Mount El Teide: The night I found the one

I have a list of things that I want to do before I die. Hiking the highest mountain of any country is one of them. Doing it in Pakistan seems impossible at the moment as K2, the highest mountain of Pakistan is also the second highest mountain of World. Beside that, we have many eight thousanders.

Mount El Teide is a volcano on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Its 3,718-metre (12,198 ft) summit is the highest point in Spain and the highest point above sea level in the islands of the Atlantic. At 7,500 m (24,600 ft) from its base on the ocean floor, it is the third highest volcano on a volcanic ocean island in the world after Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa in Hawaii.[ Its elevation makes Tenerife the tenth highest island in the world. A year ago or so, I watched a timelapse video made somewhere on Teide. It looked awesome. I decided to visit the mountain that day.

Going back to where I left previous chapter, Jaime started discussion with his parents and brother and I later joined after taking shower. They discussed the plan and told me about it. So the plan was, Jaime will drive me to little parking of Montaña Blanca which is like an hour drive from his place. I will start hiking from there and from there, it’s 4 hours of hike to Altaviste Refuge which is a camp that you have to book upfront if you wanna spend night there. But I’ll just stop there briefly if they let me in and will continue hike again from there which people from camp. Jaime’s father gave me brief on google Earth and I took some pictures in case I need to use them during hike.

 

After the discussion, we went outside to get something to eat. I went to a nearby supermarket to buy food and drinks for hike. I bought 3 liters of water, 2 red bulls, bananas, dried figs, chocolate bar and nuts. Jaime ordered burger for me from a place on his street. I don’t remember the taste of burger as I was too much caught in thoughts of hiking.

After eating, I dressed up for the hike, which was multiple layers of clothes as it was really cold up there. I went up again to Jaime’s parent’s place. Again checked the route on Google Earth with Jaime’s dad. They wished me good luck and I set out to drive with Jaime and his mother. We started driving and I was sitting silent most of the drive, in fact I was nervous. It was cold up there and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do that, but what I knew that I had to try.

Driving to start of trail

After driving for almost 50 minutes, Jaime’s car started to behave strangely, on elevations, it would stop working and we’ll have to start it again. Jaime told me, we might have to abort the mission tonight and try again tomorrow. My heart started to sink. Jaime drove back again until the point we had phone reception again. He called his father and he told him that it’s alright, we should go further as it’s not a big issue. I was so relieved to hear that and we continued journey again.

The we reached the small parking spot. I got off the car and I was shivering due to cold, I drank a bit coffee that Jaime’s mom made me in a flask, put on all the clothes. They wished me good luck and I started the hiking and they drove back. Here is a picture of me and Jaime’s mom before I started hike,

GGotlHV

It was 11:45 when I started the hike and this is the place where I started the hike from,

 

It was almost a full moon night, so I didn’t even had to turn on my headlamp. Still with the full moon light, I was astonished to see the number of stars. I could see hundreds of them. When I started the hike, I felt warm. The feeling of fear and anxiety was gone. I knew that there was no one around for miles to watch me but I still felt so safe. It was just me, stars and moon. It was the feeling that I’ll never be able to explain in words. As you could see in the above picture, the trail was very wide and hard to miss, and even the elevation was not too high. So I hiked at good pace, I’d stop from time to time to take pictures of night sky and stars,

Orion, Sirius, Rigel, Seven Sisters and a lot more!

As I ascended, I could see clouds on top of ocean. I felt the radiation of happiness as walked by myself. There was just something about that place. From time to time, I would hear a noise as if someone is walking behind me but it would turn out that it was my walking sticks or jacket that was making this noise. From time to time, huge stones and plants would seem like big animal moving. I was alone but not lonely. A few pictures I took, not the good quality but shows the darkness where I was hiking

 

Yaay – Only 2.5 kilometers to camp!

After hiking for almost three hours I reached the place where there was board and according to board, Altaviste Refuge camp was only 2.5 kilometers. I was really happy to see that I was headed in right direction.

