February 3, 2012

The Volcano Trail, La Palma

After a few days on La Palma we started to wonder if the ridge of the island would always be in fog.  After all we were down here for some warmth, sun, and enjoyable hiking.  Fog we can get plenty of in the UK.  We learned to pack the car with everything we might need when we left for the day, and it paid off for us when we noticed the ridge finally visible as we were headed in the other direction.  With a screech of tires we were driving up to the Refugio El Pilar and the start of the fabled Volcano Ridge.  Although the road was shrouded in fog, we had hopes that we might emerge above it and see the trail stretching before us. 

Hike #8 in Walk! La Palma hiking guide. 

The trail begins in pine trees and continues up and up into more pine trees.  Although I love canary pines, after a few miles I started wondering whether any volcanoes would ever appear on this "Ruta de los Volcanes".   Eventually they did.  Eventually even the sun came out, and sure enough we had a clear view of the volcanic craters as we hikes around, over, and through them.  Unlike the large crater to the north, these tiny cones are part of recent history.  Seven eruptions have been recorded in the last 500 years or so, in a line marching down the ridge to the sea. 

After we were sufficiently awed by the views and the route, it was time to turn around.  The nature of the trail meant that a circular hike was difficult and mostly unneeded, as seeing the trail twice was definitely no hardship.  It was mostly easy walking and once out of the trees had no major climbs.  We turned around just before we would have descended into the cold fog, happy to stay in the sunshine, even with a sandwich stop and quick nap on soft pine needles in a sheltered valley.  Alas, the fog rose with us during the return, and followed us most of the hike home. 

The trail is well marked and impossible to lose.  Although the dual trail marking system, old and new, was evident on this path more than most others.   Awkwardly, both trail signs always pointed to the same destinations, yet gave differing mileage distances.  Not sure why it takes two sets of trail markers anyway, it seems the old ones should have been removed...?  And which distance was correct?  All part of the charm of La Palma.

This section of trail is also part of the GR131 long-distance route along the spine of La Palma.  More famously, it is also the route of the ultrarunning race called the Transvulcania, held in May every year.  Starting and finishing at sea level, it is a tough race of almost 52 miles and 8500 meters of elevation change.   I won't make the race this year, but after seeing the trail would love to come back for it someday!

Tenerife in thedistance








4 comments:

  1. Dawn, "Bobby" is just a spammer, paid to spam every blog with "comments" laced with links to some site selling something, in this case some bathroom accessories :)

    Anyway, I did the Volcano Route last year, down to Fuencaliente in the South. We also were in the clouds in the beginning, but above the clouds when we reached the ridge.

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    1. Thanks, I've deleted the spammer, then. Isn't La Palma wonderful! It is nice to suddenly hike out above the fog into sunshine...

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    2. We walked from El Pilar to Fuencaliente last February and were amazed to find the ground covered in white frost above El Pilar. It was clear with magnificent views to begin with, but clouded over towards the end of our walk. We'll be getting a taxi to El Pilar and walking/jogging it again on 12th May, the day of the trail race.
      La Palma is indeed wonderful - I'll be celebrating my 80th birthday there on 6th May - hopefully on the Roque de los Muchachos.

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    3. Well, I hope you have a great birthday walk in a few days! Enjoy your holiday to La Palma, it's definitely a great place to return to!

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