After a day of rest yesterday in the historic town of Telde waiting for thunderstorms that were forecast but never materialised, we were back on the trail by 8am this morning. Today was the big day, climbing Pico de las Nieves or peak of the snows as it translates. It's the second highest peak on Gran Canaria at 1,949 metres above sea level. We started our day at 150 metres so we were in for a hell of a haul. Full of overnight oats, mango juice and tea/coffee we rode along a gravel trail, hemmed in by rock, out of the town and towards the mountain range. We passed fields full of orange, lemon and olive trees and many poly tunnels full of produce.
It was very humid and we were sweating from the start as we turned off the road onto the beaten track.
We started up the rocky switchbacks and it was pretty hard going. My t-shirt was soaked with sweat and it was a relentless struggle. I was working at about 90% power and I began to wonder how on earth I would be able to sustain this for the hours it would take to reach the top.
After a while I seemed to get into a rhythm and settled into the climb. Grinding away up the more technical sections I was puffing and panting like I smoked twenty a day, my face now a lovely shade of puce!
Some guys kitted out in downhill gear passed me, I'm pretty sure they were on e-bikes and they started talking Spanish and I told them I didn't understand and he just said, 'you are strong'. It was just what I needed, I was doing it, I was making my way and I felt positive. Continuing upwards I met the clouds, a rolling mist that cooled my hot face and at times felt a little spooky.
There was lots of bushes and trees and there were a couple of nice little stretches that weren't too steep where I caught my breath before another short brutal climb that had my legs straining and feeling like my knees could pop at anytime. I did get a bit of pain in my right knee and immediately stopped, popped two painkillers and two Ibuprofen and then carried on. It was a case of choosing your battles, do you push yourself to breaking limits just to get up a really steep two metre section or do you get off and push just to save your knees? For me it was mostly the former but I did have to get off and push a few parts.
I had told myself I wasn't going to check my elevation but I caved in and when I first looked I was at 800 metres. However as I tired I seemed to check more regularly and then it became my nemesis, checking too frequently and being disappointed that the numbers just weren't moving. I decided to break it up by setting times to eat snacks and I ate even though I wasn't hungry in the fear of running out of fuel. As my breaks seemed to get more frequent I honestly couldn't imagine how I was going to make it another 700 metres to the peak. It's very much a mental battleground and luckily as I neared the Mirador Caldera Los Marteles I decided that I would take a break for lunch even though it was ten minutes before I'd told myself I would stop. As the trail popped out onto the road I saw a little white gazebo selling bits and bobs and asked the man if they sold drinks. To my sheer delight they did and I bought a can of liquid sugar which wasn't cold but was a little taste of heaven.
Looking out at the viewpoint the clouds cleared and I could see the caldera/crater appear from the mist. It's the result of volcanic lava meeting underground water and was used as farming land in the past.
Charlotte joined me five minutes later and we had a nice cheese sarnie in the bright sunshine. We were at 1,500 metres and although the thought of being three quarters of the way there was wonderful, I also knew that the last 500 metres was not going to be any easier having stopped for a while.
On the road now, I shouted gracias and adios to the lady in the gazebo and we started to climb again. My calves were screaming and although I knew it was easier than the off-road climbing of earlier it didn't feel like it in the slightest.
As the route headed back off-road again we came up against a bit of a quandary. There was a large barrier and a no entry sign explaining that no vehicles including bicycles were allowed in the area and there was up to a 6,000 euro fine if caught. Very odd, we could see bike tracks going that way but we decided that we'd take the road instead and join back up with the trail at the top.
It was now time for my secret weapon, a lollipop. This would get me to the top, a sugar fest. What I hadn't accounted for was how difficult it was to eat one whilst riding uphill puffing and panting, haha. Well if nothing else I have learned a new skill.
As we turned onto the last stretch of road to the viewpoint we entered another season, autumn. Vibrant orange and yellow trees lined the road, a far cry from the green pines of the slopes earlier in the morning.
