Tenerife, also known as the island of Eternal Spring. Mild temperatures and climate throughout the year makes this island a winter climbing destination, not only for the climbers but those who shy the winter. With an average of 20 C in winter, climbing here in shorts and t-shirt is routine – unless the trade wind blows. And sometimes, it’s a pleasant welcome on hot, south-facing sun laid crags.
As always, it was a last-minute decision. Plans for winter climbing on the mainland was cancelled when the forecast showed nothing but rainy spells and changeable weather. The flight was booked, and we counted ourselves lucky to be able to get a decent accommodation on the coast shortly before Christmas. The luggage was packed but we found ourselves quickly in a dilemma when the new flight regulation limits passangers to one free luggage and 15 kg max each. Every kg extra would’ve been punished with a horrifying fee at the airport. Damn! We had to cut down on the shoes, and attire. Not an easy task when you are used to throwing everything into the car.
5 flight hours later, after a nerve wrecking hours queue at the terminal to get our rental car, we finally checked in our home base, stripped from our winter attire and hopped out in shorts and flip-flops and drove to the first spot nearest to our place.
- 1 Arico Arriba and Abajo
- 2 Guia de Isora
- 3 El Rio and Zona Zero
- 4 La Cañadas del Capricho
- 5 La Galeria
- 6 Summary
- 7 Picture Gallery:
Arico Arriba and Abajo
The parking lot at this Mainstream climbing spot in Arico was filled when we arrived. Arico has the largest concentration of routes on the island. There was something for everyone here. Little rock towers clumped together were bolted on both side of the gorge. The rock had plenty of polished holes, and as we all know it, the shorter the route, the harder it was. Pumped forearms after our first warmup on a 10m 6a made me felt more like looking for the next Tapas Bar to hit, but the boys were not in for any discussion despite the early flight, and sleepless night. The valley was crowded. It was a Saturday and there were people everywhere and barking little spanish dogs in each corner. We finally found the next route at the end of the valley, Relajate Primo, perhaps the longest route in the sector, a 7a+ and ended the day with nice Alucina con mi vecina 6c on sight. Sector Arriba was perfect for starters.
Steep steps down the right side of the gorge led to Sector Arico Abajo. Overhangs and longer routes (~18m) for those who love sustained climbing will find some joy here. General warm ups start right in the beginning of the valley and it felt more like having to queue for the only 6b+ that has a high first bolt. the plus came right at the end, just before the anchor. Everyone seems to fall off here.
This sector lays in what we found to be the prettiest setting of the eastern side of the island some 3 km away from the main Arico sectors. It is small sector with about 30 routes ranging from some quality 6a+ to 7c routes. Finger pockets and technical climbing up cracks, are some of the styles of climbing you find here. The irrigation system runs right in front of the wall so you might find the ends of your rope dropping into wet terrain. With a little trick you can save it from getting wet. However, whatever else falls in the water, may be lost forever. Try your luck in a real crack La fisura guapis 6a or one full of Fingerpockets Alucines power 6b. Canal Pop a 6c+ has everything in it, and you find the pumpy crux right just before the anchor. We wanted to give Cocacolo 7c a try, a fantastic looking line. But every hold was sealed in dirt, it came from the last heavy rainfall which caused the overflowing water to just pour over the wall, coating these few routes with dirt and mud. Time was running out and we decided to leave the cleaning for the others. In Naranjos, its just the cactus, pesty pigeons, gushing waters, giant hamsters and you. And what a wonderful gift it was for us to be here alone on Christmas Day. Feliz Navidad!
Guia de Isora
Embedded below the Montana Tejina and circled by protected birds of prey, Guia de Isora is the only sector on the western coast with some routes that goes in a Big Wall style. For me it had the best routes we have climbed on the island. With a 80m rope you can sometimes combine two pitches in one. KM 5 a 7a+ in the first and a 7 c in the second pitched is marked in both Guide books to be 35m long which is incorrect. Combined together, this route needs definitely a 80m rope! Our 70m rope was missing 10m to reach the ground. Peter Punk 6b+, Operacion rescate and Panamericana 6c+ are some of the routes that are often crowded on cloudy days. Those are the best days to visit this area as the sector is south-facing. More routes further behind calls for sustained climbing in Comando 25 7a and Transiberiana 6b. Again another route that calls for a 80m rope is the Sacaté del beletén 6c. All routes here deserves three stars and more.
