Mt. Pico in the Azores
While the mountains of Portugal and Mt. Pico in particular
are perhaps not famous climbs, I found very little information regarding the
mountains of this western European country.So I decided to write an article
with a few photos about my May 2013 trip with friends in Portugal.
The highest mountain on the mainland, Torre (6539 feet), is
in the Serra da Estrela mountain range of the central highlands. This mountain
has roads to the top for the winter skiers. Eight hundred miles west of
Portugal lie the Azores Islands and it is here that the highest peak in Portugal
occupies the island of Pico. As the guidebooks say, “the full majesty of Mt.
Pico becomes apparent when it is seen from the neighboring central islands.”
Mt. Pico from the town of Horta on Faial Island
“Only then does one realize how gracefully this volcanic
peak soars out of the Atlantic, shooting up to 7713 feet to form the summit of
the greatest mountain range in the world, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.” -- Eyewitness Travel
Arriving on Pico Island on May 18, 2013, my friends Kent and
Linda and I explored the island and drove to the mountain. Many people come to Pico to climb the peak.
It is a strenuous climb. Guides are available and hikers must register and
watch a safety film before climbing.
Some hikers like to climb to the crater and camp overnight. The summit
and descent are done on the second day.
The roundtrip distance is 6-7 miles but the incline and volcanic rock
slow down the pace. Many days the top of
the mountain is shrouded in clouds. We decided to do the one-day trip and so we
began our ascent about 9:00a.m. on Sunday, May 19, 2013.
The route to the crater rim is well-marked by wooden posts
(45 in all). See Kent approaching Marker 29 in the photo. With a few
exceptions, the next marker is visible from below (or above when
descending). We had no trouble on the
way up. The mountain was fogged in on
our descent and finding the next marker became a challenge where there was no
discernible trail. See photo.
Climbing our way up the summit peak amounted to some route-finding
and easy bouldering over the volcanic rock. I discovered a chute near the top
that climbed steeply past some steam vents and onto the summit.
Steam vents in the chute near the summit
Our Pico climb took about nine hours roundtrip delayed by
the foggy conditions on the descent. The risks for broken bones or lacerations
are real—one reason for the required safety film. The Park requires each climber or team to
carry a smartphone with GPS.
After our climb we took the ferry over to Faial for several
days there. We flew from there to Ponta Delgada on the big island of Sao Miguel
passing right beside Mt. Pico on our return to the mainland. See photos from the plane window.