‘Must Do Overseas’ walks

Often when travelling abroad there is a well known mountain, hill or walk which simply have to be done. In this section I have included some of these. They are all straightforward, not difficult and mainly serve the purpose of describing any complications on the walk, getting to the walk or advice about the walk. For example, did you know you needed a permit to climb Mount Teidi and best sort it before you leave home!

Table Mountain, Cape Town, 1085ms (3558ft)

Table Mountain is the most climbed mountains by tourists to South Africa and most of those who don’t climb it go up by cable car. Not everyone goes to the summit which is Maclears Beacon, a couple of miles to the east of the upper cable station and restaurant
It is possible to get a bus, a taxi or even to walk to the lower cable station and this station is on the red bus route so you can take in Table Mountain while on a tour of the city!
The start point for walkers is nearly a mile to the east of the lower cable station at a bend in the road. Normally the start point is obvious because of the large number of cars and people going up or coming down the route. However I recommend that you obtain a copy of Slingsbys Table Mountain National Park map as this will reassure you of the route and the start point

It is not advised to stray from the main tourist track up Table Mountain or areas that are patrolled by the rangers, in particular I have heard stories of people going missing when climbing Devils Peak which is off the tourist route. The tourist information at the lower cable station will update you on safe areas as the position appears to change from year to year.
Anyway when I have been to Cape Town late in 2006 and early in 2012 the main tourist route up Platteklip gorge has been safe and indeed popular, on each occasion I have seen about 200 people going up and down the route.

It was a hot day when I went up on 5 January this year and I needed plenty of water. It is a steep ascent of over 2000 feet and takes between 1 hour and 2 hours to reach the plateau depending on how fit you are. It is very satisfying to break out of the gorge onto the summit plateau and a relief because in hot weather the climb is hard work.
On reaching the plateau turn left for the summit which takes a further 30 minutes of relatively easy flat walking or right for the restaurant. I turn left as I like to tick off the true summit before going to the restaurant!

It is best to return by the same route or get the cable car back down. In 2006 I walked along the 12 apostles for a mile or so before descending into Camps Bay but that was not recommended in 2012 for fear of robbery or worse
Whilst Devils Peak is not recommended a number of people were climbing the Lions Head in 2012 which at just over 2000 feet gives an interesting climb with some easy scrambling and great views over the city. The best start point is about 200 yards north of the major road junction at Kloof Nek and you should see cars parked at the start point. Sadly when I did this peak in 2006 it was covered in cloud.

Walking up Table Mountain when in Cape Town should not be missed and dinner at the waterfront afterwards will taste all the better if you have been up!

Kosciusko, Australia’s Highest, 2288ms (7310 ft)

Kosciuszko is the highest mountain in Australia and used to be regarded as one of the 7 summits, highest mountain in each of the 7 continents. However the Australian continent is now seen as including New Guinea and the highest peak is therefore the Carstenz Pyramid, an awkward and serious climb by all accounts

Probably the main challenge of Kosciuszko is getting to it, the nearest city is Canberra, about 100 miles to the north. I drove up from Melbourne entering the Snowy mountain region from the west. There was a fee of 32 Australian dollars to enter the Kosciuszko national park, equivalent to just over £20.

Kosciuszko can be climbed from Thredbo or Charlottes Pass. From either it is a relatively easy walk on a good path or boardwalk. The easiest route is to get the chairlift from Thredbo and it is then an easy 5 mile walk to the summit with only a few hundred feet of ascent. I started from Thredbo without getting the chairlift which meant a 7 mile walk and 2800 feet of climbing to the summit. An alternative would be to start from Dead Horse gap which gives a higher start point than Thredbo

From Thredbo a path led up near the chairlift and the 2000 foot ascent to the top of the chairlift took about an hour and was at times fairly steep. There was hardly anybody about so I was surprised to see a large number of people at the top of the chairlift. As I started along the boardwalks leading to the summit there was a steady flow of people including a large number of families climbing the mountain. Kids raced passed me and I discovered it was Australia day which had no doubt contributed to the popularity of the walk

It took a further one and a half hours to reach the summit from the top of the chairlift making two and a half hours from Thredbo. Although the walk is easy in good summer conditions it could well be a different proposition in bad weather or winter. One of the rangers had told me that there are a number of fatalities on the mountain in bad weather.

