Thursday, 15 June 2006

Top of Portugal

The highest mountain of the Azores is situated on the island of Pico. The mountain dominates the island and therefore it is also called Pico. It is not said which name came first, probably they both were named at the same time: The island is the mountain and the mountain is the island. Its peak is at 2351 meter what makes it also the highest point of Portugal. As all the Azores islands are volcanic, Mount Pico is a volcano and it is believed that it will erupt within the next 10000 years.

A view back on the way up with the island of Fajal in the background.

The route is marked by posts but there is no proper path. Without the markers it would be impossible to find any way up. It took me 2:45 hrs to get to the very top, not counted 90 minutes I spent straying around after starting my tour from a wrong car park. Finally I turned back (luckily no one else was on the wrong route to hear my swears) and had a new and more successful start. There are no maps available and I would urgently advise not to try the climb in uncertain weather. Hillfog is quite normal and would soon cause problems to keep to the path. The ascend itself is not technically difficult, it is just tough, very tough indeed. The whole trip (up and down) is said to take between 7 and 9 hours for the average fit walker.

This is what landing on the moon might look, but in fact I am on the ground of Mount Pico's crater looking up to the top which can only be reached after descending into the crater. The scientific device is a seismographic meter I guess.

I climbed to the top along the ridge to the right which ended up as an airy scramble. Nothing too difficult but when alone on a mountain at 2300 meters you should not start thinking too much. Scared to take the same way down I chose the scree slope right in the middle to descend back to the crater. No scrambling needed now, but sort of tricky, too.

A view from the top to the North, with the island of Sao Jorge in the background. The device in the crater can be spotted to the right.

Crossing the ground of the crater is easy and worth the effort. Bizarre Lava formations can be admired and there are even some caves which are frequently used for overnight accommodation by walkers who want to see the sunrise next morning.

Pico is the sort of island I can easily get in love with. We are now already back home but I can't resist to come back to you with a few photos of this wonderful place.

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