"… the trail climbs along the ridge to the left of the crater – a dangerous adventure in stormy conditions! …"
You can’t say my guidebook didn’t warn me but since it is a hiking guidebook I didn’t take the warnings seriously. Moreover it is one of those excellent guides by the Wolfspergers who rated the climb to Montaña del Cedro on Tenerife as exposed, dangerous and difficult. This seemed to be a particular kind of danger. And wind – we have all been on exposed mountaintops – often in windy conditions - and the worst thing that can happen is windchill. On a 437m mountain this sure won’t be so very dangerous.
The day (Feb 18th 2005) starts with a look outside the window and the annoying sight of cloud covers on all three mountain ranges of La Palma. Since it is our first vacation day we decide not to get nervous and to head for the southern tip of the island. Winds (and clouds) come in from the north-west and on the Canarias this means that the opposite side of the island probably will be cloud-free. At our finca, near the town of El Paso right in the centre of the islands there are no signs of fierce windy conditions.
We take the half hour trip to the southernmost town, Los Canarios, in our car, travelling through lush forests of old Canarian Pines. These trees have so incredibly long and soft needles – it is always fascinating to look at them. From Los Canarios we go to the visitor’s centre near Volcán San Antonio but we arrive early enough so that we can use their parking lot for free. At least we think it will be for free…
The guidebook recommends a short hike to San Antonio`s western summit with a look into the crater and since we are here, we heed that recommendation and up we go. Somehow it is very windy and my treasured baseball cap gets blown away. An indication for the things to come. San Antonio erupted last in the 17th century and though it has a huge crater the sight is somehow watered down a little by the pines which grow within the crater.
Anyway, Teneguía, our destination is visible from the top and we can already admire the incredible colours of that volcano. We descend to the trail, the southernmost part of the Ruta de los Volcanes, an fascinating trail across the Cumbre Vieja Mountain Range. The trail zigzags the black scree fields between the volcanoes and is marked with headstone sized rocks to each side. We later find out why: dense clouds often cover the ridges of the Cumbre Vieja and without something to guide your eyes you can easily get lost in these barren plains.
First stop: Roque Teneguía, located at a western side crater of Volcán San Antonio to the north of Volcán Teneguía. It is a yellowish rock rising out of the black scree and looming above the deep blue sea. Very nice contrasts and quite an impressive sight. The rock is the site of rock drawings, left by the original inhabitants of the Canarias, the Guanches. Even today no one really knows the meaning of these drawings but they always seem to be were water can be found. And correct: there is a source nearby, used to fill one of the reservoirs which are distributed across this barren landscape.
A short hike southward brings us to the northern base of Teneguía. You stand in awe in front of this crater which erupted in October 1971. Much of it is already eroded but in the back you can see the steep ridge. Wondering where the ascent might lead along we close in on the volcano. The route heads for the eastern ridge and while we start to ascend it very steeply we see that to the southern side of this ridge there is an even larger crated with a huge lava-flow which leads all the way down to the ocean.
The ridge gets exposed near the northern summit of Teneguía but those incredible colours don’t leave much room for vertigo in your mind. Bright red rocks below the typical blue Canarian sky. I remain on the northern summit for a while to take some shots but my girlfriend, Judith, heads for the ridge crossing to the (lower) southern summit. I need to change the batteries of my camera and have to fumble for some time – the winds are quite strong already.
After having taken my shots I turn around and wonder why Judith is crouching and almost crawling at the centre of the ridge traverse. I have expected her to be on the southern summit already so what has gone wrong? I take a couple of steps onto the ridge when finally a fierce gale takes hold of me and nearly sweeps me off the ridge! With 80kg and backpack I’m quite heavy but still I get blown around a lot. Judth with her 54kg will be in serious trouble! I take another ten steps with the wind getting stronger with each one. Suddenly it hits my left knee with a fierce blow while I am taking a step forward. I almost topple to my left with the legs blown away from underneath my body. Crouching down I can steady myself. Judith still is 20m away from the summit cairn of the south summit which is all the protection we can hope for. I’m still 20m further back but with an effort I try to run towards her. The 5m width of the ridge appear to have shrunk to 30cm. I reach her just as we both reach that summit cairn and we crouch down behind it. Not much protection but better than nothing.
I try to take some shots but find out that the one of the northern summit will only be possible if I get up and get close to the eastern part of the ridge. I try to do just that and am lucky that for the minute it takes to get there the winds are steady. I lean into them at an angle of about 30° and take this shot.
Afterwards I start looking for our descent route along the southern ridge of the south summit but this ridge is even narrower than the one between the summits so I decide against it.
Back in the shelter of the cairn we brace ourselves for the return traverse. I take Judith’s arm and together we manage to get up and head in the general north-western direction. But this is exactly were the winds come from! With our total weight of 150kg we get blown around on the ridge, often nearing the ledges but the closer we get to the north summit the more the wind dies down. We’re lucky to reach it without any injuries and hasten down to the base of the mountain.
Uff. Taking a break the sun heats us up again and we take courage to go on in our tour. We want to reach the southernmost tip of La Palma, Punta de Fuencaliente. To do this we have to cross the massive lava-fields of Teneguia. Now we are glad that the trail is marked by those rocks, mentioned above – we have no desire for path finding at the moment. We reach the spot, where the descent route along the Teneguía south ridge would have met the Ruta de los Volcanes and turning round I see the beautiful sight of red Teneguía raising its head above the black lava.
The remainder of the trail is an easy downhill hike towards the sea, where we take a rest at the Fuencaliente lighthouse.