I wake with a jolt and stare incredulously at the digital clock on my mobile phone. My slumber in the back of the van is brought to an abrupt halt as I absorb what I am reading before me; somehow (and I don't know how) I have managed to switch off my alarm whilst still asleep, some two hours previously. The holiday flight is in jeopardy.
There now follows a close replica of the opening scenes from the movie 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' complete with the van engine screaming, as I realise that it still might just be possible to catch my flight. I start flapping around in a panic. It was all going to be so organised and stress free...
Our one week stay produced sun every single day. We couldn't believe our luck! Or was it? I wanted to find out if this really was 'normal' for Tenerife at Christmas-time or if we'd just picked the right week?
The climate is just one of the major attractions of this destination for Christmas, or indeed any time during the winter if you're looking for reliable winter sun. The time zone is the same as the UK at this time of year, flights take only 4 1⁄2 hours from many of our airports and the prices are very attractive. Why would you want to pay £800 - £1000 to sweat it out in Thailand?
The rock is volcanic rock. It feels a bit like fine granite to climb on, with varying sizes of pockets on some routes & positive large edges on others. There's slabs, overhangs and everything in between.
There has been a tremendous amount of development on the island in the last 10 years. Almost all the crags we visited had new petzl bolts. Some routes are equipped with staple bolts and a few have handy heavy duty snap link krabs at the top to lower off, backed-up to two anchor points. The rock, in general is nice and sound, though, as with any rock climbing venue, the odd loose block will be found.
Detailed crag information has been provided by Roxtar, with my comments in italics:
1. Cañada del Capricho - 146+ routes - sport / boulder - Topo: Tenerife Escalada deportiva
Not a lot of things beat climbing on the Teide on a sunny day, a precious sports climbing area which you have to try. Sun and shade all day with incredible views of Mount Teide.
This great crag within the Mountain Park looks scrappy on first acquaintance, but turns out to be completely the opposite on closer inspection. Once you get fully engrossed in the absorbing routes, there's a real feel-good factor climbing here - and the backdrop will look great in your holiday photographs!
2. Guaria (Guía de Isora) - 108 routes - sport / trad - Topo: Tenerife Escalada deportiva
Routes are sometimes over 35m in height. Usually stamina routes on rock that is not always perfect. The rock formation and crag height have led to a mixture of styles combining sport and trad. South facing and warm.
We could consider Guaria as the cathedral of climbing in Tenerife... It´s a hard, sunny place (6b minimum) where you will find sport and classic climbing. Nowadays you need a permit (because of the very sensitive access issues caused by inconsiderate visiting climbers). Ask at the shop as these take a couple of weeks to be printed by the local authority. Probably one of the best areas on the island.
a. Arico Arriba/Abajo - 233 routes - sport / boulder - Topo: Tenerife Escalada deportiva
This is one of the best climbing areas on the island due to a combination of easy access, routes of all grades and good bouldering. The upper gorge has shorter and easier routes, the lower gorge longer routes and higher grades. Sun and shade all day.
For huge variety and the amount of available routes, Arico Gorge is often the main port of call. With a grade range of F5 to F8c and the option of sun or shade, you can always climb in a comfortable temperature. There are slabs and overhangs and also some good bouldering. Something for everyone.
b. Los Naranjos - 33 routes - sport - Topo: Tenerife Escalada deportiva
Small area with routes up to 25m. Sunny in the morning and shady in the afternoon.
4. El Río - 93 routes - sport / trad - Topo: Tenerife Escalada deportiva
Routes up to 30m, medium to high in grade and usually pretty technical. Sun and shade all day.
On visiting this venue, we were provided a good mixture of slab and face routes on the upper sections. With the sheltered slabs proving to be almost too much of a sun trap though, we were soon scuttling for the shady routes and overhanging terrain lower in the gorge.
5. Las Vegas - 62 routes - sport / trad - Topo: Tenerife Escalada deportiva
A classic, it looks a bit chaotic but has very nice routes. Very interesting for beginners in trad climbing. Sunny in the morning, shady in the afternoon.
The only place we wouldn't rush back to is Las Vegas, with its rather friable rock in places and older bolts. It just didn't inspire confidence. To redress the balance, here are some comments from the initial developers living on the island...
Climbers felt the necessity to come to the South as the weather was pretty unpredictable at 2000m on Mt Teide where climbing was first developed. The first gorge they found was Las Vegas. Later they went to Arico (Ortis). To us Las Vegas has a special meaning as it belongs to Granadilla, as it was the first area and because we and our friends equipped many routes over there. Another advantage is that you climb most of the day in the shade, which in Summer time is pretty good.
6. La Galería - 21 routes - sport - Topo: Tenerife Escalada deportiva
Overhanging crag with good, sustained, fingery routes. Perfect for cloudy days or afternoons.
7. Tabares - 110 routes - sport / trad - Topo: Tenerife Escalada deportiva
The pioneer area for free climbing on the island alternates between good traditional routes in cracks and dihedrals with sport routes on the faces in between. There is shade in the morning on the Enfrente wall and in the afternoon on the Macrocalma wall.
8. Vistamar - 35 routes -sport - Topo: Tenerife Escalada deportiva
This is a small area in the north of the island, with spectacular scenery overlooking the sea. Sunny in the afternoon.
9. Martiánez - 34 routes - sport - Topo: Tenerife Escalada deportiva
Small area situated in Puerto de la Cruz, short routes with bouldery moves. It is warm on sunny afternoons and has shade most of the day in winter.
10. San Marcos - 45 routes - sport / boulder - Topo: Tenerife Escalada deportiva
Fingery routes up to 25m in height. It is warm on sunny afternoons and has shade most of the day in winter.
11. La Martela - 40 routes - sport / trad - Topo: available at Tenerife Outdoor
Upper part: very good area for less experienced climbers, most routes up to 20m are 6a or less. New routes every couple of weeks. The lower part has longer and harder routes also very nice trad climbing. The boulders are spread throughout the gorge.
12. Jama - +60 routes - sport / trad - Topo: soon available at Tenerife Outdoor
Project of our good friend Melo, perfect place to go climbing on those chilly and windy days, sun in the afternoon.
13. Roques de García - 53 routes - trad - Topo: not available any more
Climbing with beautiful views, most are trad climbing routes. The perfect area if more than one rope-length is your kind of climbing. Most routes are quite old so bring your friends, nuts and protective gear.
14. El Río Abajo
a. El Sótano -13 routes - sport
Enclosed sector which you will either love or hate. Interesting climbing which is different due to the smooth texture of the water-washed gorge. In the shade most of the day
b. Zona Zero - 21 routes - sport - Topo: Tenerife Escalada deportiva
Small area developed for a climbing competition. Shade in the afternoon.
15. Arico - below the climbing highway
a. El Saltadero - 11 routes - sport / trad
Isolated area with good sport routes on average quality rock.
b. La Bóveda - 10 routes - sport
Small area with 10 good quality routes on water-washed basalt. Sustained routes, technical, with some hard moves. Shady all day.
c. Sector Fantasma - 27 routes - sport - Topo: Available at Tenerife Outdoor
A project of Moí and Juany who have been developing this area over the last year. The climbing is pretty similar to el Hoyo.
d. El Hoyo - 41 routes - sport
Climbing area in a narrow gorge on water-washed basalt. Sun and shade all day.
e. Las Bóvedas - 28 routes - sport / boulder
Another of the numerous enclosed climbing areas in narrow gorges, it does have a number of interesting routes as some bouldering. A choice of sun and shade all day.
16. Arico Nuevo - bouldering - Topo: available soon at Tenerife Outdoor
'Tenerife Escalada deportiva' by Javier Martin-Carbajal & Juan Carlos Zamora.
The Gear Shop:
Tenerife Outdoor Climbing Shop
This 'one-stop shop' really does try to make it easy for you to plan your trip. Penny will provide details from their network of traditional lodges at varying prices, depending on your budget. The email communication is clear, detailed, efficient and courteous, while you're making important decisions from behind your PC. Car hire can also be sorted out directly by her – another additional time consuming headache banished. They'll provide all the climbing information you need about the island. The shop is very well stocked with gear and clothing and also hires boulder mats. The currency is Euros on this Spanish speaking island.
Getting there - Flights
There are a number of cheap flight options to be found as Tenerife is a major holiday destination. Try Thomas Cook, On The Beach, Travel Supermarket, Ryanair and Easyjet for starters. Be wary of the 15kg weight limit on some of these carriers!
It's really mandatory to hire a car while you're here. For visiting climbers, being on the island without renting a car leads to frustration. The island has so much of interest to explore and your own transport adds immensely to what you can get out of your stay.
We stayed at a traditional 'Tenerife Lodge' in the small village of El Rio, which the good people at Tenerife Outdoor sorted out for us with the minimum of fuss. Although simple by some people's standards, it was a refreshing change from the usual concrete box type of accommodation and had all the basic amenities. The rural setting with a well maintained garden and BBQ area made for a really chilled place to return to each evening, and it rarely took more than half an hour to get to one of the local crags in the morning.
When you're not climbing
Alternative activities, all within easy reach include walking, horse riding, kite-boarding & windsurfing to name a few, with plenty of opportunities for eating out and shopping.
Our one week stay produced sun every single day. We couldn't believe our luck! Or was it? I wanted to find out if this really was 'normal' for Tenerife at Christmas-time or if we'd just picked the right week? The more people I asked though, the more it was confirmed that this is perfectly usual for this time of year. Travellers returned year after year for more of the same; walkers, climbers, retired couples all seemed to echo the same comment, they'd never had a holiday ruined by the weather. Tenerife has remarkably little fluctuation in year round temperature, so summer trips, surprisingly, will not be impossibly hot. When the rest of Europe is sat under low cloud and rain during the winter months however, is when Tenerife really comes into its own. I for one will definitely be planning a return visit, along with my new found climbing buddies.
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Sue would like to thank:
• Penny, for her patience and ever cheerful nature in dealing with all the enquiries I bombarded her with, while arranging our trip.
• Nick, Carlos and the other members of Tenerife Outdoor for information and help with compiling the photographs and crag information, map and history.
• Javier Martin-Carbajal & Juan Carlos Zamora for permission to use the superb photographs.
• Helen and Rachel for being great climbing buddies and also for taking care of me when I was ill.
• Mercedes, for the use of her lovely lodge and surrounding garden area.