From the summit I headed on northwards for nearly an hour reaching the top of Mount Northcote (6900 feet) just off the main range track before turning back. I was now having a problem with lack of water. There was none up there and I hadn’t brought enough. I got back to the top of the chairlift and went straight into the Eagles Nest restaurant for much needed water and orange juice before heading back down the path to Thredbo

Kosciuszko is an interesting but not spectacular walk. The terrain is comparable to the white peak district in Derbyshire but clearly much higher!
The route from Charlottes Pass could give a good day by returning along the main range track past Carruthers Peak on the way back. This would certainly make for a long day as the total distance is nearly 20 miles

Mount Teidi, Tenerife, Spain’s Highest, 3718ms (12,198ft)

3,718m.  It’s a long way up from the Costas, but the volcanic landscape of Los Canadas caldera and the view from the summit is worth the trip.  It’s a “must do” if you visit Tenerife.

First you need a (free) permit to access the summit, which you get from the National Park offices.  This needs pre-booking and daily numbers are limited, they require you to choose a two hour timeslot – plan ahead and get in several weeks early.  The online application process is simple and you print off your permit and take it with you.  There is a cable car (€25) from the caldera at about 2,300m up to about 3,450m, and several walking options to the cable’s top station, but the single summit access route is manned by a Park official.  The cable is a popular excursion, so prepare to queue.

Once up the cable you need the permit and your passport to get through the gate.  Go slowly; the 150m climb is simple, on a prepared path, but beware the altitude and wind.  It may be baking on the coast but it will be cold on top.  Fumaroles give a whiff of sulphur in the small summit crater but it is the far reaching views to the rest of the Canaries that hold the attention.

Click here for a second article  describing the joys of a climb up of Mount Teide.

How to get a permit .

If you plan to climb avoiding the cable car you’ll need a hire car.  Public transport is available to the caldera but does not allow sufficient time to summit from the road.  It’s a good 90 minute drive from the various coastal resorts, either north or south.  Have your car available to you for an early start and, as the landscape is arid, take plenty of water.

Mount Washington, NE States, 1917ms (6288ft)

Barry climbed Mount Washington with his son James. it is possible to drive to the summit area but clearly he did not!

Mount Washington is in White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire  and is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States

I was there in 2004 with my son James and we decided to climb it. There are a variety of options, you can drive up the auto road for a fee, go up via the cog railway which I imagine is spectacular or walk up. James wasn’t given a choice and we walked up from the Pinkham Lodge Visitors Centre which lies to the east of the summit at 2000 feet on route 16. The Visitors Centre was about 20 miles north of North Conway where we were staying

We went up from the Visitors Centre via the Tuckerman Ravine route, the most popular trail up the eastern slopes of the mountain. It was an 8.5 mile return trip with a height gain of approximately 4300 feet. There was a good path all the way but I would recommend you obtain a trail guide at the visitors centre

We had a beautiful sunny day for the climb. The route started through the trees and then above the trees climbed a headwall of some 900 feet next to a waterfall, the Tuckerman Ravine. After this we reached the broad summit ridge of the mountain which led to the summit a few hundred feet higher.
At the summit we joined all the people who had driven up or used the cog railway and the scene was similar to the summit of Snowdon on a summer day.
We returned down a similar route but varied it slightly by going off to the left over the Lion Head before rejoining the main trail just below the Hermit Lake shelter.

The route is not long but there is a considerable amount of ascent. The trail guide suggests 9 hours for the return trip and whilst it may not take this long you should allow a day for the return trip. It is well worth the time and I would recommend walking up to see Mount Washington properly. This route is far better than you would anticipate with the climb up the headwall next to the waterfall being the highlight

Corno Grande, Italian Peninsula, 2,912ms (9,554 ft)

gran-corno-traverse-left-to-rightJP and his family were holidaying in central Italy and felt obliged to climb Corno Grande, the highest peak on the Italian Peninsula (basically the bit which excludes the Alpes). It is in the Appenine Mountains pretty much bang centre of Italy. Here is his story of their climb which goes left to right along the ridge in the first photo.

Having visited the excellent Sibilini range (link) we moved on to the Gran Sasso, basing ourselves to the north of the mountain in a small village called Collevecchio.  This overlooked a verdant rolling landscape, above which the mountain looms.

gran-corno-on-the-climbTopping out at 2912m Corno Grande is the biggest hill in central Italy.   It has a small glacier cupped in the open hand of its summit cradle, and presents all sorts of rocky towers and pinnacles that make climbing it look tricky.  There are plenty of routes up which involved hands on scrambling and/or ropework, but walking is possible.  A fine walk it is too, but be prepared for a lot of loose rock high up. There is no water at all, so pack all you need.

