With almost 2000m of altitude Volcán de la Deseada is the highest summit among the 120 volcanoes of the Cumbre Vieja mountain range on La Palma. La Deseada is a twin peaked mountain with the western peak (Deseada II) reaching 1931m while the eastern summit (Deseada I) reaches an elevation of 1945m. The crater in between is 100m lower at 1827m. Due to their elevation both summits are perfect lookout peaks, not so much for the Cumbre Vieja Range itself but for the more remote Caldera de Taburiente and the neighbouring islands of Tenerife, La Gomera and El Hierro. For these views you have to climb Volcán de la Deseada on a clear day however and these days are rare on Cumbre Vieja.
The trade winds, which carry much moisture with them push up the clouds on the north-eastern part of the island. Due to the steepness – just consider that this 2000m high mountain is located 7km from the coast – the clouds deposit their moisture between 1500 and 2000m on the eastern slopes, ensuring foggy days on the Cumbre Vieja Ridge almost every other day. Climbing the mountain early in the morning surely helps since much of the humidity develops around noon.
Both Deseada summits are “crowned” with a geodetical pillar. In fact almost all summits of the Cumbre Vieja Range are, marking the fact that this is the most volatile volcanic region of the Islas Canarias and probably of the whole earth. Statistically every 200 years a major eruption rocks the island and though the volcanic activity seems to travel southwards the second to last eruption in 1949 occurred just to the north of Deseada, on Cráter del Duraznero and on Cráter del Hoyo Negro with a third volcano, Volcán de San Juan covering the western slopes with huge lava flows (compare the satellite picture for the relative locations of these four mountains).
Apart from being the highest summit of the Cumbre Vieja Range, La Deseada also is the highpoint (in more than one sense) of the Ruta de los Volcanes trekking trail (see accompanying route description), which runs along the complete Cumbre Vieja Ridge. It starts at the coast at the Faro de Fuencaliente Lighthouse, climbs steeply across Volcán Teneguía and Volcán San Antonio towards La Palma’s southernmost town, Los Canarios. From there on the trekking trail crosses Volcán Martin before reaching Volcán de la Deseada. The downward route on the northern side touches Montaña del Fraile and Pico Nambroque before reaching Pico Birigoyo and heading down to Rifugio del Pilar. All in all the trail can be hiked in a day BUT between the lighthouse and Volcán de la Deseada you have to climb 2000m (6000ft)! Also, after Rifugio del Pilar, the trail connects with Ruta de la Cresteria, the two day crest trail around Caldera de Taburiente. Reserve four days if you want to do the double treck, regardless from where you start. And diehard trekkers can combine this double with the La Palma Loop Trail GR130, which circles the island at medium elevation (600m – 1200m) but which runs along roads for much of the time.
Certainly among the most interesting aspects of the climb to Volcán de la Deseada are the colour contrasts on the Cumbre Vieja Ridge. If you hit the jackpot and reach the summit on a clear day the blue sky will beautifully contrast with the red volcanic soil and the mellow green tops of the Canarian Pines. Apart from the pioneering pines almost no other life forms can be found up there. Neither plants nor animals survive this barren region. And though often shrouded in clouds (wet clouds!) the Cumbre Vieja Ridge can be one of the driest regions on earth. Every drop seeps away through the scree you find on top. Be sure to bring enough water!
Geography of La Palma and the Mega-Tsunami TheoryThis section has been posted to all Cumbre Vieja pages. Both topics, the geography of the island as well as the Mega-Tsunami Theory are far too interesting to be left out. So if you have read it somewhere before, just skip this section.
Click the names to be directed to the mountain pages or pictures.
La Palma, like said above and like all the other Canarian Islands is of volcanic origin. Actually you can draw a pretty accurate comparison to the Hawaiian Islands since both groups are similar in many respects. The Canarias have been formed 25 - 2 million years ago with La Palma one of the youngest islands together with tiny El Hierro. What strikes us most today is that the ocean floor around and between the islands is about 4000m deep, which makes mighty Teide (3718m) on Tenerife a truly impressive mountain if you consider the elevation from the ocean floor.
