Tag Archives: Gran Canaria.

Not the GR131 GRAN CANARIA – Festival time.

Hoya Pineda – Galdar and onwards.

As you can imagine we had a slow leisurely start to the day, dragging ourselves away from the Hostel we climbed back up into the village and contoured round the west side of the mountain. Walking through the village dump we found a path under steep basalt cliffs and height was slowly lost. Over to the west were the steep Tamadaba hills and ahead the volcanic cone above Galdar.

Lanes were met and led us past dog infested houses to St.Maria de Guia, a pleasant little town with supposedly an area of historic houses. We were sidetracked by a car rally in the plaza. The narrow streets, cobbled with black volcanic rock, and old houses in the higher part of town were  explored. What struck us most was the height of the doors in proportion to the properties. Why?  The area is also famous for its Queso de Flor de Guia made mainly from sheep’s milk curdled with Cardoon [thistle] flowers. We found ourselves in the courtyard of a house selling this and opted for a taster of three cheeses and wine. The cheese was salty and served with a biscuit like bread, I wasn’t that impressed. However the olives we ate were some of the tastiest I’ve ever had and the ambience in the hot sun perfect.

Galdar is a stones throw away across the motorway. Some of its houses seem precariously built on the side of the volcanic cone. We found our way to the Santiago church and walked into the local festival, marching bands, fancy dress, dancing troops and a very loud pop concert. It was a couple of blocks away before we found a quiet cafe for a drink.

Galdar.

                                                               Galdar.

Santiago Church.

Santiago Church.

The Guagua [local bus] soon had us into the capital, Las Palmas, for a couple of days relaxation exploring the old town with more festivities, unusual modern art galleries, tropical gardens, lovely beach, fish restaurants, local back street bars…………… All a distant memory now we are back in the good old UK.

Not the GR131 GRAN CANARIA – downhill all the way?

Tunte – Hoya de Pinata.

Today we left the  northern part of the GR131 which we had previously walked and continued on our pilgrim route across the Island. We set off in cold mist and despite my assertion that we would be walking downhill all the way spent an hour climbing steeply towards Moriscos. Out of the mist appeared our friend the runner, now with followers in tow, we will check how he performs in the grand run in March. This wet weather is due to the trade winds from the NE which had brought Christopher Columbus to the Island and established it as a trading post in the Atlantic. We bypassed Mt. Moriscos and Mt.Negro, the latter a perfect ash cone and arrived at the view point into Caldera de Pinos. That was quite impressive and ‘only’ 3000 yrs old. Nearby were some Canarian Pines 300 yrs old.

Mt.Negro.

Mt.Negro.

Caldera de Pinus.

Caldera de Pinos.

Steep descending on ash through the pines brought us out into rolling green countryside with  grazing sheep, Tagasaste plantations [used for animal feed] and flowering almond trees. Quite a contrast to the higher areas of the Island. A door admitted us into a small bar for a Tropical beer and bocadillos once we had pronounced them correctly. The local police stopped by for a drink and a chat. We emerged into hot sunshine and carried on down lanes past farmsteads and barking dogs. Over to our left the Tamadaba hills seemed impressive in profile, we had climbed them last November. The village of El Saucillo was next and in our endeavours to support the local economy coffee was taken in the cafe. Despite the fact that there were only three people at the bar the volume of conversation was off the decibel scale, I’m sure it was all very friendly. Our onward route was identified on the road signs.A little peace and quite followed as we strolled down the lanes and into Hoya Pinada. Our hostel for the night, the Camino Art Hostel, was the last house in the village after the church,  on the very edge of the wild barranca. Beata, an Hungarian girl, made us very welcome and proudly showed us round her gardens and property. The girl sharing our dorm was Ukrainian and others staying there Polish and Spanish.  As the wine was cheap we stayed put for an evening of International discussions.

https://caminoarthostel.wordpress.com/

 

Hoya Pineda, Camimo Hostel salmon coloured house right middle above barranca.

