Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Climbing Montaña de Guama

The Santiago Valley

After a fairly lengthy spell in which I have walked very little, I decided it was time to get out of my armchair  and lace up the walking boots again. The previous week in Tenerife had been wet with some fairly heavy rain and although this had passed by when I set off for Santiago del Teide, the skies were still quite overcast.

Teide is hidden in the clouds

I planned to walk above the Barranco Mancha de Los Diaz with a view to perhaps locating a 'window', or hole in a rocky ridge overlooking the barranco, which is also visible from the Los Gigantes area. The information board at the start of the walk in Santiago del Teide describes the barranco as the Barranco Seco, which a quick glance at the Instituto Geografico Nacional 1:25.000 map for the area will show you is incorrect.

Barranco Mancha de Los Diaz

It is in fact the Barranco Mancha de Los Diaz, the Barranco Seco, (which in it's higher reaches is called the Barranco del Natero) being the 'filling' in the sandwich formed by the Barranco Mancha de Los Diaz and the Barranco de Masca. I have noticed this often with official signs on footpaths on the island, the most memorable of these was a sign at the start of the descent into the Barranco del Rey informing walkers that they were about to descend into the Barranco del Infierno, the well known walk some miles away in Adeje. Fortunately, the sun has now bleached this out but I have noticed other errors on information boards on various walks around the island. Surely it can't be that difficult to get these things right?

Roque Blanco

I followed an old camino real for the first part of the route, which contoured comfortably above the village of El Molledo before arriving at a path junction. Here, the view opened out to give a superb vista down the Santiago valley to Tamaimo and beyond and as the path swung right it continued on the same contour passing an old, apparently abandoned finca. Soon, the path reached a saddle in the ridge and crossed to the other side where a stunning view into the Barrranco Mancha de Los Diaz was revealed, with the prominent, light coloured spike of Roque Blanco dominating the view on the opposite wall of the barranco. The barranco held some uncomfortable memories for me as I had suffered a fall while descending through the bottom of this rugged ravine on a walk down to the Playa Seco beach around eighteen months earlier. My plan had been to descend the Barranco Mancha de Los Diaz to the beach and return up the Barranco Seco.

The barranco meets the sea

Upon reaching the beach however, my knee, which I had landed on heavily on when I fell decided it had had enough and seized up. To make things worse, my other knee came out in sympathy with it as I struggled back up the barranco. I had decided to abandon my plan to return up the Barranco Seco and return the same way, but a combination of dodgy knees and the heat turned the walk into a marathon slog back up and out of the barranco.

Los Gigantes

Today however, I wasn't planning anything so adventurous and a short while after starting to descend into the barranco, I located a narrow path, which left the main path and headed off in the direction of the 'window'  in the ridge, my intended destination. This narrow path, hugging the upper reaches of the southern barranco wall, was a delight to walk and apart from the occasional minor scramble stayed on the same contour for most of it's length.  At one point, the woody 'croak' of a raven overhead made me smile as I had heard the same call on my descent into the barranco eighteen months earlier just prior to my fall and I concentrated hard on where I was putting my feet to make sure that this wasn't a portent that history was about to be repeated.

The view from Montaña de Guama

Soon, the path began to climb steeply and I reached the top of the barranco wall and arrived at a spectacular viewpoint. Below, the ground fell away into the depths of the barranco, while on the far side, the communications masts on the summit of Pico de Gala were clearly visible behind the sharply pointed summit of Pico Verde.  Ahead to my left, the whole of the west and south coasts were visible as far as the lighthouse at Punta de Rasca and directly below, the marina at Los Gigantes was clearly visible. Along the ridge ahead the 'window' could be clearly seen and I made a mental note of a path heading south before continuing along the ridge in the direction of the window. After a short distance, the path became indistinct although there were paint markings to follow.

After around 15 minute of following this ever dwindling path, I arrived at a rocky promontory where the path and markings disappeared.  I surveyed the ground ahead, which looked decidedly unpromising and this, combined with the height loss required to reach the window, helped me make the decision to turn around. I didn't think the effort required was worthwhile to get to what is essentially a hole in the rock and besides, I wanted to keep some energy in reserve to explore the path heading south I had passed earlier. I returned to the path and followed it for around ten minutes and arrived at a cliff edge overlooking the Santiago valley just below Tamiamo where I turned left and began the steep climb up the back of Montaña de Guama before arriving at the highest point of the mountain.  From here, I had more stunning views before locating a path off of the mountain. This proved to be extremely steep and rocky and at times I had to sit down and ease myself carefully down each 'step'

Cruz de Los Misioneros

This proved to be very tiring but eventually I reached a path junction with a signpost pointing to Cruz de Misioneros, a large white cross set on a rocky outcrop just above the path which apparently, if the information board in Santiago del Teide can be believed, was placed there in the 1950's by two missionaries. I climbed the short distance to the cross and sat here for a break enjoying the view down to Tamaimo directly beneath me.  After my break, I continued the descent, which although a little less steep, still gave my knees a good workout. Eventually, I reached the old camino real between Tamaimo and Santiago del Teide and followed it as it paralleled below my earlier outward route before arriving back in Santiago del Teide after 4.75 hours of walking in spectacular scenery
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