Mt Teide

El Teide…”We’re walking up that!”

It’s a bit frightening to think that it was this long ago but when I went on holiday with some school friends after finishing A-levels I looked at visiting El Teide and walking up it. At the time I couldn’t persuade anyone else to consider walking the track up to the highest point in Spain so we went up in the cable car instead. Actually at the time I didn’t realise that we hadn’t even got to the very top itself as it was incredibly cloudy so I was in blissful ignorance at not having quite got there. Nine years on (I feel old now) I have succeeded in fulfilling an ambition to climb to the very top of Mt Teide 🙂

El Teide is a giant at 3718 metres above sea level but cunningly has a mountain refuge (The Alta Vista) at around 3000 metres where you can stay for €20 per night in a dormitory. We booked to do this partly because it looked fun and because we wanted to take it quite easy walking up because of the altitude. Also, if you stay in the hostel you do not need a pass to walk the final 200 metres up to the crater of Teide after the cable car. This is on the assumption that you walk up and are back down to the cable car gate by 9am.

The drive into the Teide National Park is wonderful, the roads sweep through forests and up into the clouds. We were a little concerned as we drove straight into rain on the way up but were hoping that the mountain weather forecast could be trusted seeing as it was saying it would be bright and sunny. Luckily, the higher up we went, the more we escaped the cloud and the better the views became.

Lush mountain views on the way up from Santa Cruz

Having had to find a space in a car park about five minutes from the start after a bit of walking on the road, the first part of the track (at about 2500 metres above sea level) was relatively easy with quite a gentle slope. We passed the Eggs of Teide, which were apparently sort of lava ‘snowballs’ from when the volcano (oh I forgot to mention that bit) erupted at some point. The last recorded eruption was in 1909.

The ‘Eggs of Teide’ and old lava flow

The interesting thing about the rocks around here is that they are very like pumice stone. You can easily pick up some pretty big rocks and they turn out to be very light. They also apparently have some special flowers that grow here but I think it was the wrong time of year for those.

The last third of the walk up to the refuge was much steeper with some quite big rocks making steps in the path. It was on this part that we possibly started to feel some effects of altitude. Luckily we didn’t have too many problems and only noticed a little bit of shortness of breath and some minor head pressure/feeling a bit funny (hard to explain) fleetingly on the way up when exerting ourselves. Going slowly was helpful for getting used to the altitude and so actually made the walk a whole lot easier and enjoyable in a way than if we hadn’t been thinking about the altitude.

Getting steeper


Where’s the refuge? There it is

It was exciting to reach the refuge. What a brilliant place it is…immaculate with some lovely sofas in the hallway, a small kitchen (complete with cutlery, saucepans and plates etc) and probably the most expensive (but worth it) Coke machine in the world.

Alta Vista Mountain Refuge

Post-walk Coke…mmm

Dinner and said post-walk coke
Not only was everything so clean and well kept but the beds were HUUUGE! Ok, Ok so maybe that’s when you compare them to a boat bunk but all the same, very comfortable. We gleaned information via some other people who could speak Spanish and English well enough to communicate with the man running the refuge to find out that in order to get up to the summit in time for the sunrise we would need to be on the track by 5am as it would take a couple of hours to climb the final bit from the refuge to the summit.

Chris and his really big bed

Despite the really big bed I think I failed to get more than twenty minutes of sleep. Apparently altitude can affect sleep so maybe it was that. I felt a tiny bit fluey overnight (maybe acclimatising) but by the time 4.15am came around I was feeling fine again and was excited to be doing the final bit of the mountain.

Ready to go 4.40am…Let’s go, got to see the sunrise
We head out onto the track at about 4.50am into the dark, fully dressed ready for the cold and armed with head torches. We were glad to have those as we had met a couple beforehand who thought their stay in the hostel was part of a led excursion…consequently they were not particularly prepared, especially the man who claimed he would be “the first man to walk to the top in pyjamas”. It think he was exaggerating somewhat but all the same we felt a bit better having brought some gear with us. The path ran through lots of boulders which were quite impressive even in the dark but you needed to keep your wits about you to avoid tripping over.

Pete and Caroline negotiate the path

Chris on the track

It was interesting to see lights ahead and behind us as we walked up and even better to see the sky getting gradually lighter. The last two hundred metres after the cable car station (marked by a gate) were very steep but I think made easier by having stayed in the hostel the night before. As we got nearer the top we started to notice that some bit of earth were warm! As it got lighter we could see the warm bits were steam vents which were quite handy for keeping warm as the wind was quite cold up there.

Sunrise came and it was really special to share the experience with the others who had stayed in the hostel. You could see some amazing colours and the shadow of Teide surprised us in the clouds as the sun got higher. All in all the ascent had taken us about six and a half hours over the two days. It was well worth it.

Sunrise from El Teide

We made it

Teide’s shadow looming behind us

Once the sun had come up and it started to get a bit chilly at the top we walked back down past the crater and its steaming sulphury scent and made our way back down to the cable car station.

Chris, Ratty and Ted having a mini break at the cable car

Chris and I decided to walk back down so we could see what we hadn’t in the dark, whilst Pete took the cable car back down to meet us.

The way back down

The way down was pretty steep and we were glad to get to the nicer path for the last bit.

Wooo, the nice path!

We arrived back at the car in an epic three and a half hours…both shocked at how fast we had got back down and pretty worn out but agreeing that was probably one of the best walks we’ve ever done.

One Response to “Mt Teide”

  1. Hi Guys. Good to see that you made it safely to the Canaries. Great pictures from the early morning hike to Teide. I guess you’ll cross soon enough and thus come a fair bit closer to us!

    Cheers and Fair winds too you!

    Magnus & Isabelle

    s/v Nanna (formerly Röde Orm; now sold)

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