As we had children with us (9 and 11) we started high at 2100m at the Rif. Duca di Abruzzi roadhead (you can also get a cable car from Assergi).  This is a rather well sited complex overlooking a small ski area and the Campo Imperatore – a massive 20km long broad flat valley, at around 1500m high, along which we later drove.

gran-corno-summit-ridgeA well marked trail traversed upwards across a hillside, leading to a wide grassy ridge.  You have a choice to turn left and walk round the main ridge, or go straight on up.  We decided to descend the easy route and headed straight on.  The south face was an “in your face” 400m scramble which we all enjoyed tremendously with the sun on our backs, despite some points that are quite exposed.  Plenty of panting in the thin air.
gran-corno-ridge-in-climbsThe route summit is a great airy place, mind your footing though!  We skirted the rim to the NNW and found a bivvy area to have lunch, overlooking the ice cube/glacier.  You can easily see the Adriatic.

The descent onto the broad NNW face is not pleasant, being outwardly sloping broken up slabs with lots of scree.  The trail is marked, but it is a slow, tedious and concentrated few hundred metres descent until you hit better footing.  A rocky trail drops slowly west in great scenery until you meet the ridge.  There you turn back on yourselves to descend the ridge’s south side, on a good track, and rejoin the grassy ridge of the upward route.

About 6 hours evenly split on up and down.  Wear decent boots to protect ankles.  The rifugio has food and drink.  Great day out.

 

Walks in Madeira

WALKING IN MADIERA


‘The Buzzards nest’, a viewpoint on route PR1 which crosses the roof of the island.

A flight of just under four hours is required to reach Madiera, an island which for walkers is a North Atlantic paradise. It can be visited at any time with the temperature varying from 18 degrees centigrade in winter to 25 degrees in summer. Winter is a great time to go, the warm sunshine and lighter nights in stark contrast to the average British winter.

The walking is superb. The Rother guide gives details of 60 varied walks on the island which include coastal, ‘Levada’ and mountain walks. One of the best coastal walks runs from Funchal to Camera de Lobos (see below) where Churchill used to paint in the 1950s. There are many Levada walks. Levadas are irrigation channels with paths running alongside them. They give excellent walks, often flat but with outstanding views. The Levadas cover most of the island so there is plenty of variety.

In my view the best walk on the island, and indeed one of the great short mountain walks in the world, is the high level traverse over the roof of the island from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo, the highest summit on Madiera. On a sunny day this walk is stunning with fabulous mountain scenery and views across the whole island. In Madiera the best chance of sun in the mountains is before midday so it is worth starting early. It is possible to drive to Pico do Arieiro, which at 1818m (5,965ft) is the third highest peak on the island. There is a cafe, a mere 50 feet below the summit of Arieiro, which, of course,should be visited before starting the walk.

Snow had fallen in the mountains the previous week and the hotel was warning that the path was closed for this reason. However, I decided to go up to the cafe in any case and have a look at the route. On arriving there were plenty of walkers setting off along the path to Pico Ruivo so I joined them. It was a very short 50ft ascent to the summit of Ariero. From here Pico Torres and Pico Ruivo, the highest two mountains on the island, can be seen a few kilometres to the north.

The view north from the summit trig point of Pico do Arieiro, Pico Torres is the mountain in the centre.

The walk continued with a short descent, and the route to Pico Ruivo could be seen stretching ahead across some of the rockiest mountain terrain imaginable. It would be impossible to complete this walk without the well built paths, steel cable railing and tunnels cut through the rock. At this stage there were no problems with snow on the path. However,the steep descents and ascents and precipitous rock faces means a good head for heights is required for this walk.

The path headed towards Pico do Cidrao (1,799m) and was well protected by wire cables. I was expecting to go over the summit of this peak but the path traversed round the right hand side of its steep slopes. Any route to the summit of this peak looked hard and steep so I carried on along the path. The first signs of snow appeared although the route continued to be well protected by steel cabled fencing. Two walkers heading in the opposite direction told me that the snow made the path dangerous just before the second tunnel so they had turned back at that point.

The first section of the walk to Pico do Cidrao, the mountain in the centre of the picture

After a steep descent to 1,550m the path went through the Pico do Gato tunnel. This stretched for 100m (a torch would have been useful) and avoided any need to go round or over Pico do Gato, the summit of which was a steep and rocky 800ft above. I continued for a short time before turning round at an unprotected snow section. Just under an hour later I was back at the cafe for coffee and cake.

I will be returning to Madiera soon to complete this walk, climb the magnificent Pico Grande and many others.

 

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