Montanha do Pico was one of the main reasons I went to the Azores altogether and it was definitely worth it. A permit is required, but easy to obtain at the trail head. The mountain can really be climbed by anyone who is capable of taking waist-high steps and isn't terribly afraid of heights. Nevertheless it's still a great feeling to summit the volcano after around 2.5 - 4 hours. The decent is pretty hard on the knees without poles (which I recommend you use), but perfectly possible in 3-5 hours, taking slightly longer than the climb up.
Altogether, Montanha do Pico is a trip worth taking and a great climb for both amateur and experienced climbers. In my eyes the ideal experience would be to ascend at around 5 p.m, watch the sunset on the summit and camp in the volcanoes crater. The decent could then be made in the early morning, avoiding traffic on the mountain.
Due to some flight cancellation, we had only 7 hours at the Pico island. We made it: 2 hours to the summit and 2 hours down. Nice weather conditions.
Climbed in summer 2011. Great view, no difficulties. Here some images:
Ok, I'll just come straight out and admit the fact. I did not "conquer" Pico, as I so believed would be the case... Pico conquered me!
For a full trip report with photos, you are welcome to visit my website: Peak Fever
No cume da mais alta montanha de Portugal. Dormir na cratera e, antes do sol nascer, subir o Piquinho (2351m) e ver o Sol nascer é LINDOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We started climbing from the parking lot. You have to sign in that you are going up to the mountain and when back, you need to sign again. I consider Pico pretty hard and could see lots of people using the mountain guides...they are trying to make it rule to go up with guide only...But we did it and it was great experience. If we go next time, we will sleep on the top :-)
In fact I have climbed Pico three times already, everytime with Clara, my girlfriend, and everytime sleeping at the crater (wonderful camping spots there)
1. July 2003. All the way up from S. Roque (sea level) in about 10 hours. Really worth it although it was bad weather all the time except during sunset, when we went for the summit for the first time!
2. July 2004. This time all the way up from Madalena (sea level) in about 12 hours. Bad weather down there but wonderful at the top during all night! What a remarkable view the sunrise above the clouds. We were also able to see the mountain shadow in the top of the cloud layer...
3. January 2005. We departed from the parking lot at 1200m altitude this time. Bad weather, although not severe all the way, with snow (better said, ice) from 2000m up. We weren't expecting so much ice so went to sleep in the crater with no crampns, ice axe or anything (but a mountaineering tent). Many rocks had half-meter stalactites and everything! The tent accumulated 3cm ice all around during the much windy night. The worst part was to climb outside of the crater. A 30m climb with about 60º ice. With no equipment I had to literally kick steps in the ice to push to the crater border. It took us 1h to climb those 30m! But we made it and enjoyed every second ;)
I climbed Pico on the 26 February 2005. I decide to climb the normal route since it’s the only one marked and also due to the weather. In the first hour of the climb I had good weather but then everything had changed. It starts snowing a lot and the wind was really strong. Near the summit my Suunto was registering -5ºC. Unfortunately, I couldn’t reach the summit for 60 m. In the last 60 m of the climb the slope is higher and I didn’t have my crampons. So, I didn’t want to risk. It was possible to climb this last 60 m but the real problem would be the descent.
It was a very nice winter climb, more technique than in summer.
I went to Pico island in winter to climb the mountain with some snow and ice, I had to wait one day for a window of good weather to start climb the mountain, the route choosen were the normal route because its the only one is marked all the way up. Me and my father were in the summit after 2h50min after we started, in the summit were strong wind and the temperature a little below 0ºC. It was a great climb, lots of ice and the use of crampons were helpful. Excellent mountain in the middle of Atlantic Ocean!!!!