Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Lanzarote: Montaña Guardilama and Montaña Tinasoria

Our second hike in Lanzarote took us to La Geria, the island's primary wine-producing region. The start and end point was the village of Uga, a 40 minute bus journey from Arrecife, and we arrived there under cloudless blue skies to find it was as quiet as Blancha Mancha had been a couple of days earlier. Houses gleamed white under the morning sunshine as we headed to the outskirts of the village and set off up a track through farmland. A farmer was working in one of the fields to the side, the first person we'd seen since leaving the bus, and I gave him a cheery wave as we walked by - he seemed a bit startled but he smiled, waved back and shouted, "Holá!"

Looking back down to Uga.

The trail brought us up to one of Lanzarote's major roads, the LZ2, and we crossed this to join another track that meandered uphill to the col between our two target peaks. We were in the heart of La Geria now and the landscape around us was quite unlike anything we'd seen before.

Montaña Guardilama (l) and Montaña Tinasoria (r).
One of Lanzarote's hardly little wildflowers, growing on the track.
Caldera Riscada.

With much of the fertile ground on the island destroyed in the volcanic eruptions of 1730-36, the islanders who chose not to emigrate had to rethink how they worked the land. They came up with an resourceful solution unique to Lanzarote. Each vine is individually cultivated in a dimple in the ground, about a metre deep. Soil is packed around it and then the surface is covered in a layer of tiny volcanic rocks known as lapilli; because these tiny rocks are porous, they naturally retain any moisture captured overnight as well as protecting the soil beneath from erosion. Each of these miniature ecosystems is further sheltered by a curved, dry-stone wall, blocking the prevailing winds that would otherwise dry out the ground. 




Collectively, these ingenious self-contained plots are known as Los Zocos and there are more than 10,000 of them in La Geria - a figure we could readily believe as we looked around us.


The ascent was a steady one on a relatively gentle gradient and it didn't take too long to reach the saddle between the two mountains. As with our first hike* on the island a couple of days earlier, we'd taken inspiration for this walk from the Happy Hiker's guide to walking in Lanzarote, where the climb of Montaña Guardilama was suggested as an optional add-on. The ascent looked dauntingly steep from below  but it was an undeniably handsome peak, more so perhaps than its neighbour Tinasoria which was supposed to be the main focus of this hike.


As you can see from the photo above, the path is pretty broad and obvious until about halfway up. From there we had two options - one a narrow zig-zag that essentially heads directly up along the same line as the path below or another that veers off to the left and then curves back around to the summit. The latter seemed less distinct to me but Rich decided it looked like easier walking and we went our separate ways at this point, though we both arrived at the top around the same time.

My path to the summit.

The ground was dry and loose and occasionally slid around under my boots. This wasn't much of a problem going up but there were a few times on the descent later when I thought I was going to go arse-over-elbow. Fortunately, it began to feel a bit more solid underfoot as I neared the rocky summit.

The views opening out around us were pretty spectacular and Montaña Tinasoria looked like it would be a relatively easy stroll from this vantage point. Beyond it, rose the shapely Atalaya mountain range and, beyond those peaks, the blue tones of the ocean and the sky blended softly into one another.

Looking back to Montaña Tinasoria, the Atalaya Mountains and the start of our walk, Uga.

We were feeling a bit peckish now so we decided to stop here for lunch by the summit post. We had the place to ourselves and I could have sat there quite happily for a lot longer than we did. The sun was warm, the vigorous breeze mild in temperature and refreshing, and the scenery around us took our breath away.

Timanfaya National Park to the north west.
Risco Quebrado and Caldera Blanca in the distance (see previous blog).
Looking north east - Montaña Blanca, the tall peak on the right.

Despite the rocky, arid nature of the terrain there were plenty of wildflowers to be found, some of which we recognised from our walk to Caldera Blanca and some of which were new to us. Just below the summit ridge, on the highest slopes of Guardilama's part-collapsed caldera, there was even what looked incongruously like an alpine meadow. It would have been foolhardy to climb down onto this steep grass-covered slope so I had to content myself with some awkwardly angled photos from above.





Reluctantly we had to tear ourselves away from this idyllic spot and begin the descent back to the col. We both took the zig-zagged path this time, aiming for any tiny lump of bedrock we could find to avoid sliding down on the loose ground.




It didn't take too long until we'd crossed the saddle and were on the broad, driveable track that climbed the southern rim of Tinasoria's caldera. As we made our way up we passed a group of hang gliders, being readied to take advantage of the prevailing winds that come in from the ocean.

Looking back to Montaña Guardilama.
A local hang gliding group getting ready to take to the air.
The easily followed track around the caldera of Montaña Tinasoria.

Compared to Guardilama, this ascent was very easy walking and we gained height pretty quickly. In the absence of a formal summit marker, we posed for pics at a small cairn that had been built beside the path. Its presence seemed a bit a random - we'd already passed what appeared to be the highest point of the ridge and it seemed unlikely on such a clear path and in a climate like Lanzarote's that anyone would need it for navigation.

View south west from Tinasoria.
Closest to us: Montaña Mojon, with Caldera Riscada the larger, smoother cone behind it.
Optimistically placed camera bag fails to conceal British tourist's beer belly.

One of the interesting things about Montaña Tinasoria is that its caldera is still being used for horticulture (unlike Montaña Caldereta on our previous walk). The inside of the crater is filled with vines,  numerous neatly-constructed zocos sitting inside what is effectively a giant, naturally occurring zoco.

Looking down into the caldera of Montaña Tinasoria from the ascent.

The initial walk down from the highest point of Tinasoria's rim was on another of those disconcertingly slippery paths but the steeper part of this was over quickly enough and we were then on a very gentle incline that led us back to the farm track we'd been on at the start of the walk.



From here, it was a simple case of retracing our footsteps back to Uga. I'm not usually that keen on heading back the same way I've come but the fact that we had the alien vista of the Timanfaya National Park and other mountains in our view all the way back more than compensated for that.






This is a highly recommendable hike, that can be adapted for a range of walking abilities. Navigation shouldn't really be an issue as almost all of it takes place on easily followed trails and if you don't have access to a car, it is accessible by public transport. If you really don't want to repeat any of the walk as we did on this occasion, you can easily plot a linear route from Uga to Macher that incorporates either both summits or just one of them - if I had to choose just one myself it would definitely be Montaña Guardilama.

Date: January 2019

Walk length: 7.5 miles 

Duration: 4.5 hours

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* For our previous walk route on Lanzarote, click here: Caldera Blanca.
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