Sometimes you to find yourself drawn into a project without realizing exactly how strenuous and difficult it is going to be and that can actually be a good thing, because otherwise you might not even do it in the first place! Well, this is what happened to me when one day a friend of mine and I decided to climb Teide, starting at the coast of Tenerife. Most people who hike Teide start at Las Cañadas at 2000 metres above sea level, which already that is a tough hike, but we wanted to follow the old tradition that says that you have to wet your feet in the Atlantic Ocean before starting your ascent to the highest peak of Tenerife.
To put you into context, Teide is not only the highest peak on Tenerife but actually the highest mountain in Spain with its 3719 metres above sea level (12,000 feet). It's an impressive volcanic cone, rising high over the valley of la Orotava, that can be seen from pretty much everywhere in the island and even from the other Canary islands! As a matter of fact, it's said that the most beautiful view of Teide is from neighbour island of La Gomera, where it's not rare that you can spot only the peak, towering majestously over the sea of clouds.
It's a stratovolcano, that is, a composite volcano built up in many layers through explosive eruptions. Last time it showed any activity was in 1798, although the nearby Chinyero volcano had an eruption as late as in 1909 and it's part of the same volcanic structure. It has a steep conic shape with a crater on the top where you still can smell the sulfuric gases.
So, there we were, dipping our feet in the Atlantic ocean at the beach of Playa de Socorro where a friend had left us at 8 o'clock in the morning and then we started to walk. We had 25 kilometres and 3200 hightmetres in front of us, since we had reserved beds in the mountain hut situated close to the peak of Teide and had planned to do the very summit the next day.
The first part of the route is mixed, following paths and smaller roads and through neighbourhoods, such as Tigaiga and Icod Alto, where you can find cafés and springs to fill up with water. But once you are inside the National park, a vast area of 190 km2 there are no more establishments to be found and, as far as we could see, no springs to get freshwater from. This fact that we hadn't prepared properly for became a problem when we ran out of water, still far from our goal!
But now we are still leaving the last houses behind and heading up along a dirt road towards the forest. La Corona Forestal is another protected area of Tenerife, consisting in a massive forest of the canarian pine (Pinus canariensis) that surrounds the Nationalpark of Teide. The trail goes on for a couple of hours through this forest and in spite of always going upwards it was a pleasant part of the hike since you have shade from the trees.
Within the forest we stumbled upon the “piedra de pastores” the shepherds stone which has been an important landmark in the area for many generations. Later, just on the verge of the forest there is a little chapel “de la Fortaleza” which is a good place to rest for a bit and have a snack.
From here starts the real adventure since the trail now enters the volcanic area of Las Cañadas. It's a bit like arriving at a new planet. The different volcanic eruptions over the centuries and millenia have created fields in different tones of white, yellow, black, brown..and different formations and quality of rock. It's an extraordinary landscape and it's important not to leave the trail as to make the least possible impact in this protected and sensitive area.
It was also specially an adventure for us since we started to run out of water and the day was pretty hot and dry and this, together with the effort it is to walk at 3000 metres above sea-level, made us have to stop and rest a lot. Nevertheless we kept our spirits up and enjoyed the amazing landscape, such as “los huevos de Teide”; enormous volcanic piroclasts that have been blown out of Teide during an eruption.
Finally, around 9 o´clock in the evening,11 hours after we started our hike we arrived at Refugio del Teide. This is a simple mountain hut that houses around 40 persons. It it necessary to make a reservation beforehand but this automaticly includes the special permit to access the peak the next morning. In the hut there's no restaurant but there's a kitchen where you can prepare something yourself and there are some vending machines. The staff doesn't recommend to drink the tapwater but we did and it tasted wonderful after the thirstiest day of our lives!
Next morning we got out of our bunk beds early and after a quick breakfast we started walking the last kilometres and 500 heightmetres to the peak to to see the sunrise from there. Pretty much everyone at the hut did the same but even so the silence was complete on the way up, she was only 5 o´clock in the morning after all!
And it was all worth it! It is a truly magnificent experience to see the sun rise from almost 4000 metres above sealevel. The visibility was not the best because there was a little bit of calima (sand in the air) but we could still spot several of the other islands and the Atlantic ocean, spreading wide all around us. After enjoying this truly special moment, we started heading down a different path by “el pico viejo”, it was another 10 kilometres ahead of us, but it felt like a piece of cake after yesterdays challenge. We walked at a good pace enjoying the path that offers amazing volcanic sceneries, arriving down by the road TF-21 in the early afternoon. Here, at 2000 metres above sealevel is Tenerife's Parador hotel situated and it's a nice place to have a coffee while waiting for the bus to take you back to the civilization.