Hoya Pineda, with Camino Hostel, salmon coloured house right middle above barranca.

GR131 GRAN CANARIA – to be a pilgrim.

Tunte – Cruz Tejeda.

In Tunte there is a church dedicated to Santiago [St. James] and one in Galdar at the North end of the Island, between them is one of the ancient Camino Reales which has been recovered by the Cabildo Insular [Regional Government]. A pilgrimage route has been established along this although the route itself is pre Spanish Conquest and Christianity. So today we can complete our GR131 and start a pilgrimage after our obligatory coffee in Plaza Santiago, I still haven’t got used to the taste of the local Canarian coffee, don’t know what they put in it. We spend the next 4 hours climbing up into the centre of the Island. Initially on a steep made up path through pines to the road at Cruz Grande and a rest whilst looking over Tunte and further to the East coast. Across the road is the start of a magnificent cobbled  track zigzagging through steep volcanic scenery. At the top the path goes across bare rock and we stop for a snack [tuna again] as runners pass through. The day is passing and we don’t seem to have gone far on the map but the ground levels out through a pine forest on ash and magma below the highest point of the Island, Pico de las Nieves 1949m,  which being military is out of bounds.

At Garanon there is a youth camp and we can get a coffee from a machine, the huts have an appearance of a concentration camp so I hope the kids survive.

Suddenly we are on a balcony path looking out to all the famous landmarks of Gran Canaria – Roques El Fraile, Nublo, Bentayga,  Mt. Altavista and distant Mt. Teide on Tenerife. Some scenery and we are just in time as the mist starts to role in. Onwards to Cruz de Tejeda and El Refugio for the night. It is surprising how quickly the temperature drops up here once in mist and we are glad of heating in the rooms. Later we are treated to a spectacular sunset over Mt.Teide.

GR131 GRAN CANARIA – the empty quarter.

Ayagaures – Tunte.

Déjà vu at Ayagaures as the taxi dropped us off the next morning, but this time we were heading north on the GR131.Crossing the dam above Ayagaures led to small houses with surrounding Garden of Eden plots. Hard work had created fruit and veg that anyone would be proud of.From there we climbed a clear path into a scattered pine forest looking out for elusive Blue Chaffinch as we went, no luck.

As height was gained we seemed to be heading for a pass but we continued traversing above it into a more and more remote area with views back down to the coast. Some mountain bikers sped fearlessly downhill past us and low and behold that hill runner nonchalantly trotted by. Lost valleys appeared below. The original route has been closed due to a landslide and the volcanic rocks hereabouts looked friable. Lunch was taken before we reached the col at Manzanilla. I was so impressed by the feeling of spaciousness up here.

Two curiosities en route –

Giant dandelions, 3ft high, growing everywhere; you should see the size of the rabbits!

– and water on tap out of the rock.

So eventually over the top and onto an ancient looping track down to Tunte. We were chasing the 14.30 bus but on arrival at the stop found the timetable had changed, we didn’t fancy a three hour wait for the next. The ploy is to go into a bar and ask for a taxi knowing full well there isn’t one, this usually finds an ‘hombre’ willing to do the job. The helpful lady in our bar of choice did just that and before long we were on the way again in an unlicensed car with a driver who would probably failed even the most lenient of alcohol tests.

 

Who is driving?

                                                         Choose your driver.

We arrived safely and reflected on a yet another brilliant day’s walking in a beautiful and remote area of the Island.

GR131 GRAN CANARIA – Barranco de los Vicentillos.

Ayagaures – Maspalomas.

