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Red Tape Rangers, Cunning Stunt and Icing on the Cake
Trip Report

Red Tape Rangers, Cunning Stunt and Icing on the Cake

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Red Tape Rangers, Cunning Stunt and Icing on the Cake

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: Spain, Africa/Europe

Lat/Lon: 28.27271°N / 16.64223°W

Object Title: Red Tape Rangers, Cunning Stunt and Icing on the Cake

Date Climbed/Hiked: Jul 13, 2010

Activities: Hiking

Season: Summer

 

Page By: kamil

Created/Edited: Jun 8, 2011 / Jun 24, 2011

Object ID: 721019

Hits: 3015 

Page Score: 89.77%  - 30 Votes 

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Prologue

18 August 2009

‘No paper, no possible’ - unemotionally says the cyborg in bad English. I try to convince him that those few taking the effort to walk maybe deserve something more than the thousands riding Teleférico, but he repeats the same line, his face showing no trace of any feeling. I mumble something rude in English and Polish and turn round. Seconds later I regret my outburst. The bloke is just doing his job. The system is to blame, not him.

12 July 2010

Just before turning into the street leading to our hotel, in the headlights I see a black cat cross the road. Tomorrow’s 13 July. All signs indicate that my plan will work out.

13 July 2010

I finally reach Mirador Pico Viejo, the lookout point towards the enormous crater which I have just come from. From here there is a comfortable trail to the cable car station. I can hear a strange whizzing sound which becomes louder as I approach the station. It takes me a while to realise this is the wind whistling on the steel cables. Despite the late hour I tread carefully, as I can’t be sure if I'm not gonna bump into a late ranger round the corner.

There is no one around the station however, only the whizzing of the wind is twice louder. Without thinking I begin walking up the summit trail.

About fifty metres higher, against the sun that brightly shines from behind the edge of the mountain, I notice... a group of descending people.

Red Tape Rangers

18 August 2009

People have done many different things for others. Ag, my girlfriend for umpteen years and wife since last month, agreed to hike Pico del Teide with me. On foot all the way from the trailhead, if anyone had any doubts.

Since the day after our arrival in Tenerife I know we’re probably not gonna make it to the very top. From the phone call to the National Park office I learned that summit permits have been out for over two weeks ahead. They are given to 150 people per day. One hundred and fifty mountaineers summitting an almost four-thousander every day? Not exactly.

There is a trail starting from the Montana Blanca car park. I can roughly estimate that no more than two dozen people hike it up on an August day like today. There is another trail from the opposite side, much longer and tougher, which is statistically hiked by a fraction of a person per day. The massive tourist traffic is generated by the cable car, whose top station is placed 150 metres below the summit. According to my estimation in the high season it can be ridden by ten times more people than the daily limit of summit permits.

Ag could not care less anyway. With me it’s a different story. Although not a hardcore European highpointer, I still try to climb a mountain when given an opportunity. And such an opportunity doesn’t come every day. Who cares we are technically in Africa. A country highpoint Teide certainly is.

* * * * *

Driving up the neverending hairpins from Puerto de la Cruz via Orotava, we finally get above the typical northern clouds. The volcano peeks from behind the trees every now and then until we reach the timberline where it presents itself to us in its full glory. But we don’t stop to admire the views so we can get a place at the tiny parking bay at the trailhead.

Yeah! We get the second last place. Right behind us parks another car. The one that follows has to go look for a parking place further down the road.

A German family gets out the other car. They start walking ahead of us while we are finishing our breakfast. Having filled our stomachs we set off too. Ag in her hat looks like a park ranger, several of whom we are going to meet further up.


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Trailhead map

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Teide, Ag and me

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Teide with the cable car


The trailhead is situated just below 2400 m a.s.l. We start walking the several kilometres of dirt road which is closed to cars. The landscape resembles Sahara. We quite often come across ‘Teide eggs’, the huge boulders brought here by lava from past eruptions. With the open view at the summit we can quite often see the ascending gondolas of the cable car.


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Montana Blanca trail...

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... across the desert landscape...

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... with Teide eggs.


Less than two hours since leaving our rented car we reach the end of the road and the start of the trail proper at approximately 2800 m a.s.l. We pass two descending Spaniards. They must have taken one of the first gondolas up. The Germans are still ahead of us up the trail.


