Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Roque de Jama or the Trail of the Lonesome Pine

This is a guest blog from Derek Fisher, a walker from England who visits Tenerife most winters and sometimes walks with me in the south of the island. Last year, he purchased a copy of 'Discovering Tenerife on Foot' and during his visit in January of this year, he completed the walk to Roque de Jama. I give this walk the highest rating in the book, not because it is necessarily the most strenuous but because the path is difficult to follow and the summit is quite exposed and dangerous. The following is Derek's account of the walk. I would also like to point out that Derek is 76 years old and I have frequently been amazed by his fitness and stamina when out walking with him as he skips across rocks and boulders, often taking the most difficult route across the mountainsides. I only hope that I can remain as fit and active as Derek when I am his age.

Roque de Jama or the Trail of the Lonesome Pine
Derek Fisher

I usually go on a couple of walks with Gary every time I visit Los Cristianos but this year I left it late to contact him so I had to fend for myself. Last year I bought "Discovering Tenerifeon Foot” so I thought I would test whether it was idiot proof. Roque de Jama seemed an eminently suitable walk. It was on a good bus route (every 20minutes) and was one of the toughest but one of the shortest in the book.
One of the greatest problems with walks both at home and abroad is locating the starting point. I’d already wasted about half an hour a few days earlier in Arona trying to remember where the start of the trek up El Conde was. Gary not only gives sufficient detail so this problem is avoided in this and all his walks but makes sure you get off the bus at the right place as well.
The first part of the walk is along roads, their very steepness presenting a strong early challenge. However the effort was rewarded by interesting features such as a 2 arch aqueduct and good views down the Valle of San Lorenzo to the towns of La Camella and Cabo Blanco. The timing of this part of the walk given by Garywas 30mins. He must have been pushing it because I struggled to do it in 35. There were a few points where one could have gone wrong had the road names not been given. Again this is a very good provision
On reaching the open mountain side the directions again were very good guiding upwards on a cairned pathway of varying degrees of roughness and distinctness. In the early stages one passes an old oven and a threshing circle before getting a view of the coast at El Medano near the airport and Montaña Roja sticking out into the sea. I’d spotted on the summit ridge what I thought was a jagged cairn so I regarded it as a useful landmark. Unfortunately I got a little careless as I got near the ridge. I lost the path and had to scramble up the nose of the ridge which I quite enjoyed. I was quite surprised when my landmark cairn turned out to be what Gary refers to as a lone pine tree. Hence my subtitle for the walk- “The trail of the Lonesome Pine”
From the lonesome pine, a rocky path takes one to the top of the ridge which includes about 50yards of a jumble of huge rocks tilted at a variety of angles. I have a good head for heights and normally this would not present any sort of problem for me but there was something about the end of this ridge which sent a little shiver down my spine. Maybe it was the contrast between the earlier part of the route up the friendly dip slope with its cactuses and spurges and the bleak summit ridge with its precipitous drop in to the valley below. This was perhaps exacerbated by my inadvisably being on my own.  Nevertheless the 360degree views were spectacular. There was Teide seated majestically in Las Cañadas to the  north, Montaña Roja to southeast, Los Cristianos and Playa de Las Americas in the South and in the West, El Conde where I’d been a few days before  with Roque Imoque  nearby. I’d love to climb Imoque’s sharp pinnacle were I able to find someone with the necessary technical expertise to help me.
 At the end of the ridge is a daunting rocky pinnacle 30 or 40 ft in height. Gary did not exaggerate when he said it was not for walkers. Set into the pinnacle is a cave seat but at this point the ridge is only a few feet wide. I sat on the seat intending to have lunch there but left after a few minutes. It was quite cold there but I suspect apprehension still lingered and influenced my departure.  
I’d taken about the scheduled hour and a quarter to reach the cave seat and after a short break for lunch during which I continued to admire the view, I sent off on the return journey.  I managed to keep to the cairned path by looking well ahead to spot the next cairn. I was also grateful about the warning give by Garyabout not taking a seductive looking path appearing to be the obvious way down.
I descended to the road without incident and arrived at the village of ValledelAhijadero. The given time to that point is one hour. I arrived there in half an hour and back at the walk’s starting point after a further quarter of an hour. My total walking time was 2 hours compared with a suggested time of 2hours 40mins. I tend to descend quite quickly but even so the time suggested for the return journey seems to be a little generous in view of it being scheduled for 10 minutes longer than the ascent. Perhaps the schedule had included a lunch break or perhaps Garyhad worn himself out on the way up!!  
As I made my way down I wondered about how the walk might be varied.  Could one descend directly down one of the ridges to Valle del Ahijadero or would the terrain be too rough?   What if one did the road sections by car? An investment of around an hour and a half would then reward the mountain walker with a good climb over rough terrain, magnificent views and the excitement which this exposed summit ridge gives.
Anyway Garythank you for providing the means for my having a very enjoyable outing- I can certainly recommend it.


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Montaña Chayofita and a Cave with a View

The view inland from the summit
An increasingly popular pastime in the south of Tenerife on the Los Cristianos/Playa de Las Americas border, is the short walk to the summit of Montaña Chayofita. This cinder cone volcano sits just behind Playa Las Vistas beach and during the winter months a steady procession of people can be seen climbing to the summit from where there are stunning views of the coastline and inland to the table-top summit of Roque del Conde and beyond.
The wide path to the top
When I first climbed it, many years ago, the path, such as it was, consisted of a faint trail through the volcanic cinders but now, a clear dirt path has been forged to the summit cairn. 

The View Inland
Part of the increase in popularity appears to have coincided with the local authorities placing an information board at the start of the path with a map showing the route, although quite why anyone needs a map I'm not sure. 
The Summit Cairn
Although the elevation is quite modest, the views to be had from the top certainly aren't as the panorama stretches from Montaña Guaza, with superb aerial views of Playa Las Vistas and Los Cristianos harbour and, on clear days, as far as the Teno Mountains in the west. 
Montaña Guaza
Inland, the most prominent feature is the peak of Roque del Conde but on a clear day the mountains in the National Park are visible too. As I climbed to the top, I shared the path with older people who quite clearly weren't used to walking up steep hills, as well as ultra-fit German walkers with trekking poles using the path as part of their daily keep-fit circuit and groups of curious holidaymakers climbing to take in the views. 
Las Vistas Beach
As with most cinder cones, there is a crater in the centre and as I descended, I noticed a small building in the bottom which seemed to be attracting people's attention and as I watched, a man carrying a number of water bottles headed towards the construction. 
Cave House & Garden
By now, my curiosity was aroused, so I descended into the cone and was amazed to find that the building was a small shelter containing water bottles while next to it was the entrance to a cave. It soon became apparent that this man was living in the cave, which he had furnished with a bed and one or two other pieces of furniture as well as carpets on the floor. There was even a calender on the wall and a radio playing music! 
Entrance to Cave House
The entrance to the cave-house, which had a small roped off garden area in front of it, was accessed by a pathway lined with verode bushes. As the man deposited his water bottles in the shelter and headed off back down the hill, people walked up the 'garden path' to have a look into his house. 
Inside the Cave House
Outside, a plate full of coins sat on a rock where people had left small donations as an 'entry fee'. I took my opportunity to take a couple of photographs before leaving a few coins on the plate and heading back down into town.