Virtually within an hour of landing at Gran Canaria airport I was in the pool of our cheap bungalow complex at Maspalomas, with an air temperature of 25degrees. It is January, we had  just spent 5 euros on a decent bottle of wine, nuts and olives, and are relaxing before a trip to one of the good fish restaurants for supper.  When John asked me back in England just over a week ago if I fancied a return trip here I readily agreed – we had unfinished business.      https://bowlandclimber.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/gr131-gran-canaria-change-of-plans/

The GR131 through this Island is not waymarked as such, the Cicerone walking guide gives a version of what may transpire. Their last section [N-S] follows a road all the way from Ayaguares to Maspalomas,18k, surely there must be a better alternative. This is where Barranco de los Vicentillos comes in, it looked an obvious route but paths on the map were marked intermittently – there was only one way to find out. The taxi dropped us off in the virtually deserted village of Ayaguares at 9.15, the bar didn’t open till maybe 10 so we just set off walking. A winding lane took us steeply up and over the intervening ridge where we could look down into the Barranco, it did look inhospitable. However paths led down to the dry river bed and we then could follow the rough stony ‘trail’ through reedy vegetation. After heavy rain this would be impossible but today we enjoyed blue skies and increasing temperatures.

John became preoccupied with plans to convert the stout reeds into trecking poles thus avoiding the hefty aircraft charges for hold luggage containing our own ‘weapons’. His schemes probably still need refining so Ryanair needn’t  worry about loss of revenues just yet. The Barranco was quite deep in parts with ‘Swiss Cheese’ volcanic rock on either side. A wide selection of plants and shrubs were encountered, the prickly pears were particularly vicious.  We only met one person down there, an awesomely fit hill runner preparing for an Island race later in the year. Eventually we emerged under the motorway into the outskirts of Maspalomas and a welcome coffee at a kiosk outside the health clinic. We had previously followed the tracks onwards down to Faro lighthouse at the coast so we took a short cut  back to our bungalow.

For anybody following the GR131 I would highly recommend this route for the last stage to the coast.

GR131 GRAN CANARIA – change of plans.

From Top to Bottom.

All good things come to an end. I was up all night with the most awful abdominal pain!  If I’d been at home would have gone to hospital – ?appendix ?kidney stone. Eased up after 7hours and spent the rest of the day resting in bed feeling sorry for myself and disappointed about missing the walking in this fantastic weather. The hotel were very helpful and we booked another night. John had a great day’s walking with a taxi back to Cruz de Tejeda. Saturday I was feeling better but didn’t dare set off into the wilderness. So we had a pleasant short walk down to the village of Tejeda, a lovely little spot where we dallied on a bar terrace overlooking the valley down to Artenara.

Roque Nublo above Tejeda.

Roque Nublo above Tejeda.

Sleepy Tajeda.

Sleepy Tajeda.

Towards Artenara with Cueva de los Candiles high on the right cliff.

Towards Artenara with Cueva de los Candiles high on the right cliff.

The bus didn’t leave from where we thought so we had a bit of a rush down to the small bus station. I didn’t envy the drivers task of negotiating the steep narrow hairpins over steep drops, he did hit the barrier on one hairy section! Two hours later we were in the busy holiday resort of Maspalomas, installed in our hotel apartment and enjoying a swim in the pool. Another world from where we had been. Our complex was massive but  surprisingly pleasant and clean. Didn’t really like the fitting of a wrist band for our stay, shades of electronic tagging. Are they trying to stop us running away, not something I’m used to. We were given a map of the complexes and it took us some time to locate our room, even worse when we tried to find the restaurant. We ended up on the streets outside and arrived back where we started, the areas all looked the same! Maybe tagging would be useful for finding lost, and hungry, guests.

Sunday was our last full day, John was not happy to go back up into the mountains whilst I could possibly take a turn for the worse [somebody has to have some sense]. So after a leisurely breakfast we walked through the no man’s land of apartments and shops to Meloneras beach where we had a swim and dried of in the sun before heading back to a little restaurant, La Esquinita del Mar, for lunch. Papas arrugadas con mojo sauces and then the local fresh Cherne [Wreck fish].

As an aside I noticed a quirky translation elsewhere  of ‘papas arrugadas’  wrinkled potatoes. Mis hijos quedaron encantados con sus papas arrugadas – became – My children were delighted with their parents wrinkles.