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Montana Blanca


The path is sometimes steep but never becomes uncomfortable, only sometimes we have to dig our way through volcanic sand. We start feeling the influence of altitude and have to slow down and breathe more deeply. I have once been higher than this in the mountains but for Ag this is a new experience. I have no idea how she is going to react. Her dislike of all things mountainous does not come from lack of fitness etc. She has always been a sporty type with lots of stamina, she’s walked or scrambled with me to the tops of Mt Olympus in Greece, Carrantuohill in Ireland and Triglav in Slovenia, as well as seconded a few sport climbing routes in the Polish limestones, but she just never really liked those activities. Fortunately we all needn’t have to be the same, otherwise this world would be a boring place. For me this trip is also a training before another one, but that’s a whole different story.


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On the Montana Blanca trail


The altimeter in my watch shows that we quickly gain elevation. We sometimes stop to catch breath but the amazing moonscape around us makes up for all the hardship we suffer. From time to time we pass descending walkers who must have ridden the cable car up the mountain. Except the German family ahead and one small group behind us no one else goes uphill. Despite the height our warm clothes are still deep inside my backpack as we don’t need them.

We finally reach Refugio de Altavista at 3260 m a.s.l. Inside there is a small room with sofas, a vending machine with expensive cans of cold drinks and a coffee machine that does not work. The hut is unmanned but as far as we know it is possible to stay here overnight. There is a fifteen-odd multinational crowd resting outside. We talk to two German hikers about summit permits. They haven’t got them either but go on like us and will see what the situation looks like.


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Refugio Altavista


After half an hour’s rest we move on. By now we both have a headache and walk the last bit terribly slowly. It takes us about five hours from the car to reach Mirador Fortaleza, a lookout point at this side of the mountain.

From afar I can see some vague trace of a path towards the summit which doesn’t look like the official trail but have no idea how to get there. I silently hoped for some path bypassing the cable car top station. But next to the Mirador there are several rangers in dark red fleeces with walkie-talkies. They are here for a reason, as the trail, almost empty so far, becomes suddenly crowded from this point.


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Teide summit cone

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National Park information board


The cable car station is only a stone throw’s distance from here. Masses of tourists in sandals and flip-flops pour from there and walk to Mirador Fortaleza and back. We’ve got no heavy mountain boots either but even our dusty trainers stand out a bit in this company.

Ag is not feeling like going anywhere further anyway, so I walk on my own towards the chain across the path, guarded by a hat-clad ranger. Someone comes over, shows his permit, the Texas ranger lets him through. I approach him trying to explain that I tried to get the permit a few days in advance but they had been out two weeks before, and I have not even taken the cable car but walked all the way up, but to no avail. ‘No paper, no possible’ - unemotionally says the cyborg in bad English. I try to convince him that those few taking the effort to walk maybe deserve something more than the thousands riding Teleférico, but he repeats the same line, his face showing no trace of any feeling. I mumble something rude in English and Polish and turn round. Seconds later I regret my outburst. The bloke is just doing his job. The system is to blame, not him.


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Teleférico

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Summit trail to the left

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View to the south


Perhaps most of all I can blame myself. Before our trip I have read in the web that receiving a permit in the National Park office in Santa Cruz is no problem, you just have to go there in person. I have not found the info that it becomes so difficult in the high season and the number of permits is limited. Perhaps I haven’t researched it well enough. It looks like you’ve got to contact the office long before your arrival on the island and fax or email them a copy of your passport.

On the other hand I feel this is kinda unfair. I wonder whether it would be technically possible to make a separate entrance for walkers. This would save hikers the hassle of obtaining a permit, especially that their number is tiny compared to cable car passengers.

Limiting the daily number of summiteers is apparently dictated by the need to prevent erosion of the crater area. But the greatest erosion has been caused by building the cable car anyway. Maybe those limits are necessary, but it looks like emptying a sinking ship with a cup to me. Mass access to the volcano summit thanks to the cable car has paradoxically made it more difficult for those who wish to climb it by ‘fair’ means. I hold nothing against all those with better or worse physical abilities who ride the cable car with or without their families, kids etc. but honestly I just feel pissed off...