This area has already been threatened to be closed down, noise, rubbish or toilet paper blocked entrances to the local houses are some of the problems faced. The second parking lot (described in the Guide book) is a lot bigger and brings you directly across to the sectors while following the cairns in 15 minutes. Enjoy the bird’s eye view while you are there and experience some of the most stunning sunsets with views over to La Gomera.
El Rio and Zona Zero
You can’t miss El Rio during your trip to Tenerife. El Rio is a long Barranco that stretches right till the sea and cliffs as far as the eyes can see. We heard that the reservoir was once filled with water. But ever since it started leaking and there was no more money to repair the dam, the place now remains dry. Much to the joy of the climbers today. There are many sectors bolted on both sides of the gorge – sunny, shaded or windy there has been much developement. Those who wants a true north sided wall the whole day will find themselves looking for Zona Zero, a sector found just below El Rio. Descending into a steep deep river bed, you find yourself suddenly surrounded by almost black coloured rocks. In almost every corner there was a skeleton of an animal, that could be a rabbit or a goat. It makes you feel more like moving in the zone of death. Nevertheless, routes like El Camino de los ingleses 6b+, Takk 6a, Matacan 1 6c+ and Matacan 3 7a are all worth a try while you are there to enjoy the cool and winds.
We spent quite a bit of time in Sector Presa, which is the first sector right after the descend to the Main El Rio climbing area. Yes, you’ve guessed right, this was also the only sector in that stretch with the longest shade, well at least until 1 p.m. Climbing here is very technical and tricky. Some holds have been glued together which may give the impression that everything else is going to fall off. Nevertheless, Pies Negro 7c and Casi me mato 7b, were ticked off on the last day of climbing. More sustained climbing (and polished) can be found in the Galeria sector which stays in the shade till 2 pm (in December)
La Cañadas del Capricho
Sun burned from the previous cloudless day, we thought it was a good idea to pick out a cooler location. La Cañadas was the only climbing area found near Teide. At 2100m altitude, this was definitely the highest place to climb on the island, perfect on a hot day. When we left our home base, we only saw those clouds hanging around Teide at the corner of our eyes and assured ourselves, it was going to be blown away. It was an hours drive up the road before we parked the car at the Parador. By then, not only was there now not a sign of sun, but stormy, chilly winds that blew right into the face. Checking my thermometer, it measured 7° C. The beach attire was quickly changed into wintery gear as we walked the path leading us to the fantastic rock formations in 10 minutes. I was glad I was wearing a pair of Jungs.
The rocks here were a little different than the rest. It was more quartzite than basalt, everything melted in one compact rock, thus giving you the sandy, no grip feeling in your fingers while you climb. But maybe it was also the cold temperatures that made me think this way. The routes we climbed on were kinda short, and crimpy, very technical moves. It was way too windy for our taste so we moved on.
Awesome place to go. But make sure your car is fully insured, and you feel comfortable in driving up a few km on a dirt road. It’s conditions may vary depending on the weather. The crag here is a little paradise. Let the pictures tell it’s story.
Tenerife is the winter climbing destination with no fail temperatures from 14°C and above. The island is big enough to secure a vacation with some serious climbing on well bolted routes. The rock is compact and has a better quality to its neighbouring sister. You are climbing on basalt. Which seems almost similar to climbing on granite, just a tad smoother. We have not experienced any rock falls on the island but do take heed for goats or animals that may be dwelling on top of the barrancos or lose holds that may break. Las Vegas has some trad climbs. Be prepared to jungle your way there through cactus landscape. We saw a few other areas on this island that were also good. But putting everything in a page might bloat your patience in reading and make me delay another day to get this published.
Best time of year
Just like in Gran Canaria, you will be rewarded with stable temperatures around the 20-ties which makes it possible to climb year through in the shade with a good Primaloft or even a light down jacket and then hit the beaches later on in your bikini. The island in the southern part is cactus covered, so be prepared to wear solid shoes and long pants (unless you love getting your calfs pricked) When the trade wind blows, it can be terribly cold in the shade. Be prepared to go in your winter attire while climbing in higher regions like La Cañadas. We had 7 degrees and an awful wind, and little choice of crags there that were really sheltered.
- On hot days (no wind days), best bets are:
El Rio Zona Zero, Presa, Galeria, Arico Arriba (north side of the Barranco), Las Vegas (after 12:00) , La Galeria, Las Canadas
- When it rains:
It doesn’t rain in the south? Right?