From that point, the trail became very narrow and hard to follow. I had to turn on my headlamp from time to time. As I went further, the elevation became more steep and hard. On top of that, it became more windy as the altitude was increasing. At this point, altitude started to take it’s toll and I started to feel really tired. Thin air and brutal wind. Take a look at the following picture to get some idea about the trail

 

Hiking for another two hours, at this point I was concerned again if I am heading in the right direction, from time to time, I’d look up on the peaks and they would look next to me, I’d climb more and the distance would stay the same. Throughout the hike, I could see the Orion constellation on my head, I felt as if they are looking out for me in this absolute alone place. On the peaks, I would also see something shinning, I wasn’t sure what was that. My idea was that stones were reflecting moonlight.

I kept walking and walking slowly after another 45 minutes, I saw the camp. Phew, such a huge relief. I kept walking for another 15 minutes and reached the camp. It was 6 AM in the morning. I saw from the window, there was a guy inside. I knocked on the window and he opened the door and let me in. He asked me what the hell I was doing out there at this time and I told him that I started hike at midnight from down there. He was like, dude are you crazy? And I said, Yes 🙂

He was German guy, who was staying in camp for night with many climbers. He told me that he had problems sleeping during night due to altitude. Later, more people started to wake up and get ready for hike. I ate dried figs and protein bar, stayed on a chair for 15 minutes and together with other people, started hike. I was exhausted completely, so I went very slow. Altitude was increasing and it was getting hard to move. I was very very slow. Any way, around 7 I started to see twilight on Horizon

The twilight zone - Sun rising from Atlantic over Tenerife
The twilight zone – Sun rising from Atlantic over Tenerife

I went further and further and reached the upper station of cable lift at around 7:30. The upper station, or end of cable lift is located at 3,555 meters altitude and going further to the peak requires a permit, but I was there early so there was no one to check permit. Following maps will give you an idea about the steepness from that point to peak

 

A few pictures I took from there

 

I started hiking again at 7:30. At this point, I had headache due to wind last night or altitude, I don’t know exactly. I went very slowly. On the way, I could see gas coming from Earth as it’s an active volcano. Also, the gas is not toxic but still made breathing unpleasant. Also, from time to time, I’d step on stone that was really hot and I could feel it even from my shoes. After an hour and forty-five minutes, I made it to the peak. It was a feeling of awesomeness.

Standing above clouds, summit of El Teide
Standing above clouds, summit of El Teide

 

Although sun was out completely, but I already had seen it rising as I was going on peak. I spent 10 minutes alone on the peak as everyone went down already. In those 10 minutes, I realized something, something that changed me.

In last 3 years, I put quite some effort in being social, make new friends. That night, I realized that I function better when I am alone. Most of the time I disappoint people, sometime people disappoint me. Either I slow them down or they slow me down. I’ve always been a loner and will always be a loner. It’s the loneliness that makes me go embark on adventures like these.

Further more, when I think of it, all my good memories from past are not shared with anyone. Driving alone to beaches, stopping at that juice shop in Karachi, watching sunset in Danube, cylcing in Austria, walking near green lakes in Lithuania, Meteor showers in Netherlands, Suva Planina in Serbia, Aurora in Norway and this sunrise at this very mountain, I did it when I was alone.

That night, I came to understand the meaning of this quote by Henry Rollins

Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better.

Henry Rollins

At 9:00 AM, I started descending, and at around 9:30, I was at the upper lift. I was told that lift will start working in an hour or so. I was so exhausted that I sat on ground against the wall and slept there for few minutes. It was very uncomfortable and cold up there. After an hour or so, lift came and I got in. Going to the lower part, I realized that there were no taxis. Originally, Jaime was supposed to pick me from there but his car was broken last night so he took it to mechanic. I asked the guy at cafe that what are the options, he told me that it will cost me around 50 euros to get taxi from there. I said yeah, whatever, I am really tired, get me one 🙂

He called taxi and said it will be here in 20 minutes. But it took 1 hour and 20 minutes before taxi came. I got into taxi, gave him address and slept. It took more than an hour to reach Jaime’s place. Jaime and his family were sitting outside in a bar, I went to them directly. They congratulated me, I went upstairs and took shower and then went to Jaime’s parent’s place. Jaime’s mom had prepared some local delicious dish that I forgot to ask name. It was rice with many kind of meats.

I ate it and later went for Siesta. I slept like a child for half an hour then woke up with my own snorts :D. I stayed in bed for another hour and then in evening, we went out for walk. It was refreshing and awesome. Then Jaime took us to nearby place for dinner that have Tapas. Following are pictures of lunch and dinner respectively

 

After eating that, we got back home and I was so tired that I slept immediately.

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