We briefly visited Tenerife on our way sailing to La Gomera, here in the Canaries. Tenerife, if not the Canaries, is dominated by Mount Teide. We had been catching glimpses of it ever since we first approached the islands, and wanted to see it up close.
At 3,700 m/12,000 ft, or more than two miles high, it was beyond our family’s current hiking abilities. (Even more impressive is the mountain’s height from the ocean floor. It rises 7,500 m/24,600 ft from its base.) But there is a good road that goes most of the way up, and a cable car available to cover most of the remaining distance.
There are really two mountains, one on top of another. Unlike Gran Canaria, which was riddled with ridges and rifts and deep valleys, the entire island of Tenerife rises more gently and steadily from its shoreline, up and back into the interior. The drive up was pleasant and the road only moderately inclined, as compared to the tortuous switch-backs of Gran Canaria.
An hour’s drive took us to top of the “first” mountain, an enormous caldera that was created when the volcano blew its top about 150,000 years ago. The result is an enormous plane, mostly round, that is about seven miles in diameter.
One gets a sense of how big Teide really is from inside the caldera. A second peak rises up from this plane, roughly doubling the height of the mountain. Teide’s peak is the result of secondary, younger eruptions that grew out of the caldera.
We drove across the caldera to the base of this second peak. We parked the car in a lot, and took a cable car from a lower station, rising another 1,000 meters to an upper station, closer to the top. From there, we did a 2 km hike around the upper station.
We could look down and see the walls of the caldera and its floor, looking a bit like a giant, dried-out bowl of oatmeal that had boiled, bubbled, and eventually cooled.
Teide is, supposedly, going to blow sometime in the “near future,” although it is anybody’s guess as to just when. Certainly, there were lots of steaming vents that one could use as hand-warmers, demonstrating that things are active and alive under the surface.
Our hike around the upper station was hardly challenging, rolling up and down a path among the lava fields, but we really struggled. We were just above the defined level of “High,” where diminished oxygen begins to be a problem, and at the start of the “Very High” zone. We hadn’t done anything to acclimate. In fact, we had broken all the rules, rushing up from sea level to this height in a matter of a few hours. As a result, we really felt the lack of oxygen, and needed to stop and take frequent breaks. Sima, the kids, and I all felt lethargic, and I admit to feeling confused about the operation of my camera.
We took the cable car back down, and then began the drive back to our marina in Las Galletas, stopping frequently to enjoy the view.
We stopped for dinner at a road-side restaurant most of the way home, and later climbed into bed exhausted. We hadn’t climbed all the way to the 12,200 feet, but it sure felt like it.