Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Running Tenerife - Teide Summit

Mount Teide - view from Parador, 10 min drive from the starting spot

The Plan

Obviously climbing Pico del Teide is almost a must-do if you are on the island. While technical not too challenging, it remains a steep hike exposed to different weather conditions, heat, cold, wind, snow, ... Reading through some - mostly hiking - descriptions, the idea was born to try to reach the summit with as much running as possible and traverse via a different route.

Actually, I also found a video of a guy running on the Teide - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kg5v2MjD0Us. Quite motivating though he is definitely in a different league - no way for me to just copy that.
Eventually my planned Route looks like this:

As you can see this is quite a demanding route. Some of the constraints driving the selection are:
  • only one day away from the family 
  • minimal logistic effort
  • as much of a roundtrip as possible
I choose public transport as a means to get close to the mountain. Unfortunately the bus(342) goes only ones a day and to rather unpractical times: Arrives at 11:00am in the morning and leaves at 15:45pm., assuming you are staying in the south west of the Island. This leaves you with a rather little time window. Hence the plan to not use this bus on the way back, but run&hike further down to a village - Tejina de Guía -, where another, more frequently operated bus can be reached.

On the long way down to from the summit to the village, water supply could easily become an issue. Hence I was quite happy as I spotted some drinking water spots in the Open Street Map, close to my selected route.I verified  via email with the author of those map entities,that those should be indeed functional at the time I would be on my way.

Overall the plan seemed to be quite ambitious for me and I looked at a couple of exit strategies - which turned out to be a wise decision.

The Reality

We arrived at Tenerife in a rather poor medical condition. My daughter had fetched a cold with strong coughing and inflamed eyes, while I had a sore throat and light cold thanks to the a/c in meeting rooms and planes. Turned out that neither of us recovered completely during the vacations. The last too day before the summit attempt I played it quite easy and felt rather good so that I decided to give it a try. But already during the 2 hours bus drive, strong&painful coughing was back. Not good, but let's see.

Info board at entrada montaña blanca
I arrived at entrada montaña blanca 25min delayed - the time window got even smaller - and immediately started in a gently jogging tempo.

I was hoping to be able to run at least the first 4km, as the track seemed to be rather easy and not too steep. All true, but I had really difficulties breezing and needed to invest a lot of effort to keep a minimum running tempo. So I decided to give up on running at this early state and instead to hike as fast a possible.

In the following I made my way up the altavista refuge rather quickly.
A beautiful hike with mind-blowing views over a obscure landscape which was framed by lower hanging cloud carpet. The path itself evolved from a relatively flat gravel road, to a steep rocky hiking path. Interestingly the volcanic rock is quite light in mass and gives you a strange feedback. If you don't put your steps properly, a lot of sliding is involved. I happily used my trekking poles, which where a nice help to avoid wasting too much energy.

Huevos del Teide

Altavista Refuge
As I arrived the refuge, I decided to have a short break inside. While the entrance room of the hut was open with access to vending machines for drinks, the remainder of the refuge was closed until 5pm (including toilets). I bought a bottle of water to spare my own water for the long way down and talked briefly to a young, french couple. While it was a very nice conversation, I figured out that it took some effort to express myself. I really didn't felt fit. Let's see how this is going to develop.

quite some snow given the perceived high temperature

The way up from the refuge to the mountain station of the the cable car went relatively easy for me. Here everything got quite crowded. A lot of folks was walking here after arriving with the cable car. I quickly checked in for the summit as you need a permit. Luckily the mountain guides accepted my permit for a later time period of the same day.

still some way to go
Before I started to hike up to the summit, I put on long trousers and a jacket as it got a fresh breeze up there. The last 200m of elevation are done via a nicely created path. While technical easy, I had again issues breezing and was quite exhausted. I need to to quite some breaks on the walk up and felt dizzy. So, you should be healthy and try to get used to the altitude slowly. 0 - 3700m is quite a jump.
On the summit itself you have a beautiful view. For me it was a white cloud carpet with some islands spiking through.

Panoramic summit view

Summit view
I left the summit rather quickly and headed down to the mountain station. I felt quite dizzy and had difficulties to breeze. After a larger sip of water and some food, I felt better but still not good. It was around 3:15pm at the time. Would be a long day down with not much options to shortcut if needed. So I decided to rather stop here than risking a bad day. If I would get the cable car down, I should be able to catch the bus. Too many if and should-s it turned out. I missed the bus by 5 min. But better to be left in front of the cable car station then somewhere in the middle of an empty road (which could have been the option if I would have continued my traverse). And true - only 15 min later I secured my ride back to the hotel. A German couple took me with their car. We overtook the bus and had some nice conversations during the ride. My family was happily surprised to receive me back during daylight. 


exhausted, but happy on the summit
Fantastic experience. If you happen to be on the island Tenerife, you should plan for a summit tour. Next time I would plan two days (stay over night in the mountain refuge and do the summit at sun rise), which is a common recommendation . Also I would aim at doing some hike at higher altitude before.
Actually I'm quite happy with my decision to not finish the run. You can argue that I shouldn't have even tried it in the first place, but still I'm proud that I was strong enough to exit, where needed.
I'm looking forward to return to the island and eventually finish the run.