La Palma is not quite as impressive but it is the second highest of the Canarias with its highpoint, Roque de los Muchachos at 2426m. On the other hand it is the third smallest of the islands and thus the ratio of overall material to island area is the largest you will find for any island on earth. This makes it the prime candidate for causing the next mega-tsunami (see below).
The Island can be divided in three mountainous regions:
- the Caldera de Taburiente in the north, the world's largest erosion crater with a diameter of 29km and with caldera walls up to 2000m deep! The caldera is the leftover of a huge volcano which used to exist ages ago and which collapsed by sliding to the west of the island 550.000 years ago.
- the Cumbre Nueva, also the leftover of an even larger volcano. If you look at the satellite picture you will see the Cumbre Nueva in the upper part. If you take the curvature of the cumbre and prolong it you will see just how large it really was. This Volcano also dropped away to the west of the island.
- the Cumbre Vieja. Though viejo means old, this is the youngest part of the island by far. Here you can find 120 volcanoes, all very close to each other on this mountain range, which reaches 1945m in height. It is here that the next landslide to the west of the island is expected which is supposed to cause a devastating mega-tsunami.
The Mega Tsunami Theory
To make it short: in 1949, three of the volcanoes of the Cumbre Vieja erupted simultaneously. Large lava flows covered the western parts of the island and there were a lot of heavy earthquakes. During the eruption a large crack developed and the western part of the Cumbre Vieja slipped by 4m (12ft). Since deep chimneys have been found in the higher regions of the range, which all consist of porous, water-filled rocks, it is expected that the next eruption in this central region of the Cumbre Vieja will be so explosive, that the crack of 1949 widens and eventually the western part of the Cumbre Vieja would tumble into the sea. With huge amounts of material rushing to the sea huge waves would be created, which finally will hit the US and the Gulf of Mexico with devastating effects.
Since La Palma and neighbouring El Hierro have a history of these massive landslides a scenario likes this seems feasible. But nobody knows when - or even if - this will happen. Heavy eruptions occur every 200 years on La Palma and it is far from clear that the crack, which developed in 1949 actually is deep enough to split the island in two.
La Palma, like all the other Canarian Islands can easily be reached from almost all major European airports. The airport is rather small and compared to Tenerife or Gran Canaria air traffic is rather low. There are almost no regular flights but all year round you'll be able to book charter flights.
There is no real close trailhead to Volcán de la Deseada since it is located in the dead centre of Cumbre Vieja. There are four locations from which you can start, each time a hike of 4 - 5 hours.
The Rifugio is located to the north of Cumbre Vieja and can be reached from the airport by heading out northwards on LP-1. At a roundabout, turn off west on LP-2, which leads up to the Cumbre Nueva Ridge and crosses it through the long Cumbre Tunnel. Right after the tunnel turn south on LP-203 which wind upwards to Rifugio del Pilar.
Jedey is a village to the west of Cumbre Vieja. Follow the instructions for Rifugio del Pilar but stay on LP-2 after the tunnel. As you enter the town of El Paso turn south onto LP- 117, which will take you to San Nicholas and Jedey. From Jedey, hike out PR LP-15 to the Cumbre Vieja Ridge.
From the airport head out south on LP-1322, which soon turns west in the direction of Monte. You soon meet LP-132, on which you turn in southward direction Los Canarios. Near the village of Tigalate LP-132 meets with LP-1 which you drive onto, again in turning south. You'll have to drive through Monte di Luna (also a possible, though faraway trailhead) until you reach km 25.5. Here turn west onto a forest road which runs up through the pine forests to Fuente de los Roques. There are signs at each turn, the Zona Recreativa can't be missed.
Like Fuente de los Roques until you get to the intersection LP-132 / LP-1 south of Tigalate. Turn north onto LP-1 and go through Tigalate. Right behind the village PR LP-15 turns of west. Hike to the Cumbre Vieja Ridge where you turn north and need to climb across Volcán de la Deseada to reach Montaña del Fraile.
