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Frank Simon | MPI for Physics | Germany

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On the Top of Spain

Yesterday we tackled a special project: To climb the highest mountain of Spain, the Teide on Tenerife, with an altitude of 3718 m. Well, even though we are staying almost at sea level, we don’t have to hike up all that much: You can drive up to 2300 m, and then there is a cable car that goes up to 3500 m. Of course, hiking up is also a possibility, but we did quite a bit of that already two days ago. Plus, it is a bit annoying if you hike up for a few hours, and then you meet all the others who have taken the easy way up. The last few hundred meters to the summit, the “Pico del Teide”, is a bit more exclusive: You need written permission to go up, and only 150 people per day are permitted, to protect the summit from too many visitors. The permit also gives you just a two hour window to go to the top and back, so we had to be on time!

El Teide, the volcano on Tenerife, in the morning light

El Teide, the volcano on Tenerife, in the morning light.

We started relatively early (at least for vacation), with a beautiful view of the mountain in the morning sun. After a bit more than an hour drive, up a winding mountain road, we arrived at the cable car station, and then took our trip up to the mountain. Up there, you can immediately tell the beach tourists from the more experienced hikers: Just look for shorts and T-shirts. At 3500 m altitude it is always cold, even on an almost tropical island. Temperatures below freezing, certainly in the morning, quickly get the masses back down with the next cable car. Plus of course the thin air (thanks Ingrid for “stealing” that ideal post title 😉 ), which also comes as a shock if you are not used to this.

Going up to the Pico del Teide: Tropical island or not, 3700 m asl gloves and a hat are a good idea.

Going up to the Pico del Teide: Tropical island or not, 3700 m asl gloves and a hat are a good idea.

The hike up the last 200 something vertical meters is a bit strenuous, due to the lack of oxygen, especially since we did not really get acclimatized by sleeping at sea level. I guess the hike three days ago helped a bit, though. Up on the top, the view was breathtaking. We could see the other islands around Tenerife, and of course the whole island itself. Some of it was covered in clouds, also quite usual for an island with a high volcano in the center. Up there, you can also see that the volcano is still alive. Hot fumes are wafting from vents around the summit, and there is a strong smell of brimstone. After 20 minutes or so on the Top of Spain, plus the compulsory summit photograph, we went back down, and then took the cable car to regions with denser and warmer air.

All in all, a worthwhile trip, so if you ever end up going to Tenerife, be sure to request your summit permit in advance (can be done online, although that is not so easy to find, and all relevant pages are in Spanish…)!

My wife and I on the Top of Spain.

My wife and I on the Top of Spain.

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