Walking back past some exclusive looking hotels along the wide promenade ‘living statues’ were in evidence, some quite clever. At the lighthouse at Faro, a prominent landmark, it was 28degrees and everyone was making use of the good weather sunbathing and swimming. One can see why Northern Europeans flock here in the winter. The southern tip of the Island is famous for its sand-dunes above the beach and I was keen to see them, I wasn’t expecting all the other sights I saw. Some things are best kept hidden.Can’t really end with that photo so here’s another cheeky chap seen along the way …..

Gran Canarian Giant Lizard.

Gran Canarian Giant Lizard.

All being well we will be on a plane home tomorrow, I hear the weather back in Britain hasn’t been that good – can’t wait.

GR131 on GRAN CANARIA – caves in the sky.

Artenara – Cruz de Tejeda.

Another leisurely start and another perfect day. we say goodbye to the lovely people at the cave. Breakfast at Bar Tamadaba was taken in the town square, tomate tostada and good coffee. Lanes led to the hills above with views once more to distant Mount Teide. On the ridge we came across a sign for Cueva de los Candiles describing it as one of the most important pre – Hispanic caves with hundreds of carved triangles possibly representing the female pubes, fertility symbols?  The approach to the cave was described as dangerous and precarious so we were soon scrambling down the loose cliff face in search of the cave. After a few false descents we found a metal ladder taking us down to an exposed terrace leading to the cave in the rock face.  Disappointingly the entrance was barred and it was difficult to make out the carvings but what a situation 400m above the valley.

The best 'triangle' I could see.

The best ‘triangle’ I could see.

We had not seen much in the way of bird life in the hills, some Kestrels yesterday but up here we spotted a Barbary Falcon flying across the cliffs below us. Continuing along the ridge we found more caves [all barred] Cuevas Caballero which were worth exploring, this time without risking life and limb. There was an interesting carved face in the rock but this was probably of a different date.

Back on the ridge we had a surprise view down to the capital Las Palmas.

The day was disappearing and we hadn’t gone far but good paths led us towards the col of Cruz de Tejeda where all the day trippers land up in the centre of the island. We had a beer on the terrace of the exclusive state run Parador hotel but couldn’t afford a swim in their heated pool. The view down the caldera is impressive, as is everywhere in these mountains. The sombre pilgrim cross overlooks the busy tourist cafes and stalls and our more modest hotel, El Refugio, was tucked away behind. There were pleasant gardens with a pool which looked inviting in the hot afternoon sun – but turned out to be freezing, about 15degrees [we are at 1500m], so we didn’t linger.

We were in a cheap attic dorm type room and suffered several head injuries as we moved about. The couple running the place were most charming and provided a good Canarian evening meal with honey/rum to finish. Recommended.

 

GR131 on GRAN CANARIA – through the forest.

Tamadaba – Artenara.

The morning was perfect, clear and sunny and already warm. We supped our tea gazing at the view from the cave across the caldera valley to Roque Nublo and Roque Bentayga as cocks, mules and goats awoke. The Acusa plateau to the west reminded me of Andean landscapes. The small Bar Diaz provided us with desayuno, tostada con tomate, although the coffee on the Island is rather strange. Our taxi man turned up at 10 and we were soon back in the trees of Tamadaba. We climbed up to the summit at 1444m for a view of Mount Teide on Tenerife.

Undulating paths led along the pine covered ridge. We passed a giant eggshell of larva which would have made the perfect bivvy. The path was well waymarked and was really only running parallel to the road with several well frequented view points. Soon we were overlooking Artenara and were drawn into the town square and the rather touristy Bar Tamadaba. So it was a mixed tapas and beer including the classic ‘patatas arrugadas’ with mojo sauces and fish croquettes. We took the opportunity to walk up to  la Ermita de la Cuevita a church inside one of the many caves on the hill side. Up here we passed many inhabited caves with goats and chickens scattered about.

