After a night at the refuge Altavista groups started getting ready at about four in the morning. It’s still another 500m to the summit and a little extra time is needed to get there in the dark, low voices and glazed looks as we shuffled about packing bags, sorting out water and eating some breakfast. The wind had picked up in the night and was running at about twenty to thirty mph. All good fun on the mountain, on the plus side the sky was clear and the moon high, so I was able to walk without a head torch without too much trouble. Only when clambering in the shade of some boulders was it needed.
Any mountain is a strange place at night, sounds amplify, people’s quiet conversations drift down from above. You see less further away, yet your eyes pick out details in the shadows and on the rocks around you that create a new image of the world. In amongst the volcanic rubble, the huge boulders where the path twists and turns you climb upwards to a summit still hidden by the bulk of the lava above. The cable-car doesn’t start till nine, which means apart from the fifteen or so who will be waiting for the sun, the summit plateau is deserted. We pass the point where the park ranger would normally check your permit for the final two hundred metres and climb some more. This part of the path is more exposed and gives the chance to look back into the darkness surrounding us. Buffeted by the wind, I find a hollow to sit and wait for the sun. Intermittent blasts of warm sulphurous air holds off some of the cold bite, it is not as cold as it could be.
As the sun rises towards the horizon, light creeps up into the landscape, details clarifying. You see the island stretching away from you, clouds against the North coast become defined. Still we wait, another bite to eat, a drink, and strange disjointed conversations with the Spanish group sitting close by. What time is sunrise? I check my GPS. Five minutes away, it goes quiet as everyone looks out, looking for the first edge of the sun’s disc.
When it does arrive, I take a picture, point, and suddenly everyone is up having photos with the sun behind them, as the disc visibly grows on the horizon. The wind is still strong enough to pull you over, and in the blasts of a strong gust I lose my hat, gone somewhere into the abyss. Better it than me. These moments, dawning over a mountain are so amazing, I try not to take too much time on pictures. I want to capture it with my eyes and mind as much as the camera. Seeing the light coming towards you across the landscape is breathtaking and later as the sun climbed higher I watched the shadow of the mountain, this time receding from the terrain below me as I descended towards Pico Viejo.
And so, we turned our backs to the sun and started to descend. Some back the way to Montana Blanca and others waiting for the cable-car, I headed across Mount Teide for the far side and Pico Viejo. The shadows and form created by sunrise make this landscape jump out, jagged rocks, fumaroles, hot air drifting across. It is a place to visit, to see the colours and shapes around you.
The return of the sun doesn’t make the land around look any more real, lunar images spring to mind. Jagged edges are everywhere, the smell even in the wind. All come together to create a singular experience. A track would take me down one of the biggest of the lava flows from Teide, towards Pico Viejo and its stunning crater. The trip down is rough, loose rock and gravel, surrounded by boulders and sometimes difficult routefinding around the near identical pathways.
The Rocks de Garcia, where later I would be catching the bus back down to the sea. After spending a night at the refuge, I found the altitude a lot less troubling than the first time I visited Teide. From here though everything was downhill (mostly) so no problems from that aspect.
Now I headed away from Teide and towards Pico Viejo. Slow and steady as the sun rose and I descended, the loss of my hat meant I needed to be aware of the heat, and fluids. My sugary Kendal mint cake kept me in high spirits, and I enjoyed the solitude as I made my way down. Next time, Pico Viejo, the crossing of lava flows, and the Rocks de Garcia. In the meantime, get out and enjoy yourself in the outdoors, it’s where you should be. Not stuck inside wondering.