None of the sectors are fully sheltered but there are a few routes that remain dry.
Fly or swim. Norwegian Airlines, which is a newer Budget Airline flies you there on off season as low as 110 EUR. Other tour operators like TUI, Air Berlin, etc offers challenging prices too on certain periods. You will need to hire a car to get around the island. The climbing areas are all accessible within 10 mins, at the most 20 mins.
There are bargain packages where you can book flight and hotel for 330 EUR /week. Our choice fell on a rental apartment at the eastern coast. The Motorway brings you quickly to Arico within 10 minutes from El Poris or Abades. If you’re staying right in the south (Los Christiano, etc) driving times will take you about 30 mins to get to Arico, which has the most dense climbing areas laying side by side. Guia de Isora which is on the west takes about 45 mins to reach from the east, using the motorway. There are a few rental apartments too in Arico.
- Tenerife – Escalada deportiva (2010)
Small and handy, we had this Guide Book with us during the holidays. Just right for one trip, missed out on all the other logistic infos for a vacation. Updates online.
- Tanz auf dem Vulkan (german, 2011)
Bigger, more information and more sectors. This book is a year older than the local one.
- Links and updates at www.roxtar.es
- New post on the new sectors in Tenerife (2016)
70 m Rope, 18 Quickdraws for Sportsclimbing. To climb 2 pitches in a route,80m would be the better bet. But these climbs are officially 2 pitches where you can abseil at the anchor halfway down.
Rock and Style:
Cracks, crack, cracks on Basalt. After your vacation, you would’ve absolved the exam to fly to Utah for climbing. Except the cliffs off in Arico, most routes are technical and bouldery and requires a good portion of finger power. Throughout the trip, we’ve met quite a few people who has “complained” that the gradings here were pretty stiff. Some 6a feel more like a 6c. Yeah, I felt that way too. Must be the good food over Christmas.
Guia de Isora for the perfect sundowner, big walls, spectacular views to La Gomera. El Rio has almost just as many sectors as Arico (and much more is in developement), Arico has many sustained routes. La Galeria is pretty windy and cold on one side but has fantastic routes in Sector Refrigerator. Be prepared to take a dirt car ride to this place. Sector Las Vegas is more for those who prefer trad climbing, although, there were a small selection of sports-climbing routes, after a painful access through cactus paths.
Smaller markets are available in every town. Bigger supermarkets can be found in San Isidro.
Climbing shop in Arico, other shops in Granadilla.
- Climb Teide 3710m. Actually, this shouldn’t be a rest day option, and instead, a goal to summit the 3rd highest volcanic mountain in the world, and spains highest. To summit, you need a permit that is usually completely booked out months before. Alternatively, you can summit the tip without a permit from 17.00 pm to 9:00am. The best way is to spend the night at Refugio del Altavista and summit the next morning at 6 am, or already at night. Do not underestimate the climate there. While we were having 25°C on the coast, the temperature at the summit drops to 0°C or minus degrees on cold days. Cold WIND on this island is something you find at all times.
- Wind Surf on the east coast of the island. With the trade winds, this island is a surf paradise for wind surfers
- Beach out in one of the sand beaches in El Medano, Abades, El Poris, or experience real summer on the west coast (protected from the winds)
- Whale / Dolphin watching. Operators are found in Los Christianos / Los Gigantes. Keep in mind that in order for these animals to always appear, there are feeding stations installed which destroys the natural instinct of these giant mammals.
- Tapas Bars in Arico Nuevo and Arico Viejo. Not a rest day option. Survival. Cheap and damn good.
- Fish restaurants in Tajau, a place where the locals frequent. And 5 differant restaurants in the town to choose from.
- Take a hike, open your eyes to find the giant Pigeon, giant hamsters and huge lizards between the cactus vegetation. Examples of these species in my next post.
Note: It is not a seldom sight to see a spanish dog along with it’s master at the crags. While the small ones are more noisy and cute, bigger ones should be treated with respect. We had a close call when passing by a group of local climbers when the dog attacked us with a missed snap at the arm. Not every dog owner would agree that his dog is bitey, but they should properly train their dogs to be friendly to other climbers too. Having had a herding dog myself in the past, I know that these “pets” can be a real threat if not trained well.
More pictures on the Fauna and Flora of the island and plenty of landscapes in my photo gallery