Dropping back down to our own cave as the sun was setting and a new influx of interesting people. A mother and daughter from England had come up on the bus and were adjusting to high altitude cave life.  We set off into the village hoping for supper and found the only place open was our Bar Diaz. Classic Canarian meal of mixed salad and dorada  [a type of sea bream] and chips.The local ‘Tropical’ beer was good as was the company. About 7euro per head. Bought some more wine and retired to the cave for another chilled out evening. The old hippy in me is resurfacing.SAM_6609

GR131 on GRAN CANARIA – into the mountains.

Puerto de las Nieves – Tamadaba.

Aeroplane and bus had us onto the Island and into the busy capital Las Palmas, where Christopher Columbus stopped over [1492] as did we; and the next morning over to Puerto de las Nieves, a sleepy port on the north west coast. Time over coffee to adjust to the sun and temperatures climbing into the high 20’s. The GR131 is not marked as such on Gran Canaria but the route across the island is covered by a series of well signed and numbered paths. We picked up the S90 on the edge of town and started climbing.

The path was well contoured through the volcanic ash and soon typical Canarian plants were distracting us from our task. A new bulldozed track gave us easy walking, its purpose we found out was to access land where millions of trees were going to be planted. The workers put us on to our smaller continuing path up the rocky crest [a sign will be needed]. Steep slopes were crossed and a large party of 25 walkers met descending, there is a walking festival on the Island at present. At over 600m old terracing appeared and an ‘era’ threshing floor. I suppose this was the reason for our old path in the first place. Surrounded by cliffs and with good views down to the coast this was a good place for a rest and snack. Also an opportunity to compare the carrying properties of our respective packs, my back was soaked in sweat from my basic Golite sack whilst John was dry using an updated airflow Osprey pack. Sometimes the quest for the lightest carry has its downfalls.

The stone paved path now climbed steeply to find a breach in the cliffs above and entered the forest of Canary Pines at 1000m.

Volcanic bomb.

Volcanic bomb.

This was a different world of shade and mist with silent needle covered paths, hanging lichens and giant heathers. The absence of any other walkers enhanced its spookiness. We hit the road where I had hoped the taxi would appear and sat and wondered if it would. There was no mobile reception.

Taxi!!!!!

Taxi!!!!!

This is not a particularly busy road, we only saw one other car, so when a taxi came round the bend we stopped it and jumped in. The driver’s replies to my stuttering Spanish had us worried as to whether we were in the right taxi – he didn’t seem to know my name or where we were staying and his phone number was different from the one I had. The simplest solution was to keep quiet and get to our hostal in  Artenara. We arranged to see him in the morning for the journey back.

Our hostal was in fact a cave house, and a very good cave it was. Adam the ‘warden’ was from Hungary and the other guests from France and Belgium. The laissez faire [can’t translate that into Spanish] atmosphere was perfect for the situation – a cave with the most fantastic outlook and that black cat, Sombre.  [El Warung Cave Hostel]. SAM_6536We had no food with us so wandered into the village to eat only to find that due to some previous local festival every bar was closed. A shop provided us with pasta, beer and wine and it was back up to the cave for a convivial evening. The stars were fantastic and the planets almost aligned. Should be good tomorrow.

PS. The taxi was the correct one.

GR131 on GRAN CANARIA – Plans.

Cicerone Press.

Cicerone Press.

 

A rather bleary eyed friend, John, opened his door last week – “we’ve just arrived back from Tenerife at 4am this morning!”

“Oh – so you won’t want to go walking in Gran Canaria starting this weekend? We might have to bivvy a few nights but the weather should be good”

“I’ll have a think about it”

We ‘outdoor types’ seem to live from one expedition to the next, there is never enough time for all the potential trips. I’d come across the GR131 on La Gomera last December and realised it’s potential for winter walking.  Cicerone, as ever, do guides. The trail links all the seven Canary Islands and I thoroughly enjoyed the Lanzarote section at the beginning of this year. My plan was to try and complete the other Islands this winter. Gran Canaria would easily fit into the week I had free.

