Onwards to Montaña Blanca(Volcanic Explosivity Index). The original caldera measures 48km (~30 miles) in circumference or 15km by 10 km. Teide, though not the primary reason why I ventured to the Canary Islands did retain enough fortitude to keep it within my ponderings. So, after spending a week on the island of Tenerife becoming acquaited and situated with life on the island, I simply couldn’t resist Teide any longer and set out on a cold Wednesday morning to climb this bugger.
I set out from my timeshare at Amarilla Golf (at sea level) at around 7:00am (very early for Canarian standards). After spending roughly 30 minutes imbibing myself with some wonderful black necter at La Paz cafe in Vilaflor, I drove up into the National Park (Parque Nacional de las Cañadas Del Teide) which encompasses most of the center of the island. Since I had been up into the park the previous two days summiting other minor highpoints along the caldera wall, I pretty much knew exactly where to go. After 40 minutes and 7,450 vertical feet of sinuous driving, I arrived at the small parking area for Moñtana Blanca/Teide, which was basically nothing more than a cove scooped out of an old lava flow to keep parked vehicles off the road. I say that because tourists and local alike have a very strange idea of what constitutes reasonable parking.
As I said, the morning was actually rather cold and very windy (but nice down along the coast!). However, at least the day would be graced with endless blue skies and abundant sunshine. As a side thought before I left the States, I threw my Arc’teryx Delta jersey into my pack just in case ‘things’ were cooler than expected. It turned out to be the single best thing I could have brought. However, on this particular morning, it wasn’t enough.
The previous Monday, while I was sitting on the summit of Guajara, 8,907ft (2,715m), I was looking out across the caldera over at Teide, closely studying it. It looked like or I had reasoned that the trail would simply follow the entire eastern slope up to La Rambleta/summit cone. At this point, I figured the most exciting thing about this mountain would be the Tetley’s and Strongbow afterwards at the pub. It had actually gotten windier and if my watch was correct, the temperature was somewhere in the neighborhood of 50°F. After 10 minutes or so, it was time to move on.
The trek up towards TeideI followed a climber’s trail that left Moñtana Blanca and coursed straight up a lava flow. It switch-backed relentlessly between the coarse black lava and the weirdly brown-white soft terra. Hmmm…things were now starting to get interesting. Snow and patches of ice were now making their introduction on the trail. The climber’s trail turned out to be a steep little bugger! As it turned out, this trail never ventured anywhere near the eastern slope let alone flirted with it. I was actually thankful for that. The thing slithered back and forth straight up the old lava flow. The skies were still blue and sunny, the clouds, as usual, were abutting up against the coast and the wind was still blowing. Patches of the trail were entirely covered in snow and ice, more ice than snow. About ¾ the way up this trail, there is a hut or a refuge called the Rufugio de Altavista. I resolved myself to make this destination my extended lunch break. The views from here were nothing short of extraordinary. I could see the entire southern caldera wall as well as down to the ocean. Looking to the southeast, I was watching the clouds build up and abut against the steep barrancos (ravines) of the eastern coast. This was pretty cool. The clouds would swirl about and slowly move down the coastline. It reminded me of watching soap bubbles on the waters' surface when taking a bath as a kid! Well, after 15 minutes, it was time to move on. The trail was all ice and snow now. Smiling, I thought crampons would be SO nice to have right now. I’m surprised I didn’t snap my trekking poles. It would have been a slow nightmare without them. If the remaining 511ft. to the top was going to be like this, I could kind of see why Park Administration would close off the summit cone. But being from Colorado, this still made little sense to me. I had to smile at that thought.
From the rufugio to La Rambleta, it couldn’t have been anymore than two icy kilometers. I took some more pictures and sat down next to the sign. It then just occurred to me that I hadn’t seen any cable-cars running all morning. I traversed over to the main housing where the cable-cars load and un-load and it was indeed closed. There were what sounded like 2-3 people inside doing maintenance work. Plus, the summit cone was entirely free of all snow and ice; huh, meteorological conditions my ass. If the cable-car wasn’t running then there would be no park rangers up here or park staff. Screw it, I’m going up.
From La Rambleta to the summit cone, it took me dam near 45 minutes. The earth was so exceedingly soft. For every 2-3 paces I took, I would slide back one pace. It was like walking on hardened ash and super-soft pumice. Everything was white with occasional splotches of red and off-brown. Closer to the summit, I ventured to the solid rock. At least the going would be more secure. But this was actually freaking me out a little because in some of the recesses of the rock, once in a while, a whisp of sulphur would exit next to me.
The views from the top were absolutely incredible! Looking straight west, I could see the island of La Gomera. Looking southeast, I could see the island of Gran Canaria and just peeking in the distance to the northwest was the island of La Palma. The actual caldera of Teide was filled in with quite a bit of rubble. I could see huge patches of green (sulphur crystals) and decently-sized releases of sulphur gas from these patches inside the caldera. There were two other people up there also and two others making their way up.
I have to say, the morning turned out to become a wonderful day. I stayed maybe 10 minutes up at the top. The sulphur was intolerable and it was giving me a headache. Even a lactose-intolerant person binge drinking milk all night couldn’t compete with that smell. I descended slowly with great trepidation. I don’t know, I think that if I landed too hard of a footfall, I would plunge through a hidden vent or something.