I’m too old to play hide and seek with the rangers now. Were I on my own, I would descend to the Refugio, wait till dusk and try my luck after they perhaps take the last cable car down. But we are together here and both have bad headaches, so all we want is to get down as quickly as possible. I’m grateful to Ag for coming all the way with me here.

We go to buy our tickets. When we pay 12.5 euro each, the guy tells us to get on the gondola which has just arrived, without giving us tickets. He says we can get them at the bottom. Hell knows, maybe they haven’t got a printer here. There is no time to think about it as there is already a long queue behind us waiting to board the cable car. No one else has this problem, they all have return tickets.

The descent is very fast and steep. At the bottom station in order to get out one must insert the ticket in a slot in order to open the automatic gate. But we’ve got no tickets. There is no service there so we have to wait a few minutes until a lady in a Teleférico t-shirt finally passes by. Half in English and half gesturing I explain our problem to her. She goes somewhere and after a while comes back with two tickets, passing them to us across the barrier. They look like old used ones. Only with their help can we finally regain our freedom.

Freedom takes the shape of a vast, totally jammed car park. In the exhaust fumes of cars and coaches my headache, controlled so far, hits me like a hammer. At least Ag is feeling a bit better by now. We only have to walk three kilometres on hot asphalt.

With a thumping headache in the scorching sun this is no easy walk. On the last bit we are given a lift by a kind German couple just driving out the layby. First thing in our car we take a painkiller (why haven’t we taken it with us?) and wash it down with plenty of water. We’ve had enough water and fizzy tablets with us but we are still thirsty.

The headache doesn’t go away at once, so at the beginning I take it slow and easy while driving. The winding road first descends into the forest, then into the clouds, finally reaching the first settlements. In one of the towns at a hairpin turn I suddenly notice... a roadside bar called simply ‘The Turn’ in Spanish (Bar La Curva). I can’t resist stopping the car as soon as I can, grabbing the camera and running up to take a pic. I know it sounds weird but as some readers will know, in most Central and Eastern European languages there is a word with a slightly different spelling but the same pronunciation, which has the whole different meaning. Ag is too tired to scold me for my schoolboy humour, and my mood immediately improves.


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The Turn Bar


* * * * *

19 August 2009

Tenerife bids us farewell with a strong wind. Our plane is almost two hours late. Anyway, we have a reason to come back. Now we can’t see it as we sit at the opposite side of the plane. It is hidden in clouds anyway.

Cunning Stunt

12 July 2010

Sitting at an outside table of our last year’s hotel in Puerto de la Cruz, we discuss our volcano logistics. We came here for an evening trip from the opposite side of the island where we are staying now.

* * * * *

'Why don't we go somewhere?' - said Ag one day - 'Tenerife maybe? You'll hike your volcano.' She didn't need to repeat it twice, although we were tight on time and money. The following morning we booked the trip and three days later boarded a plane.

Taught by the previous experience, this time I emailed the National Park office as soon as we booked the trip. The evening of our arrival in Tenerife I read the reply that our permit was given for 15 July, the last day of our stay. I asked for two separate permits for my wife and me for the same day and time slot, so that she could ride the cable car and I could hike at the same time but we wouldn’t have to precisely synchronise our schedules. However, I only received one permit for me and one non-defined accompanying person. A few days ago I drove to the Park office in Santa Cruz where a ranger also refused to issue a separate permit for Ag. Why couldn’t he just cancel the previous permit for two and give me two new ones? Perhaps the Park red tape does not predict such a possibility.

* * * * *

We’ve got to decide on our plan of action. We give up the one-day option of Ag in the cable car and me on foot. This would require her to wait too long or me to run up the mountain with a speed of light. So we’re gonna take the cable car together in three days just as our permit states, and walk the last 150 vertical metres to the summit at the given hour. And tomorrow and the day after tomorrow?

I ring up the resident of our travel agency. Luckily she still has a place for tomorrow’s whale watching boat trip. Ag promptly signs up.

And me? Did you think I would give up the idea of hiking the volcano so easily? In the morning I’m gonna drive up to Montana Blanca and leave the car, then somehow get to the opposite side of the mountain and start walking up, so that I reach the summit just before sunset when, hopefully, the rangers will have taken the last cable car down.

We needn’t worry about the day after tomorrow yet. We are on holidays after all.