A day later – “Yes I’ll come, what do we need?”

So I booked the flights, getting and paying for more than I expected from Thomas Cook. Taking trekking poles [a security risk] always means having to book expensive hold luggage, but somehow I bought reserved seats and meals as well.

Planning went into overdrive and within a couple of days we had booked accommodation for every night to reduce the amount of gear needed. This did involve however the use of taxis for complicated transfer link ups and I wasn’t confident of my some of my telephone conversations in Spanish.

The Map Shop at Upton-on-Severn sent me a map by the next day, one of the superb Discovery Tour and Trail series.  I’d got my rucksack weight down to 6kg,  John’s was only a couple of Kilograms heavier but he was much fitter than I having just completed the Cape Wrath Trail with camping gear. We were ready to go.

 

 

GRAN CANARIA CLIMBING – TRES

Gran Canaria 143

Following on from yesterdays failure we were determined to get some climbing done today. Deciding it was better to stay in the south of the island we headed back up to SORRUEDA where we knew from our last visit there were lots of good routes to do.

Sorrueda

Sorrueda

We headed straight into the barranca for the buttresses on the left side. Goats were being herded up the river bed. Dropped our sacks under an impressive slab, sector Salon, but as it was in full hot sun we looked around the corner and found another good looking buttress, sector Charco. This gave us an easy V blocky wall and a strenuous but short 6a.

Gran Canaria

Primera Base V

When we returned to our sacks the place was full of climbers – all friendly locals. They were cruising everything, some of the girls were rather impressive. What a difference it must make to be introduced into climbing on warm rock with bolts! [Wash my mouth out] One can see how quickly, if one has a bit of talent, you will progress into the higher grades. I well remember my early days on rock – gripped up on some poorly protected VD in the rain. Character building but not conducive to good movement.  Any how I’ve survived and can now enjoy all these lovely bolted routes in the sun in my dotage. I’m digressing. Back to some climbing. Watch the ladies….

La Placa del Godo  6a+

La Placa del Godo 6a+

Lajilla Town  6b+

Lajilla Town 6b+

Back to our own efforts. Two straight forward V’s despatched after lunch. Then we moved onto the impressive slab of sector Salon. Rod pulled out all the stops to get up a V+ up the centre of the face using an insecure crack.

Nameless V+

Nameless V+

Another insecure V to its right and we were ready to call it a day. Crossing the river Rod fell in and we were able to relax in the hot sun while he dried himself out! Another good night in the hotel and we were ready for our last days climbing.

Decided on another trip up the motorway to the north coast. The sea was still rough with surfers out catching the waves. Now we knew the way we were soon at BARRANCA DE MOYA. Had my eye on a few routes on sector Cantonera Grande. When we reached it there were two German teams in situ. But soon we climbed a IV, V and a 6a above the water channel . Satisfied we returned to the car to drive to another crag. With a bit of luck and intuition we found ourselves at QUINTANILLA. This was a series of buttresses above the north coast road. I took the opportunity to follow the new staples on a fine slab, Quintanilla V.

Quintanilla  V

Quintanilla V

We did another V just to the right, this seemed more serious with suspect rock but was a satisfying route in the end. walked back to the car and retired to the bar on the rocky coast.  Sat and enjoyed a coffee cortado overlooking the wild Atlantic. This area is a backwater, tourist wise, but the bar was doing a great trade in Sunday lunches for the locals fresh from the carnival in Las Palmas..

Gran Canaria

The next day was our last. Spent the morning wandering round a small underdeveloped coastal resort, Arinaga, south of the airport. Relaxing in the warm sunshine we walked along the sea walls and promenade. People were emerging and getting the best spots on the small beaches. At the end of one quay were some ancient limestone kilns which were being upgraded to an interpretation site. Found ourselves a sea front bar for lunch, lovely pez espada [swordfish] with salad for me and  Ropa Vieja [mixed meat with chickpeas] for Rod. Great end to our Gran Canaria Trip. Only then we couldn’t find our little hire car parked up in some long forgotten  side street!! Panic over and back to the airport for destiny with the four and a half flight back to a chilly Manchester.