The whole Cumbre Vieja Range is part of a natural park, the Parque Natural de Cumbre Vieja. Here leaving the trails is strictly forbidden. On the ridge leaving trails actually can become very dangerous if clouds start racing across the range. Much of the area is featureless and you can easily get lost in these conditions. In fog try to head for GR-131, Ruta de los Volcanes, one of La Palma's two trekking trails. The trail is marked well and easily distinguishable. It runs along to the west of the crest for most of the time.
Also Camping is not allowed in the natural park. There are a couple of campgrounds near Rifugio del Pilar which you can book at the Rifugio and the Zona Recreativa de Fuente de los Roques where pitching your tent is tolerated.
When To ClimbAll of La Palma's mountains can be climbed all year round. You will always encounter low temperatures on the ridge but snow is very rare, even in the freak winter of 2004/2005.
CampingThere are two camping zones near Rifugio del Pilar near Montaña de la Venta. For reservations ask at the rifugio. As said above camping is also allowed near the Zona Recreativa Fuente de los Roques.
Other accommodations are no problem. Every European travel office will be able to book hotels, rooms and apartments for you. I won't include any links here because all of them definitely are commercial. Another option is to rent a finca (rural house) from the owners directly. You'll have to google for these but sometimes prices are low enough for the scheme to be worthwhile.
Usually all year round the Canarias have the same weather with little alterations: north-eastern trade winds which deposit fog and dew on the north-eastern slopes of the islands. The western and southern parts usually are very dry and there you'll get some hours of sunshine each day. Especially on the higher islands like La Palma you usually don't have to worry about weather too much. The mountaintops will stick out of the clouds.
Now here's the problem: when we were on our vacation to La Palma in late February 2005 we had a week of fierce western winds which were loaded with moisture. We had veritable downpours for ours on end and several times couldn't even drive by car because the roads were flooded. I'm quite sure that this was a freak phenomenon. The western side of La Palma usually gets 28cm (19 inches) of rain per year!
There are no reliable weather forecasts for the mountain regions of La Palma. Often a cloudless day turns into a foggy one within half an hour. Especially the Cumbre Vieja Range is prone to these fogs and here orientation among the lava and scree fields gets very difficult. This is the main reason why you should never leave the trails there.
Forecasts for the coastal regions, however are available. You have to subtract 1°C for every 100m of altitude so that Roque de los Muchachos will still be near freezing when the coasts have already fine and sunny beach weather. The following table gives a little overview about the average weather data of the capital of Santa Cruz:
|Avg. day temp.[°C / °F]||21 / 70||21 / 70||22 / 72||22 / 72||22 / 72||24 / 75||25 / 77||26 / 79||26 / 79||26 / 79||24 / 75||22 / 72|
|Avg. night temp.[°C / °F]||15 / 59||14 / 57||15 / 59||16 / 61||17 / 63||18 / 64||19 / 66||21 / 70||21 / 70||19 / 66||18 / 64||16 / 61|
|Water temp.[°C / °F]||19 / 66||18 / 64||19 / 66||19 / 66||19 / 66||20 / 68||22 / 72||23 / 73||22 / 72||22 / 72||21 / 70||20 / 68|
|Sunny Hours / Day||5||6||6||7||8||9||10||9||8||6||5||5|
Maps 'n' BooksPlease excuse me if I only post German maps and books. I know there are editions in all European languages but I'm not aware of them. Any help is very welcome!
I have used a fantastic map by Freytag & Berndt which shows all of the many hiking and biking trails of the island. With its scale of 1:30000 it is still large enough to be useful for car tours as well. Moreover here you will find all the new designations and acronyms (which were changed some few years back).
- La Palma
Edition Freytag & Berndt
The guidebook I used is every bit as good as the map with excellent tour descriptions. It is available in English as well but I am not sure about the quality of the translation.
- La Palma
A. and W. Wolfsperger