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Montana Blanca hike in May

I have not written a blog for a while due to upheavals at home during refurbishment of our flat.  It resulted in my access to my computer and Wifi internet being impossible of extremely restricted, and since returning home there’s been lots to do!  So now I have a bit of spare time I am going to upload some lovely nature experiences I had during May and June.

The rare endemic Teide helianthemum (Helianthemum juliae) flowering in the El Portilla visitor centre garden

Cistus osbeckifolius a rare Tenerife endemic growing in the El Portillo visitor centre garden

On 24th May, 2017, two friends and I were planning a walk from El Portillo in the Teide National Park, to La Forteleza to see the red tajinastes and a rare Tenerife endemic cistus in flower. Unfortunately we did not realise that on that day all paths, except one, in the National Park were closed due to hunting for mouflon – an ancient sheep ancestor introduced to the island for hunting. These animals now pose a serious threat to the rare and endangered endemic plants which grow in the National Park and the surrounding mountain areas. These plants evolved in an environment which did not have large herbivores, and therefore have little defence to them. The hunting now being done is to reduce the numbers and maybe eradicate them.

Shrubby scabious (Pterocephalus lasiospermus) is a Canary endemic which grows widely in the high mountain area of Tenerife

Teide Margarite (Argyranthemum teneriffae) a Tenerife endemic beside the path up to Mtna Blanca

So when we arrived at the visitor centre at El Portillo we discovered we would not be able to do the walk we planned. Instead we had a look at the visitor centre’s botanic garden which contains many of the rare local species in it. Here we saw the Red Tajinaste (Echium wildpretii) and the rare cistus (Cistus osbeckifolius) in flower, as well as others. I have never seen the Teide helianthemum (Helianthemum juliae) before, and it was making a great show, with all its lovely yellow flowers facing the sun. I think the flowers are short-lived as only 5 days later I visited the botanic garden again and all but a few of the helianthemum flowers were over.

Night-scented campion (Silene nocteolens), another endemic, which is being repopulated in the pumice areas near Mtna Blanca.

Mountain Wallflower (Erysimum scoparium) in the open pumicy landscape

Then we resigned ourselves to walking on the only path still open to the public on that day, Montaña Blanca. This path serves the most frequently used (and shortest) route to the top of Mt Teide. There is limited parking at the start of the path, on the road between the base of the cable car and El Portillo, but we were lucky to get one as someone just pulled out in front of us. They had probably come down from the Teide summit where many from the Refugio go up to see the dawn.

Mt Teide Broom (Spartocytisus supranubius) (white flowers), surrounded by Tenerife flixweed (Descurainia gonzalezi)

Blue tajinaste (Echium auberianum) beside our path. Some of Teide’s eggs (large blocks of lava) in the background.

I had previously only walked the path to Montaña Blanca when going up or down Mt Teide in the winter, and had thought the landscape rather boring and exposed, so I was not looking forward to the walk. However, the day was pleasantly sunny with a gentle breeze, and not too hot for walking so we started upwards. The landscape is mainly of pumice spewed out by the Montaña Blanca. But there are some local plants that like the pumice environment. It seems that the National Park has not only been controlling the mouflon to benefit these plants but also has been developping a programme over a number of years, of propagating several species and repopulating the area with them. As a consequence we had an interesting walk with many of these plants in flower.

Blue Tajinaste in front of Tenerife flixweed and a pink form of Mt Teide Broom behind Mtna Blanca

More Teide’s eggs, and a view to the long rocky ridge called La Fortaleza, which we had planned to walk to.

The pumice track continued uphill winding around towards Teide. One fork to the right confused us for a short while, till we realised we should have gone left, otherwise it was easy walking till we got to a path junction at the foot of the steep slope of Teide. Here the path to the summit begins a zig-zag section. There is a path to the left to the top of Mtna Blanca which is where we went, and had a gorgeous panaramic view of the caldera while we ate our lunch.

 

 

After lunch we retraced our steps back to the road, enjoying the views again from the opposite perspective.

Tenerife Flixweed beside the pumice track

The there and back walk involved approximately 400m of climbing on a very gentle slope with good paths. It was approximately 10.6 km / 6.6 miles long and took us about 3 – 3.5 hours.

An easy walk on the dorsal ridge to enjoy the views and the flowers

The national park sign at the start of the path, describing the walk

The national park sign at the start of the path, describing the walk

 

This walk would not be enjoyable if you chose the wrong day, but on a warm sunny day with clear views, and only light wind, it is a real pleasure and very easy. So check the weather forecast before you go. I did it as a linear walk from the Roque de Mal Abrigo to the Mirador Chipique. However, I am not going to write about that as the middle bit was certainly not easy. I am just going to write about the first 2.5 km, and suggest doing it as a there and back walk.

Roque de Mal Abrigo which is on the opposite side of the road to the start of the walk

Roque de Mal Abrigo which is on the opposite side of the road to the start of the walk

 

 

The Roque de Mal Abrigo (which literally means Bad Overcoat Rock) is at about km 34.8 on the TF-24 road which runs from La Esperanza to El Portillo. It is in the Teide National Park, which encompasses this strip of ridge as well as its main area in the caldera. You will find there are several places you can park off the road near to the start of the path.

The view to Mt Teide from the start of the walk, with Shrubby Scabious (Pterocephalus lasiospermus) in the foreground

The view to Mt Teide from the start of the walk, with Shrubby Scabious (Pterocephalus lasiospermus) in the foreground

 

The path goes towards the east, passing between bushes of Retama del Teide (Spartocytisus supranubius), Shrubby Scabious (Pterocephalus lasiospermus) and Tenerife Flixweed (Descourainia bourgaeana). There is a fork in the path early on, with signposts, take the right fork which continues roughly level, not downhill. There are fine views to Teide, and down the Orotava valley, and even the island of La Palma, clouds permitting.