* * * * *

Just before turning into the street leading to our hotel, in the headlights I see a black cat cross the road. Tomorrow’s 13 July. All signs indicate that my plan will work out.

13 July 2010

I set off after a leisurely breakfast, around 9.30 am. Ag is still at the hotel, waiting for a coach to take her to the harbour. Before leaving our town I stop to buy some water, food and a beer to quench my thirst when I come back.

There is not much traffic on the winding roads, so I quickly pass San Miguel and then the highest town of Tenerife, Vilaflor. The sun is shining and the views are great, but I don’t stop to take pics, as I may need a time cushion. Finally above the treeline I reach the crossroads of Boca de Tauce about 2000 m a.s.l. The roads that circle around Teide fork here. And here I’m gonna start my walk. But now I turn right, to the east, into the road across the wide flat bottom of the old caldera.

Soon I pass Roques de Garcia and the cable car bottom station to leave my rented Seat Ibiza at the small car park at Montana Blanca, where we started with Ag last year. Today this will be the end of my trip. Despite my worries there are a few free parking places. Just as I finish packing up, a bus comes by so I quickly jump on it. I pay about two euros for a ticket to Roques de Garcia via the cable car station.

Maybe I could take a walk between the famous rocks, but I should have departed earlier to do that. So I will not take this classic shot of Teide with the club-shaped rock in the foreground.

From this side of the mountain there is a choice of three trails: 23, 28 and 9. The latter begins a bit too far from here. The first one starts right here, but Gangolf, who knows the area well and who I contacted before the trip, strongly advised against walking it alone because of loose and crumbling rocks. Hardly anyone uses those trails, the mobile reception is virtually nonexistent, so in case of any small but immobilising injury, like a sprained ankle, they would probably look for me for a really long time. Therefore, the trail 28 remains, as strenuous as 23 but apparently safer to walk alone.


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Teide from Roques de Garcia


I begin walking back towards Boca Tauce, sticking my thumb up at every passing car that goes my way. Half an hour later one of them stops. On board there are two local guys, a father and a son.They speak English a bit so we chat along the way. I get off at the crossroads and walk the remaining bit north to the trailhead.

It is 11.30 am when I pass the barrier and start walking the long dirt road across the flatland. Unlike the east side with its desert moonscape, here the vegetation on volcanic soil and rocks is relatively lush. I don’t come across any bees, against which I was warned by a roadside information board. Taking my time, an hour later I reach the beginning of the path proper, where I have a snack and drink.


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Boca Tauce trailhead

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Pico Viejo and Teide

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Trail marking


The path immediately starts steeply. Although sometimes vague and seldom marked, it does not make any orientational problems. Soon I begin the infamous slog up the volcanic scree fields. In a nutshell, it is two steps up, three steps down. It takes me half an hour of digging in the dirt to reach the first small crater and then a second one, a bit larger. These are the Nostrils of Teide. At the ridge just above them my trail joins the trail 9. The most strenuous part of the hike ends here.


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Scree fields

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Narices del Teide


The further path is much more pleasant, although sometimes still climbs quite steeply among rocks and low vegetation. Over an hour later it takes me to the edge of Pico Viejo. I stop to take a few pics down the huge crater. To reach its proper summit I’ve got to descend a bit, walk around the crater and ascend its eastern slope of scree. It is only 4.30 pm so I stay at the top for a longer while. I could descend to the bottom of the crater for a little moonwalk but I feel too lazy.


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Pico Viejo crater and summit

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Summit view to the crater

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View to NW coast


From the foot of Pico Viejo the path towards Teide crosses a sandy flatland, much like the one below the opposite side of the mountain. From the right it is joined by the trail 23 from Roques de Garcia. At this point I already feel the influence of altitude and have to slow down. I don’t feel any headache, maybe because a while ago I took a preventive pill of painkiller.

The flat ground is soon replaced by a black field of solidified lava, gradually rising towards the summit. I can now watch the top of Pico Viejo from an equal height. The trail becomes steeper, winds its way between volcanic boulders and sometimes requires some rock-hopping. My breath becomes shorter, making me stop more and more often.