Thoroughly enjoyed this winter climbing trip. The barranca crags gave excellent climbing but we would soon run out of routes at our grade. The climbing up at Tamadaba is certainly worth a revisit in better weather, but I would stay up at Artenara for a few days to make life easier. Gran Canaria is a very scenic mountainous island and there must be lots of good walking trails. The lure of a temperate climate will I think be too much to resist in the future. Anyhow back to the climbing walls in the UK………………..

Gran Canaria 089

GRAN CANARIA CLIMBING – DOS.

Gran Canaria

Looking out of the hotel window this morning its dull, the palm trees are waving in the north wind, unseasonal weather and the locals are ‘muy frio’. After a good breakfast we decide to head up to the north coast to a low lying crag. The motorway quickly takes us up and through Las Palmas [looks a nice city] and on along the north coast. The sea looks dramatic with high waves breaking onto the rocky coast. New roads mean the guide book description is out of date and frankly useless. Lost – calling in at a cafe for coffee and info they can’t help, but send us up to Moya to a tourist bureau. The people here draw us a lovely map to reach the parking for BARRANCA DE MOYA. We quickly retrace our route and find the way. Park up below the new roads which must have cost a fortune!

Image

A short walk up the barranco alongside the water channel brings us to the first buttresses. The rock looks rounded and smooth! Start  on a IV which proves to be awkward and ends with a jump to the chain! Not what we were expecting. An easier IV and a slabby V restore confidence. After a lunch we walk up and out of the wild barranco on a rather indistinct track through prickly undergrowth to drop back into a sector, Paraiso, with lots of good climbing.    Climb a lovely rounded slab at a IV grade and then a steeper V wall. This end of the Barranco is like a lost world.

Image

Cuando tu vas yo vengo. IV

The weather had changed and it was overcast with the odd drop of rain as we walked out of the barranco to the car for our trip back to Vecindario. Before supper I had a walk along the main shopping street in town. This is when the Spanish do their promenading, shopping and cake eating. All the bars were busy and long queues were forming outside the panaderias and pastelerias selling delicious sugary concoctions, all smelling irresistible. Not so sure about the buns displayed below and there affect on your digestive tract!

Panaderia

Further along the street every evening the older gents gathered to put the world to right, though they are not having much success with the Spanish economy.

Vecidario

According to the guide book there is a very extensive and quality climbing area in the mountains in the NW of the island, TAMADABA National Park. This is an extensive pine forest at just over 1100m with several canyons within giving the climbing areas. To quote the guide book – climbing here during the summer can be very hot. The best season is winter,but it can be very cold if covered by clouds  So despite the fact that it had been cloudy yesterday we imagined from the forecast that the weather was improving and set off on the long drive up and over the central mountains. Within half an hour of departing we were driving up the beautiful Barranco de Guayadeque with its famous cave houses. The scenery became more dramatic the higher we went until suddenly the road gave out [despite being marked on all the maps and directed there by a local] so back to the start to find another route. Driving in Spanish towns is never easy as direction signs are very rare, especially where you really need them. A lot of circling around and  backtracking is usually needed to exit a town on the correct road.     We quickly gained height this time on a narrow winding road but unfortunately we just drove into the cloud. This made driving difficult and we lost all the views. Having started at sea level in 19degrees we watched the temperature plummet and when up at 1700m a scary warning bleep was heard from the dashboard as the temp was down to 3.5 – possible icy roads! The way then went downhill and some blue sky appeared, our spirits were briefly lifted. The scenery being dramatic.

