Climbing Mount Teide's crater during the night to see the Pyramid
Ever wondered what it would look like during the sunrise on the highest point of Spain? Let me take you on a journey to discover a peculiar scenery in the early morning hours with the altitude of 3,715 meters. Mount Teide is recognized by UNESCO and NASA the worlds 3rd tallest Volcano.
The journey to Teide crater started for us at Montaña Blanca parking lot around 2:30 in the night. Officially to climb Teide crater one would need a permit and would receive it when booking the cable car. However, if you wish to see something even more spectacular, which is a huge pyramid shadow of one of the world's highest volcanoes on Atlantic Ocean, you have to reach the top for sunrise and hike up the volcano. Unfortunately, the cable cars don’t run so early to see the breath-taking view.
So, in the middle of the night, we parked our car and pulled layers of warm clothes on us, as we knew at one point it might get very cold on top of the mountain. We switched on the torches and headlights and were ready to pass the gate that was guarded by two guards. The guards told us that officially we would need a permit but gave us a polite wink and allowed us to pass and with no more words we were on our way! The beginning of the journey was somewhat with a cold breeze, but easy to walk, with slopes on both sides and star ridden midnight sky. At times all tucked in warm clothes with torches lighting up the nearby terrain, I felt like walking in a scaphander on Moon. The view above us was just stunning, with millions of stars and milky way to watch in awe.
We discussed that this trail would be worth hiking once again as it was very beautiful and felt pretty easy. Up we went with ease and trying to make our way to the cabin called Altavista Refuge. We knew the cabin in itself was closed and locked ever since covid spread out, but for us it was meant to be more of a pitstop to sit and relax. After an hour hike, we realized we were about to embark on a very different type of journey for the rest of the hike as the terrain changed radically. The long curvy roads with pretty solid terrain ended and we faced a very steep, rocky and windy rise to the top. At the beginning it felt doable, but it seemed the road was endless to the refuge. Moving rocks under our feet, darkness, altitude, thin air, cold winds, unsteady terrain and roads that were hard to pinpoint started to be the reality for the next hours when reaching the top. The higher we went the colder and heavier it got, as the body was under much stress from all the various factors mentioned earlier. We saw small lights moving up the mountain above and below us, as more and more people embarked the journey less discovered. We realized many seemed to be well equipped and fit for the journey during our multiple stops of exhaustion and seeing others pass by. But none of us felt like giving up. We had a rule, no one should feel pressured in the group, and no one is left alone in the group. Once we made it to the Altavista Refuge, we could sit for a short period of time at a very small entrance with other hikers. We realized the pitstop was also perhaps not the smartest idea as some of our clothes underneath were wet and once, we started to move up from the cabin the cold winds made us feel even colder at this point. It would be advisable to not stop or have a pair of changeable clothes to wear, to keep oneself warm for the rest of the journey. The way up after the short break got heavier due to altitude and winds, but also the terrain changed into a very different type of stoned structured path that led the way to the cable car station.
The sun started rising around 7:40, but already before you could see a golden rim in the sky, reflected by the rising sun, shifting the night into day. At this moment we managed to be as high as the cable cars were, but the guys felt like they were too exhausted to continue to the top and stopped to relax and watch the sunrise. We women were determined to continue as much and as fast as possible to see if we were able to get a little further closer to the top. Every step felt heavy and forever to make between the endless sea of rocks and stones. The terrain, altitude and time were against us on every step of the way. We could have not possibly climbed so far for so long to not see what we came to see. Standing every few minutes to gather strength and pushing ourselves mentally to take the next few steps was physically excruciating. You become mentally your own coach to complete the trail and pushing yourself to the limit while standing in the middle of nowhere out of breath.
"You can do it, just one more step! Go on!" were the only thoughts that ran through my head when the sun popped up on the sky and kept on rising. But so did I! The terrain to get from the cable car hut to the crater was very steep and the rocks were nowhere near to guide the way to the top properly. On top you could see other hikers enjoying the view. Once reaching the edge of the crater fumes and clusters of Sulphur appear on the horizon. Getting up a little further and turning the opposite side direction of the sun, I couldn't believe I actually made it to see the pyramid shadow of Mount Teide on the Atlantic Ocean. The early rise of the sun drew the pyramid shadow long and far on the ocean, but the higher the sun got the lower the shadow appeared and slowly disappeared beneath the volcano. It was a stunning idea to realize I was literally standing on top of the peak of the volcanoes pyramid shaped shadow. This peculiar scenery of the shadow is only visible for a short period of time, therefore not everyone is able to make it, unless they are well prepared for the hike.
The trail is mentally, physically and emotionally tuff and demanding. Perhaps many don't mention the risks of the climb such as shifting and rocky terrain where twisting an ankle in the dark would be possible. Moving and breathing too fast can lead to dizziness and with the cold winds and unsteady terrain in the dark there is a high risk of falling. Therefore, take great caution when climbing up the unsteady, yet steep mountainside in the cold and dark. Arrive early, take your time, have loads of fluids and warm clothes, including clothes such as windbreaker jacket, fleece, gloves, hats, good hiking shoes, etc. Only slow and steady will win the race! For us the adventure lasted between 5-6 hours to reach top of the volcano crater and we arrived back down with the cable cars.
If I was asked again, would I want to repeat the hike, in my sane mind the answer would be no! This was by far one of the hardest hikes I have done so far and really put the body to its limits. It was wonderful to discover how my mind was strong enough to push my body to the limits, encouraging every single step to the peak to see the fantastic view. This hike also opened my eyes to give kudos to those brave people who climb higher peaks like Everest. They truly are champions and people in their own league!