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Teide moonscape

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Summit cone

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Pico Viejo


I finally reach Mirador Pico Viejo, the lookout point towards the enormous crater which I have just come from. From here there is a comfortable trail to the cable car station. I can hear a strange whizzing sound which becomes louder as I approach the station. It takes me a while to realise this is the wind whistling on the steel cables. Despite the late hour I tread carefully, as I can’t be sure if I'm not gonna bump into a late ranger round the corner.

There is no one around the station however, only the whizzing of the wind is twice louder. Without thinking I begin walking up the summit trail.

About fifty metres higher, against the sun that brightly shines from behind the edge of the mountain, I notice... a group of descending people.

* * * * *

They quickly approach, talking loudly. In a while I can discern the equipment they carry - some kind of bottles and hoses. I can also see what they do not have - dark red fleece jackets and wide-brimmed hats.

Hola! - the volcanologists greet me a minute later. They must be coming back from some evening measurements in the crater. There is no one left up there. I’ve got the summit for myself.

On my left I pass the crater. It is very small indeed. Having seen the enormous Pico Viejo I could be disappointed, if only I was not just reaching the peak of my volcano which I have already grown fond of. There are some hot rocks by the path, some of them so hot that it’s difficult to touch them for longer than a few seconds. They are accompanied by sulphurous smell of fumaroles.

I walked the last bit in the shadow. Now just before the summit I am again met by the blinding sun. Luckily I’ve got my glacier glasses with me. The contrast between the sun and the shadow is unbelievably strong. Maybe that’s what it looks like on the Moon?

It’s 8 pm sharp. My watch altimeter, calibrated at the sea level, shows 3715 m. Teide casts a massive shadow at the old volcanic caldera in the south-east.


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The wind is so strong that I only take a few pics and hide behind a rock. I quickly eat a banana and some chocolate, drink some water and even more quickly start walking down.

On my way back I walk to the station. From the room nearest to the trail I can hear some people talking. This must be the volcanologists’ living room. I grab one last shot of the Teide shadow which now reaches the ocean. It may be half an hour to the sunset but I’m not gonna see it, walking all my remaining way in the shadow.


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Feeling tired, I pop in to the Refugio Altavista hut to sit a while. There are a few Spaniards inside staying the night to see the sunrise from the summit. A couple minutes later I again start running down the trail 7 in the falling twilight. My toes give me a hard time banging against the inside of my old knackered boots. As usual, this will cost me the peeling off of both big toenails. I pass one more couple walking up to the hut. In the last remnants of daylight I come to the end of the path and the beginning of the gravel road. Only now I take my headlamp out.

My initial happiness of reaching the road gradually gives way to tiredness and the pain of my battered feet and toenails. When we walked here last year we were still fresh, had beautiful views and the way looked a lot shorter. Now this frigging road seems to have no end. At the sides I can only see anything when I shine my headlamp, although the white road can be discerned from the darker ground and it is possible to walk without the light. After a longer march I sit next to an information board to take off my boots and rest my feet. It doesn’t help too much.

Further down the road starts descending more steeply. It speeds me up but on the other hand gives my feet an even harder time. I can hear some solitary cars from far away and then see their lights, so I accelerate like a horse smelling the stable. But the closeness of the asphalted road is misleading, as my dirt road winds in serpentines on this last section. It must be doing it out of mischief, to tire me out for the end.

Finally a couple minutes past 11 pm I reach my car. I drink the remaining water, leaving only a few sips to keep myself awaken during the drive. I have perfectly planned the amounts of food and drink, never feeling weak or dehydrated. I climbed the summit at the perfect time to avoid the rangers, see the world from above just before sunset and descend the trail before the dark. Being completely knackered and having battered feet is a small price to pay.

I drive down the same roads, just being more careful because of the darkness and tiredness. At 1 am I reach the hotel. Ag is already fast asleep. After having a shower I can only open a bottle of Dorada and sit on the sofa, cooling my feet at the ceramic floor. Sipping the beer, I have a last look at the map...


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My route - click to enlarge


* * * * *

Why have I done it, having the permit for two days later in my pocket? Illegal, stupid and unneccesary, some would say.

Illegal? Apparently one can climb the summit and get down before the first cable car arrives, having stayed the night at Refugio Altavista, with the bill serving as a permit. However, I have not inquired whether it is legal after the last cable car goes down. I would expect a negative answer and did not want to raise suspicions.

Stupid? Up to the others to decide.

