Friday, 29 April 2011

Sombrero de Chasna

With the Royal Wedding celebrations in full swing, I did the only sensible thing open to me, I climbed a mountain! Setting off from just above Vilaflor, I climbed to the near 8,000ft summit of Sombrero de Chasna on a cold, but mostly clear and sunny day. After an extremely steep start, the path levelled out to enable me to enjoy the superb views down to the south coast. Ragged clouds drifted across the slopes as I made my way to the caldera rim with the summit of Teide slowly revealing itself as I climbed. At the foot of the Sombrero, I scrambled up the rocky staircase to the summit for more views to the south coast and in the other direction to Teide. After leaving the summit, I walked to the edge of the caldera rim, which I followed above sheer cliffs plummeting hundreds of feet to the caldera floor below, before descending back down through the pine forests. More photographs from the walk
Sombrero de Chasna

Monday, 18 April 2011

Walking the Royal Road

The Chasna Royal Road is an ancient trade route that from pre-Hispanic times up until the end of the 19th century linked Vilaflor, Spain's highest village, with the north of the island at La Oratava. This route is a high-level traverse of the island, crossing the high mountains via the Las Cañadas National Park and was at one time the quickest way of travelling between the two regions. Traders would carry their wares on the backs of donkeys, oxen and sometimes even horses, mules or camels, as they led their laden animals on foot, walking alongside them as they toiled up the steep mountainsides. The trail was also used by goat-herders heading for the high pastures of Las Cañadas as the heat dried out the grazing in the lower parts of the island. Even in the height of the summer, the huge caldera still provided grazing for animals, as it once had for the Guanche's animals before the arrival of the Spanish wiped out the indigenous island population. The ruined house of Casa Marrubial can be found along the path and marks what was once an overnight resting place along the way for the goat-herders and their flocks as they headed for the summits of the island. The way was also used by farmers as they went to work in the terraces and Casa Golindo, at the top the El Atajo (the shortcut), the steep hill out of Vilaflor, is now the only remaining finca still operating along the way. The first section of the Crater to Coast walk, which follows the path over the Degollada de Ucanca, is a branch of this ancient way. This lesser used branch, avoids the main GR131 long distance route to the east of Tenerife's fourth highest summit Montaña Guajara, descending to the west of this impressive peak and could not be more different scenically to the GR131 route. Whereas this official route traverses the stark, black-sand dunes of Montaña Arena, the Crater to Coast walk descends through the wild and beautiful Barranco de Eris de Carnero (below), which is framed on one side by the impressive tower of Roque Encaje and on the other by the cliffs of Montaña Guajara. In early summer, the way down is lined with Tajinaste Rojo and Teide Broom, that occasionally encroaches on the path and this, along with the rough, boulder strewn going underfoot, gives the walk in this area an undiscovered feel. Later on in the walk, after descending alongside the lower sandy slopes of Montaña Arena, the route eventually joins with the more populated Paisaje Lunar or 'Lunar Landscape' path back to Vilaflor. The whole of this section of the Crater to Coast route is scenically spectacular, passing through the majestic scenery of the Las Cañadas National Park to Vilaflor, Spain's highest village, with Teide, the islands 'Jewel in the Crown', providing a wonderful backdrop to the beginning of the walk. Last Saturday, I led a group of walkers along the route on a superb day, with very clear views to the coast 8,000ft below the Degollada de Ucanca pass. After around five hours walking, we descended through the 'Corona Forestal' pine forest and admired the carpets of orange California Poppies that greeted our arrival in Vilaflor, adding a vivid splash of colour to this attractive mountain village. For more photos click here

Sunday, 3 April 2011

View from Roque De Jama

Towering 2,500ft over the southern hill-town of Valle San Lorenzo, the peak of Roque De Jama dominates the local scenery. This prominent landmark is a phonolythic dome - the interior of an old volcano that has been exposed by erosion - and is the largest example of it's type on the island. Valle San Lorenzo is a bustling town, easily accessible by local bus from Los Cristianos or Playa De Las Americas, enabling you to easily get to the start of the walk to the summit of this impressive mountain. Although a fairly short walk, it is quite a steep climb, initially along quiet country lanes until you leave the tarmac and begin the ascent of the peak. The walk is graded as 'difficult' in the book although this does not relate to the 'effort' required for the climb but the problems encountered along the way. These include a very steep, tricky path that is often quite hard to locate as well as sections of exposure near the summit that will not suit those suffering from vertigo. Fortunately, as I climbed to the summit today, the conditions were fine, if a little cloudy at times but I still had excellent views down to the coast and surrounding towns. Overall, the walk takes a little over 2.5 hours giving you plenty of time to enjoy a drink or a meal in one of the many bars and restaurants to be found in Valle San Lorenzo before catching the bus back. One of my favourite eateries in the town is the Meson Era Las Mosaz, which is a little difficult to locate as it is in a backstreet behind the BBVA bank but is well worth searching for. Make sure you have a good appetite though as the portions are enormous and you will see many people leave clutching a bag of uneaten meat. Last time I was there on a Sunday lunchtime, it was packed to the rafters and diners were treated to an impromptu concert given by two customers who entertained us playing singing and playing guitars, creating a wonderful atmosphere. The short video below shows various views from the summit of Roque De Jama.