Meeting the tourists driving up in their cars we finally made it to Pica de las Nieves, all 1,949 metres of it! I shouted hell yeah and gave Charlotte a hug as again the skies started to clear of cloud and some of the scenery around us appeared out of the ether.
This is the highest peak I've climbed to date and I felt elated. We'd done it! Plus the icing on the cake was a snack van and so it was a celebratory Snickers that did the trick.
It was quite busy with walkers and other cyclists but they were all on nice light road bikes. As with any peak you're only ever halfway when you're at the top and now we were ready to indulge ourselves in some seriously rewarding downhill. It was rather cool now and it would be colder on the descent so we layered up before mounting the Beasts to head down.
Ooh it was nice to freewheel! I'm glad I put on two layers as it was rather fresh and mostly road which meant nice fast winding roads. Oddly enough though it didn't seem to last very long before we were riding a few uphills - that's not what we signed up for. Is this some kind of fake downhill??? Stopping at a roadside viewpoint we were greeted with another world....
Incredible! You could see the winding roads hugging the mountains and the little villages nestled high into the hills, we looked at each other and simple said, wow!
The road section was definitely a bit up and down but the sun was shining and we decided to have a little coffee/tea stop in Cruz de Tejeda. There were lots of hikers and we topped up our water and continued on, heading down again much to our delight. The route veered off the road at a sharp bend and what a sight it was, words just didn't do it justice.
We then literally hurtled down steep rocky slopes between the road switchbacks as this amazing vista opened up before us.
It was rather technical and a bit sketchy in places but what fun it was too! It felt like when I looked around I was in South America.
Crossing another road we couldn't find the trail again and Charlotte stopped to lower her seatpost. I heard her swear and asked what the problem was and it wasn't good, she'd snapped the seatpost bolt. I've done this quite a few times myself but I didn't have any spares with me. It was a nail biting moment as she checked her tool bag but mercifully she had a spare seatpost clamp. After a bit of extra tape to make it fit we were back on our off-road adventure, smashing down dusty singletrack, lifting down large rock sections and generally just having a mad time.
Spat out from the trail in the little town of Lomo Santos again we were gifted with wonderful views. The town itself looked really quaint with nice cafes and restaurants but there was no time to stop as the afternoon was rolling on and so far we really hadn't made the progress we were expecting from the massive 'fake' downhill.
Starting a road climb out of the town it wasn't long before I needed a break. The sun was hot and I was just goosed and so said to Charlotte I needed five minutes. As I explained how knackered I was we discussed that we wouldn't get anywhere near the reservoir that we'd seen on the map earlier as a possible camp spot for the night. Checking online there was a mountain hostel two miles away but it was quite a climb and in the opposite direction to the route. I had somewhat shutdown at this point and was just sat in the shade wondering what we would do. The difficulty was that we were in the hills and there wasn't many if any options that we could see for camping nearby. Charlotte thankfully took control, got us some water and we decided to ride on for a bit and see what options might appear ahead on the route.
The scenery was a wonderful distraction as we rode onwards, the hills turning a vibrant yellow. There obviously hadn't been any rain for some time and everything was tinderbox dry and yellow.
In the distance we saw what looked like flattish ground and we relished the off-road trail down to it. It was perfect - thank you camping gods! As we setup camp it was 5:30pm and it had been a long day. As the sun set behind the clouds it turned the sky into our very own personal light show with a pinky orange glow.
This is definitely the best spot I've ever had the privilege to sleep in. It was breathtaking, both words and the photos don't do it justice and Charlotte and I were giddy with excitement and wonder at where we were. As daylight faded we started to see the little lights of houses dotted in tiny villages on the hillside and can hear the church bells toll on the hour. Such a surreal place but so special and I am so thankful to share it with someone else who loves the wild places and goes in search of adventures like today. My heart is full and my legs and eyes are heavy. Goodnight all.