Roque Bentaiga

Roque Bentaiga

When we arrived at the parking spot the cloud was down again. With no hope of climbing we nevertheless went off in search of one of the climbing sectors, Lomo Caraballo, which took some finding in the trees on the edge of a steep canyon.  The rock looked great and the views down the canyon and out to the Atlantic would be stunning! Another time. Now it was time to retreat to a warm bar in the nearby village of Artenara for a hot coffee and some tasty  Truchas de Navidad. These are little pasties with a variety of filings – potatoes, almonds or fruit. They were being made fresh by two girls in the back room of the bar. Traditionally eaten at Xmas and the carnival before lent.

Fortified we set off all the way back to the different world of Vecindario and our hotel. In retrospect  we obviously chose the wrong day to go high, but it must be difficult to judge the prevailing mountain conditions when you are down on the coast. Mountains the world over have their own micro climate. I think on a future occasion, if there was more settled weather, it would be preferable to stay up at Artenara for a few days to give easy access to the Tamadaba crags. Watching the news that night saw that Spain was having quite a lot of snowfall in the cold weather. So it still is an awful lot better here!

GRAN CANARIA CLIMBING – UNO.

Gran Canaria Climbing Guide

Sitting here this morning watching the snow come gently down – no I’m not in the Canary Islands, but just back home from our most recent climbing trip there. Got the fire lit so the house is beginning to warm up. Following on from our visit to Tenerife before Xmas I realised that these islands offered far better climbing weather in winter than our usual haunts in southern Spain. So another flight was booked. Not sure about my carbon footprint these days, more of a boot-print. Landed in Gran Canaria airport the first week in February and drove off in our hire car down the motorway to the town of Vecindario on the East side of the island.. This busy,non tourist, town is a maze of illogical and confusing one way streets. Getting to our simple hotel [hotelavenidadecanarias.com  –  to give it a plug] proved difficult and time consuming throughout the week we were there! A bonus was the free underground parking.

The next day dawned sunny, bright and warm, we were in high spirits driving to the nearest crag. What looked like a quick 25k drive took  almost an hour as the roads into the mountains were narrow and twisty. Beautiful scenery around every bend.

Santa Lucia

Thankfully we parked up in the valley, the guide book directions were accurate, and strolled down the dirt track to enter the barranco of SORRUEDA.

Sorrueda

Found ourselves a sunny slab area to get started on a few easy IVs, good to feel warm rock again after all those days in the climbing walls. There are only the two of us on this holiday so difficult to get decent climbing photos. Don’t forget to click on the photos to enlarge.

La Rampa IV

La Rampa IV

After a pleasant morning on the slabs on slopy holds we crossed to the other side onto steeper walls where I had a fight to get up a steep pocketed wall at V+. The pockets were all sloping with a hard move into an overhung recess – some continental pulling on quick draws was needed to get to the chains! Retired defeated. Back to Vecindario.

The two star hotel turned out to be excellent, very friendly staff and tasty Spanish food in the evenings. There was a mixture of businessmen, groups of workers and the odd tourist. Again in the morning the ‘desayuno’ was more than ample to fuel us for a day’s climbing. Off we went the next day to another crag up in the mountains, some great views from the miradors on the winding mountain road. Having parked up above a dam in a steep barranco we could see our crag below, FATAGA.

Fataga

Crossing the dam we made our way down the, far from solid, concrete steps on the dam wall to follow the dry water channel to the base of the routes. They were already in shade, which was good as the sun was strong. The rock here had a reddish hue to it and was much blockier and rougher than yesterday, making the routes feel more secure. Spent a good day here on lots of routes from IV to 6a. There were several other teams doing the same, mainly locals but also a group from Holland and Germany. We never met any Brits all week.

La Princessa IV

La Princessa IV

La Pachorra V

La Pachorra V

By 4pm we’d had enough and all we had to do now was climb back up the dam stairway to reach the car. Huff and puff!

Fataga dam.

Fataga dam.

Soon back at Vecindario. We’ve  had two great days climbing to start the week with the temperature in the low 20’s – perfect for February.