Unneccesary? I wanted to make it from the trailhead to the top, knowing it would be logistically impossible on the day I had the permit for.

In fact I just wanted to beat the system. The system revolving around and forced by the cable car, which certainly brings a lot of money to some, but is a pain in the arse for humble foot soldiers like me.

Icing on the Cake

15 July 2010

Having visited Puerto de la Cruz again in the morning and then driven the familiar mountain road, in the early afternoon we park our car at the Teleférico. The enormous car park is of course jammed but we find a free place at the side, further from the station. Just as we get out of the car, a little head pops up from behind a rock, and then another one. Soon we are welcomed by the whole bunch of lizards. Seemingly they made a nice little earner out of living off visitors. Now they also take the opportunity to sponge some grub off of us. We share our lunch with them and they promptly help themselves to some ham, cheese and pieces of bananas. We’ve got some doubts whether such food is natural for them, but the critters seem to be thriving on it.


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Teide lizard

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Hungry?

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Bon appétit!


Our summit permit is for 3-5 pm time slot so we join the long ticket queue almost two hours early, and indeed it takes an hour and a half to get to the cash desk. Finally the cable car quickly takes us upstairs.

The station at La Rambleta is crowded too. One girl sitting at the stairs looks like she is feeling unwell, perhaps due to the sudden elevation change. Ag within minutes develops a headache too. Luckily at least I am freshly acclimatised. We immediately approach the ranger on duty who now stands just behind the station building. He checks our permit number with his list, gives us the actual permit as a souvenir (we only had the number sent to me by email) and waves us ahead with a smile.


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View south…

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… to the old volcanic caldera.


Taking it easy, we walk the remaining 150 vertical metres to the top. There are several hikers from different countries there and some more are approaching behind us. We enjoy the views for a while and take some pics but don’t stay at the summit too long and quickly descend to the cable car.


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‘So you’ve bagged your first 3000-er, and completed it on foot’ - I say to Ag while driving back to our hotel. 'Big deal' - she replies indifferently.


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Photos by Ag and me

Images


Comments


[ Post a Comment ]
Viewing: 1-8 of 8    

silversummitVery enjoyable reading!

silversummit

Voted 10/10

Glad you finally accomplished your goal although you certainly learned quite a bit from your efforts! And luckily for you passing a black cat is good luck! In some cultures, especially anytime near the number 13 it would be very bad luck (some in America would be very upset!).

Good report!
Posted Jun 8, 2011 11:58 am

kamilRe: Very enjoyable reading!

kamil

Hasn't voted

Kathy, thanks for dropping by and a good word!
Those superstitions are the same here in Europe. But I believe just the opposite and always use them to my advantage, and all cats bring me good luck no matter what their colour is :)
Cheers,
Kamil
Posted Jun 9, 2011 4:22 am

gabr1i'm happy...

gabr1

Voted 10/10

... you got to hike all the way up as you wanted. Thanks for you report
Posted Jun 12, 2011 6:04 pm

kamilRe: i'm happy...

kamil

Hasn't voted

Thanks Gabriele!
Next challenge will be Teide from sea to summit in a day... maybe :)
cheers
kamil
Posted Jun 13, 2011 9:44 am

JarpupGrinning

Jarpup

Hasn't voted

Reminds me of a Rockettes joke...
Posted Jun 12, 2011 10:01 pm

kamilRe: Grinning

kamil

Hasn't voted

Like this one? :)
cheers
kamil
Posted Jun 13, 2011 9:57 am

SzaniUherkovichI fully understand you

SzaniUherkovich

Hasn't voted

Kamil,

No, according to me it's not a stupid approach that you did. Very likely I would have behaved in the same way. And I fully agree with you that it's not fair that real hikers have hugely limited opportunities because of the people who "climb" with gondola. Likely for many of these people visiting the peak means not more than e.g. visiting an aquarium in a see-side resort or any other holiday program.
Cheers, Szani
Posted Jun 19, 2011 7:07 am

kamilRe: I fully understand you

kamil

Hasn't voted

Szani, thanks for your voice! Yeah, who cares about walkers as they don't bring income to the Park authorities. So we've got to take care of ourselves, as I did :)
cheers
k
Posted Jun 19, 2011 7:05 pm

Viewing: 1-8 of 8