Roque del Conde – An Iconic Mountain

Roque del Conde seen from near Ifonche

I have been walking in the south of Tenerife for seven years now and I have never before climbed the Roque del Conde.  I did not know what I had missed!  People had told me that if you did it once you would not want to do it again – they were wrong!

The footpath crossing the spectacular Barrance del Rey

The Roque del Conde is the flat-topped mountain near Arona which can be seen from the coastal resorts of Los Cristianos, Playa de las Americas, Fañabe and La Caleta, and I love the view up to it and its surrounding mountains from the coast.  I have also walked many times past the base of the mountain, but never up it before.

One reason I have never been up it before is that it is a relatively short walk – shorter than most that I do either with a friend or two or the group I walk with, but it is an excellent walk.

Bitter spurge (Euphorbia lamarckii)

The walk starts at Arona, where the main road, TF-51 from the coast to Vilaflor and Teide, passes between Arona and Vento, the village nearest to the Roque.  Walk towards Vento following the red/white markers and signs.  In Vento a red signpost points right between two houses to the beginning of the path, which immediately crosses a ravine, Barranco de las Arenas.  Then drops into another ravine, the Barranco del Ancon.  On the other side a signpost points to the left for the Roque del Conde.  Very soon you cross another, more dramatic ravine, the Barranco del Rey, zig-zagging down the slope on the path and back up the other side.

A large clump of Canary spurge (Euphorbia canariensis) on the West side of the Roque gives shelter to a small Juniper

Then, passing to the right of an abandoned cottage, and shortly afterwards two large threshing circles, the climb begins in earnest.  The path is quite rough at times, and at other times well-cobbled, and zig zags up the slope through an area of xerophytic (dry tolerant) plants.  There are lots of prickly pears (Opuntia spp), and the dominant native plants are the Canary spurge, or cardón, to use its local spanish name, (Euphorbia canariensis), and Bitter spurge or tabaiba amarga (Euphorbia lamarckii).

Clumps of Canary Spurge (Euphorbia canariensis) interspersed with Purple Spurge (Euphorbia atropurpurea) on the highest part of the Roque

This year there were few flowers as there has not yet been substantial rain this winter.  Everything is looking brown and wilted and the few things bravely flowering, such as the Bitter spurge and a few Marguerites (Argyranthemum gracile), are flowering sparingly.  Even the big pads of the prickly pears are wrinkling.  On reaching a ridge the path passes over to the south-western face of the mountain and after a level stretch again begins a steep ascent with some zig-zags.  Passing some large rocks you can see they are covered in lichens.  On this side of the mountain the same plant mix is supplemented by a few different ones, notably the Tree bindweed, or guaydil, (Convolvulus floridus), standing taller than many of the other shrubs, and which will look lovely when in flower about May with masses of white bell-shaped flowers.

Finally the path arrives at a large flat area where you may be surprised to see the remains of field boundaries.  In the past the flat top of the mountain was used for growing cereals, but this year shows how, at times, the crops must have failed, if, like now, there was no rain.  The path crosses these fields to reach the highest point on the opposite side of the plateau, with a concrete post marking it.  Near this I spent some time watching some Berthelot pipits scavenging in the area where many visitors probably stop to eat picnics.  We wandered around the edge of the plateau looking down over the edge at the cliffs below.  I admired the fine old specimen of Juniper (Juniperus canariensis) which perched on the western edge of the plateau.

Fine specimen of Juniper (Juniperus canariensis) on the edge of the cliff overlooking Torvicas

One of our group was determined to find the other path down, which we knew about but none had ever tried.  Eventually they found it and three of them set off down it.  They were soon out of sight and dropping down the slope very rapidly, so it appeared to be relatively easy.  However, here I must warn you.  If you do not like steep slopes with rock scrambles, do not try it.  So the majority of our group went back down the way we all came up, but one friend and I followed the three who had already descended on the other path.  It was an exciting descent and gave some excellent views of the cliffs around the top of the mountain, and the plants and lichens on them.  The greenest things on the cliffs were some ferns, Davillia canariensis, I think, but they were a long way away and I had not got my binoculars out of my rucksack.  However, I did get them out to look at a clump of small trees on the lowest, north facing cliff, which turned out to be a group of wild olives (Olea europea), which were a delight to see.

Gradually the path down the northern spur gets less steep, passes another threshing floor and finally joins the GR131 path in the col.  We stopped for lunch on the col and then followed the GR131 down the valley and along the ridge back towards Arona where we met our other friends.

I thoroughly enjoyed the walk, and would certainly do it again.  The views from the top were amazing, both down to the busy developments on the coast, and to the rugged and very rural landscapes of the area, so close to all that bustle.  And, on the right day, the view would extend up to Teide over the beautiful green of the pine forests.  The day we did it the cloud was obscuring the very top of the island, but it was still worth the effort.

The climb to the top took us one and a half hours for a distance of 3.3km with just over 400m of climbing.  Walking down the same way (which I advise for all but the most adventurous walkers) would take slightly less, making around 2.75 hours.  The descent I and my 4 friends did took us a similar time but added about 1km to the total distance, so we walked 7.6 km including the walk around the top.

About Sally Whymark

When I retired and moved out to Tenerife a few years ago, one of the things I really wanted to do was go walking in the mountains. The scenery is very dramatic, and varied. The views are amazing. The native birds and butterflies and other fauna are remarkable. But the flowers - they're just stunning. Little did I know how this would fire up my interest in plants. While living in England, I had always had an interest in flowers and plants, indeed I ran a plant nursery with my husband for many years, but had not spent a great deal of time pursuing botany. But when walking in Tenerife, I noticed all the unfamiliar shapes of the local flowers, and longed to find out more about them. There are literally hundreds of species endemic to just Tenerife (or even just one part of it), the Canary Islands, or Macronesia (the Atlantic Islands, including Madeira, Canaries and Azores). They are so exciting, and so many of them are really showy as well. So I have started this blog to share with you my excitement at all the great sights I see when walking in Tenerife. I hope you'll enjoy it - and want to come here and experience it for yourself.

Posted on February 12, 2012, in South Tenerife, Walks in Tenerife, West Tenerife and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Reputedly Tenerife’s oldest mountain. In the Spring the top is covered with relinchón, suaja and a whole variety of flowers. Personally, I think it’s really beautiful, I like the era and the view from the top and the purple tabaibas. I’ve climbed it several times and will do it several times more.

  2. Unfortunately this spring, without rain, the only flowers I saw on the top were a few on the purple tabaibas. I’ll have to do it again when we have had some rain.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: