Monday 24 February 2020

Lanzarote: Montana del Cuervo

With the majority of Lanzarote's Timanfaya National Park being completely out of bounds to the public*, Montaña del Cuervo (Mountain of the Raven) provides a rare opportunity to venture out into the badlands just outside the park boundary - and in doing so visit one of the island's most significant volcanoes on foot. In effect, you are still guided on this short walk because the route around the caldera is clearly marked and leaving the path is strictly forbidden but you're also free to do it at your own pace and at a time of your own choosing.

Montaña del Cuervo from the start point.
Its modest elevation (1263 feet) belies the important part this volcano played in Lanzarote's history. Over a period of six years, the island was devastated by a series of continuous eruptions that destroyed nine villages and almost 80 square miles of fertile land - and this is where it all began, between 9 and 10 in the evening on 1st September 1730.

When the side of the volcano eventually collapsed, the magma lake within it was unleashed and flowed northwards towards Mancha Blanca, one of many waves of lava that would become a vast sea of volcanic rock. The bulk of the volcanoes that erupted during over this six year period became known collectively as Las Montañas del Fuego, the Mountains of Fire, and they now form the heart of the national park.

Las Montañas del Fuego
We'd walked through some of these badlands previously, when we hiked Caldera Blanca in 2019, but the lava fields there seemed quite different - an expanse of shattered, black rock as far as the eye could see, leavened occasionally by a bright green shrub or pale lichens. Here, though, the wind had shaped drifts of volcanic sand around the rock, creating a softer landscape of varied hues and shadows. It was really beautiful and - sorry, I know it's a cliché when talking about Lanzarote - quite otherworldly.

As you near the base of the volcano, you get a close up view of the two different types of rock that have formed the cone. Around its flanks there lies an accumulation of pyroclasts, individual particles that built up in layers, resulting in a slope so neat you could almost imagine someone comes out to tidy it every morning with a brush and rake. Above this, spatter - rock that was still molten and sticky when it landed -  has flowed and melded together to create a contrasting rampart of twisted lumps and sharp edges around the top of the cone.

You've got two choices at this point: turn right to head directly to the crater interior or turn left to walk the circumference of the volcano. Although the information board advises going anti-clockwise, I'd recommend taking the path to the left if you intend to do the circular route and saving the crater until the end. It's not a long route by any means but the walk back to this point might seem a bit of an anti-climax if you visit the inside of the caldera first.

As you come round the southern part of the path, it's a surprise to see that the mountainside is far more extensive here than you'd expect from the initial approach. If you've been to Lanzarote you'll know it's quite a breezy place, the Trade Winds providing a prevailing NE to SW air current across the island. At Montaña del Cuervo, these winds blew the lightweight pyroclasts to the southwest of the volcano and created another summit on its leeward side.

The original caldera on the right and the "mountain" of pyroclasts on the left.
One of the benefits of Montaña del Cuervo's relatively isolated position in this ocean of lava is that you get extensive views from all the way around its base, both into the national park and in other directions, such as over towards Montaña Guardilama which we had hiked the previous year.

Across the horizon (l to r): Caldera Gaida, Montaña Guardilama and Montaña Diama.
Montaña de Selaño and Pico Partido.
Montaña los Rodeos.
As you make your way back northwest around Montaña del Cuervo, you pass below a saddle between the original caldera and the shadow mountain created by the winds. On your left, the lava fields stretch out all the way to the Mountains of Fire on the horizon.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the crater, as I'd only done minimal research ahead of this walk. When I saw the crag that marks the entrance to the crater ahead of me, however, I was pretty sure I was approaching something quite special.

And so I was. For a start, it's much bigger than you'd expect from the rather squat cone that you see when you're standing in the car park - the floor of the crater is almost as far below you at this entrance as the edges of the caldera are above you. It's worth noting that there's a short, somewhat steep descent on loose ground at this point, so the interior might not be easily accessible to everyone, depending on their mobility.

We spent a good while here admiring the fascinating rock formations and the different colours created by centuries of lichen growth. We probably could have spent longer and we both took loads of pictures. Heading into the crater really was a "wow" moment - I'll only put a few photos on here as a taster, so as not to spoil the element of surprise.

Climbing back out of the caldera, all that remained was for us to retrace our steps to the car park, making a note of the volcanoes dotted around for future possible hikes. There's a fine view of the iconic Montaña Blanca from here, the first volcano that everyone sees when they arrive on the island at Arrecife Airport.

Montaña Blanca
The Walk! Lanzarote guide book says that seeing Montaña del Cuervo is a must for any visitors to the island who want to get a taste of what Lanzarote is all about and we'd definitely agree with that. If you can get to see it, you certainly won't be disappointed.

The only downside to this walk is that Montaña del Cuervo is in the middle of nowhere and isn't served by public transport. So, unless you book onto an excursion that includes it, you do need a car to get there. That said, we did encounter an intrepid young couple who were trying to hitchhike back to civilisation and they eventually succeeded in getting a ride from a passing motorist - not sure I'd like to take that chance though!

* Unless you book onto the Termersana ranger walk or one of the coach trips within its boundaries.


CLICK HERE  for more walks on Lanzarote and other useful information.


Date: January 2020

Walk length: 4 km 

Total ascent: 70 metres

Friday 21 February 2020

Lanzarote: Haría to Teguise

This walk crosses over the Famara massif in the north-eastern corner of the island and connects the charming village of Haría with the historic town of Teguise. We'd travelled between the two in a hire car on our previous holiday here in 2019 and since then I'd been pondering how I could turn that road journey with its spectacular views into a hike. Happily, a little research before we returned to Lanzarote this year revealed that all the work of planning a route had already been done for me: Haria and Teguise are linked by stage two of the long distance walking trail GR-131 so all we had to do was follow that.

Village square in Haría.

Wednesday 12 February 2020

Chelmorton Circular Walk

Our last walk of 2019 was a White Peak one - we'd walked some of these paths earlier in the year and had been meaning to revisit the area for a while, not least to take a look at the chambered cairn high on the hills above the Wye Valley. The route predominantly made use of the old, walled tracks that you often find in the Derbyshire Dales, although there were some fields to cross on public footpaths as well.