 

Plants growing among the rocks on Montana la Negrita, including the yellow-flowered Flor de mapais (Tolpis webbii)

Plants growing among the rocks on Montana la Negrita, including the yellow-flowered Flor de malpais (Tolpis webbii)

The path climbs gently over a red-coloured gravelly rise, Montaña Yegua Blanca, and then descends the other side to meet the road. You will have walked 1.29 km and climbed gently about 60m. If you want you can retrace your steps from here, or arrange a car to pick you up. Otherwise you can go across the road and continue for a further 1.2 km with a short climb of about 30m before returning.  This will get you to the top of Montaña la Negrita to enjoy the fine views down the ridge, and down to the coast of the Güimar valley and across to the island of Gran Canaria if it is not blocked by cloud or haze.

The path does continue on down from the top of Montaña la Negrita and is well defined and easily negotiated by adventurous and well-equipped walkers. It is, however, a steep descent requiring excellent footwear, surefootedness and, preferably, two sticks to negotiate safely. There is then a rise to Montaña Colorado followed by an equally steep, though longer, descent to the road at La Crucita (around km 30). I am therefore not recommending it as an easy walk!

The recommended walk to the top of Montaña la Negrita and back is just over 5 km / 3.25 miles, with around 100 m / 325 ft of ascent and descent. It took my friends and I 1 hr and 40 minutes to do it.

A stroll in the Teide National Park to see the fantastic endemic flowers

A group of Teide Vipers Bugloss - Tajinaste rojo - (Echium wildpretii) on the slope of the caldera wall

A group of Teide Vipers Bugloss – Tajinaste rojo – (Echium wildpretii) on the slope of the caldera wall

This is to let all my readers know, to hurry up to the National Park in the next 2-3 weeks to enjoy the festival of flowers there at the moment. Yes the Teide Viper’s Bugloss, or Tajinastes rojos, (Echium wildpretii) are out already, even though it’s earlier than usual. There is also a fantastic display of Mountain wallflowers, Alhelí, (Erysimum scoparium), and Teide catmint, Tonática, (Nepeta teydea) on the slopes around Boca de Tauce which were affected by the forest fire in 2012. I have never seen such a profusion of colourful flowers in that area as there is this year.

Mountain wallflower - Alheli - (Erysimum scoparium)

Mountain wallflower – Alheli – (Erysimum scoparium)

And for those of you who are not great walkers, or who have friends who are not, this short walk will get you up close to the plants without walking very far, or on very rough surfaces, but far enough from the road to be able to enjoy it.

My friends and I parked at the Mirador which is between Km 3 and Km 4 on the road from Chio to Boca de Tauce, the TF-38. It is the mirador which looks up at the Narices del Teide (Teide’s nostrils) on Pico Viejo. From the parking area we crossed the road and took a path which runs behind the crash barrier for a few yards and then turns away. It heads first in a northerly direction and then wanders through the lava towards the west and finally ends up heading south and eventually joins a track at the foot of the caldera wall. This path is on lava and is mostly comprised of small lava pebbles, so not the most comfortable walking surface. If the roughness of the path bothers you, instead of taking the path from directly opposite the parking at the Mirador, walk down the road towards Boca de Tauce (roughly south) for about 300m till you see a track on the right, which you take. Walk towards the caldera wall and there you meet where the path joins the track.

Teide catmint (Nepeta teydea)

Teide catmint (Nepeta teydea)

At the bend in the track where the path joins, you start to see the flowers. Initially some Escobon plants (Chaemacytisus proliferus) with white broom-like flowers, a canary endemic widely used for animal fodder. Continuing further, past a rocky part of the caldera wall, the slope opens out on the right and the Tajinastes begin, accompanied by Mountain wallflowers. Continue on the track, past an open sandy area which is underlain by ‘ropey’ lava, and continue up a slight slope on the track to another area on the right with lots of Tajinastes, mixed with Mountain wallflowers, Teide catmint and Mountain figwort (Scrophularia glabrata). On the left are also some bright yellow Sticky Broom flowers or Codeso del monte, (Adenocarpus viscosus) making a contrasting colour.

The slope of the caldera wall covered in pines and Mountain wallflower giving a beautiful mauve haze

The slope of the caldera wall covered in pines and Mountain wallflower giving a beautiful mauve haze

You could then turn around and retrace your steps, but if you fancy a longer walk, continue up the track to a bend, where a signposted footpath goes to the left. If you follow that footpath along the foot of the caldera wall, and for one section, on the lava, you will see more flowers, including a whole slope covered in Teide catmint with a haze of deep purple up the slope. You will arrive at the National Park information post near to Boca de Tauce in the building called Casa Juan Evora. You can then either return the same way, or walk back on the road (not really recommended). Of course, if you planned in advance you could organise one car at each end.

Flowers of the Sticky broom - Codeso del monte - (Adenocarpus viscous)

Flowers of the Sticky broom – Codeso del monte – (Adenocarpus viscous)

The walk my friends and I did was just over 6 km (both there and back) and we took 2.5 hours. It could have been considerably less, but we were stopping a lot, looking at the flowers and taking photos. If you extend the walk to Boca de Tauce as suggested the walk in both directions will add up to between 8.5 and 10 km depending whether you take the path or track at the beginning and end.

More Teide Vipers Bugloss - Tajinaste rojo - with Mountain wallflowers - Alheli

More Teide Vipers Bugloss – Tajinaste rojo – with Mountain wallflowers – Alheli

Enjoy the floral spectacle!

Teide Marguerite -margarita del Teide - (Argyranthemum teneriffae) in the lava beside the road

Teide Marguerite -margarita del Teide – (Argyranthemum teneriffae) in the lava beside the road