF38 Boca de Tauce - Chio road starting from Boca de Tauce in the National Park. The walk began sedately enough starting from the new parking area just before the junction. This carpark is next to the Casa de Juan Evora, house of the last fulltime resident of the National Park, who lived there until as recently as the late 1980's. The path from the car park initially followed a pleasant broom and flixweed lined route beneath the towering pinnacles of the ridge that I planned to traverse later in the walk. After a short distance, the route converged with the lava flow from the 1798 eruption of Las Narices Del Teide and the walking became slightly more difficult as I crossed this unusual landscape. This turned out to be one of the easier sections of the walk however. The route plan was to walk to the far end of the ridge close to the car park beneath Las Narices del Teide (The Nostrils of Teide) before ascending the ridge and returning along the mountain tops. As with most ridge walking, once on the the top there usually follows a succession of summits with the associated height gain and loss in between each one. On this ridge, there were four tops, the highest being Montana del Cedro at 2257 metres. As I climbed the end of the ridge onto Roque del Cedro the first summit of the day, I was feeling a little 'under par' and found the going uphill a little harder than I should have. This coupled with the altitude made me feel a little sluggish but this was more than compensated for by the fantastic scenery. To the north the view was entirely filled by Pico Viejo, which was itself dwarfed by the summit of Teide towering over it in the background. Looking further east the summits of Montana Guajara and El Sombrerito silently observed a huge spiralling 'dust-devil' that towered over the Valle de Ucanca as it moved slowly on it's journey across the flat plain. The path across the top of Roque Del Cedro was fairly clearly defined and gave no real hint of the trials to come. As I began to ascend Montana Cedro it became clear that I was going to have to improvise as the path, such as it was, frequently disappeared amongst a jumble of boulders and broom bushes. At times I was climbing on all fours as I scrambled over the boulders before finally reaching the summit. The views from the top were stunning and I had a break to enjoy the scenery before descending steeply to my next objective, the Boca de Chavao pass. This was not as easy as it sounds however as the path, when I found it, was extremely steep and scree covered and I frequently had to force my way between very overgrown sections as I fought my way back on track. After veering off course slightly into a pine forest, I again had to retrace my steps back onto the path before I finally arrived at the pass. Here, I had a moment of weakness as I wasn't feeling too well and seriously considered the option of giving up and using the escape route from the Boca de Chavao down onto my outward route at the base of the mountains. I stood for a while looking up at the daunting prospect of the climb onto the Roques de Chavao and then down to the comforting sight of the level pathway below. After a few minutes deliberation, I turned and began climbing. This turned out to be an even tougher climb with much scrambling over boulders as I tracked around huge rock formations with no obvious path to follow. This was not helped by me banging my head on a rock wall as I concentrated on scrambling on all fours across a rocky section around one of the overhanging rock towers. Eventually, I arrived at the summit and surveyed the fourth and final climb onto Montana del Palo. After another 'adventurous' descent on loose scree and boulders, I arrived at a saddle where I spent a few minutes trying to locate the onward path in amongst the broom before wearily ascending to the summit of my fourth peak of the day. The views down to Boca de Tauce from here were superb and I had the tantalising view of my car gleaming in the sun far below. Leaving the summit, I walked for around ten minutes before arriving at a sheer precipice from which it was impossible to descend. To my left, a huge rock tower reared up above a dramatic, dizzying drop straight onto the caldera floor. Retracing my steps slightly, I located a cairn to the right of the summit leading into a rocky gully. Pushing aside the undergrowth I descended into rocky hollow underneath a huge boulder aided by an old tree-trunk obviously placed there by other walkers to aid progress. Breathing a sigh of relief that I had found the correct route and didn't need to climb back up, I regained the path and descended before facing my last climb of the day, a small hill directly above the car park at Boca de Tauce. Slipping and sliding my way down I finally arrived back onto the path I had started out on five hours earlier just behind the car park. A short walk later and I was back at the car marvelling on how I had managed to traverse the dramatic and difficult ridge despite not feeling too great. It had certainly been a challenging walk and one that would remain long in my memory. Photos opposite.

Friday, 14 May 2010

The GR131 Long Distance Route

While researching routes for the 'Discovering Tenerife on Foot' walking guidebook I noticed that a lot of work was happening in the south of the island creating and restoring footpaths. After encountering various sections of newly created path, I eventually came across one with new signposting for the GR131 European long distance route, which explained the creation and restoration work happening on three of the routes in the book. The red and white paint stripes and signposts along the new pathways are the symbol for this network that spans a number of countries including Spain, France, Belgium and Holland. A quick look on the internet revealed nothing about Tenerife but the GR131 apparently spans El Hierro, La Palma and La Gomera and is designed as an 'island-hopping' route for walkers interested in long distance mountain routes in the Canaries. The section currently being created in Tenerife stretches from Arona to La Esperanza and is 85 kilometres long. The parts of the route that I have so far encountered go from Arona to Ifonche to Vilaflor before heading off up to Montana Guajara. It sounds an exciting, if strenuous route that I will look forward to completing at some time in the future when the signposting is finished and it is nice that Tenerife is now included in this route across the Canary Islands.