Gran Canaria is the second largst of the Canarian Islands. As all the others it was created by volcanic activity. In contrast to neighbouring Tenerife however the volcanos are not active anymore. The most recent outbreak dates back 2000 - 3000 years. The island is still shaped as a volcanic cone. It rises about 4000m out of the seaboard with its highest peak, Pico de las Nieves (=Snow Peak), 1951m high.
The summit is part of both the walls af Caldera de Tejeda to the west and the Caldera de Tirajana to the east. It forms the boundary between these two huge volcanic craters (up to 20km in diameter!) which have been formed, when the volcanos collapsed due to erosion. This central location, however, is a serious drawback for any hiker since the summit "boasts" at least two military installations (radar and radio, restricted access, watchdogs) as well as a lot of TV- and radio masts on neighbouring Roque Redondo. Therefore you will only see Pico de las Nieves from afar on the pictures posted on this page.
Another drawback is that the summit can be reached by car so that you can encounter quite a crowd of people on top. Therefore I would recommend to hike on to neighbouring Pozo de las Nieves which has none of the drawbacks, is almost as high in altitude (1918m) and from which you can enjoy the same views of both calderas. You can see all the other summits that have been already posted on S.P.:
Roque Nublo, Roque Bentayga and Altavista
The two ascent possibilities described here are both rather easy. You have to take care not to get lost but in any case you only need to go up!
Getting ThereAs one of the major european vacation getaways Gran Canaria can be reached from all major European airports. There are almost no regular flights but lots of charter flights. The airport of Gran Canaria is in the western part of the island.
From the airport take freeway GC 1 northward to the exit Telde, turn westward onto GC 10 and then in Telde take GC 130 in the direction of Pico de las Nieves. Near the top a side road turns left towards the summit and here you have to follow the signs to Pozo de las Nieves. The parking lot is at the end of this road.
As for the two tours described below ayou get to the trailheads as follows:
Vega de San Mateo: Again take GC1 northward towards Telde. At the exit Telde get off and head in the dierection of Valsequillo on GC41. Some 15 km after Valsequillo you will reach Vega de San Mateo.
Cruz Grande: Take GC1 soutwards but get off immediately at the exit Carrizal. Take GC196 towards Ingenio, there turn left on GC100 until you reach Agüimes. Leave on GC551, which turns into GC65, direction San Bartolomé de Tirajana. Here turn onto GC60 and som 4km after you leave the town you will reach the pass at Cruz Grande.
Red TapeYou won't be able to reach the real summit of Pico de las Nieves because of the military installations on top. Otherwise there are no limits, no permits, no restrictions.
When to climbThis is an all year round destination. In contrary to its name (=Snow Peak) there is hardly ever snow on Gran Canaria. You should take care of the trade wind clouds however, wich often cover the summit. And why go up there without being able to see?
AccomodationOf course you can find a lot of hotels, fincas and casas on the island which you can book from any travel office. Those of you who prefer to camp are in for a pretty cumbersome process. There are two official campsites, both at sea level in the south of the island.
On the other hand there are quite a number of camping zones in the central part of the island (the one nearest Pico de las Nieves is at Lllano de la Pez some 2km to the west on the road to Roque Nublo). You can camp for free in these camping zones, there are rarely any restrooms or showers, sometimes a fireplace. And you need a permit!
You have to apply for the permit in Las Palmas (don't forget your ID), you will obtain it three days later! The adresses are:
Cabildo Insular de Gran Canaria
Pérez Galdós 53
35003 Las Palmas
Gobierno de Canarias
Viceconsejería de Media Ambiente
Juan XXIII 2
35004 Las Palmas
Unfortunately both offices manage different campgrounds and I have no idea which manages Llanos de la Pez.
Weather conditionsThere are several sites on the web which give you information on the weather on Gran Canaria. However, they all show the weather for the coastal regions (Playa dos Ingles or Las Palmas) which significantly differs from the weather in the mountains. Moreover weather conditions along the weather divide of Gran Canaria cannot be predicted accurately. The following table shows data for Las Palmas on the coast.
|Avg. day temp.[°C / °F]||21 / 70||21 / 70||22 / 72||22 / 72||22 / 72||23 / 73||24 / 75||25 / 77||25 / 77||25 / 77||24 / 75||22 / 72|
|Avg. night temp.[°C / °F]||16 / 61||16 / 61||16 / 61||17 / 63||16 / 61||17 / 63||18 / 64||20 / 68||20 / 68||18 / 64||18 / 64||17 / 63|
|Water temp.[°C / °F]||19 / 66||18 / 64||19 / 66||19 / 66||19 / 66||20 / 68||22 / 72||23 / 73||23 / 73||23 / 73||21 / 70||20 / 68|
The Canarian Islands (as well as Madeira) are located in the trade wind zone. You almost always encounter northeastern winds which carry a lot of humid air. Being forced to climb to higher altitudes this moisture condenses into clouds. This in return means that most of the time the northeastern part of the islands is covered in clouds from altitudes of 1000m through 2000m.
The mountains themselves - being of the same altitude -finally stop the clouds so that on their southeastern slopes the clouds "run out". Look at this picture - it looks like the clouds creeping over the weather divide.
Unfortunately all of the major peaks of Gran Canaria - and with them Pico de las Nieves - lie around the weather divide. Sometimes within, sometimes just out of the clouds.
For our tours we decided early on to drive to Roque Nublo in the morning - have a look at the weather and the patches of the island lying in the sunshine - and then just went there! This worked out pretty fine since wind direction and strengths change from day to day so that different parts of the island are covered in fog.
And let me tell you: this fog is WET!
Climbing in Gran CanariaThere are a lot of routes in the vicinity of Pico de las Nieves, most of them starting from Ayacata. Other worthwhile locations are Tamabada in the northwest and Mogan in the southwest of the island. Most documented routes are at Ayacata and Tamabada.
To get information on routes, trailheads, difficulties, gear you can use the following addresses:
Canary Climbing Delegation:
18 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Tel: 928 29 06 52
Fax: 928 46 00 45
Federación Canaria de Montanismo
La Naval 32
Leftovers of Volcanic ActivityOn a volcanic island like Gran Canaria there are of courselots of leftovers of their volcanic past. What strikes you most are the colourful rocks, allmost any colour of the rainbow and the calderas, volcanic collapsed craters. Volcanic activity stopped some 3000 years ago and there are a couple of calderas that were created during that period.
Caldera de Bandama - which is shown on the pictures below - is one of them (Caldera de los Marteles another) and is typical for the craters on the eastern part of the island. The bottom of the caldera is cultivated but it is unclear in which way any produce will leave it. The walls are just to steep and so is the trail leading out of it.
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