Frank's Blog

Frank Konsella's Backcountry Skiing and Biking Blog

Portugal and The Azores Highest Point: Montanha Do Pico 7,713′

Our first glimpse of the Azores from the plane was that of Montanha Do Pico (or just plain Pico), peaking out above the clouds:
Photobucket

Needless to say, climbing this stately mountain quickly became one of my goals for our time on the islands. The desire to climb the mountain only increased during our time on the Azores, since the peak is almost always within sight, always beckoning an adventurous climber. Sure, at 7,713′ it sits well below the elevation where I now write this TR here in Crested Butte, but then again the Atlantic ocean isn’t exactly a couple of miles away, either. While it’s generally easy to get around on the islands with nothing more than your feet or a bicycle, the easiest way to climb Pico utilizes a car to get to the trailhead. Since we had a car reserved for July 10th, that became our summit day and thankfully the weather was perfect. Brittany decided the downclimb would be too tough on her knees, but she urged me to go anyway, knowing I was pretty excited about it.

Climbing Pico is a bit of a different affair than most other mountains. The trailhead is also a visitor’s center; where climbers must sign in, watch a safety video, and obtain a GPS/radio unit, all of which is free. With that out of the way, it was time to start climbing the steep, loose, and eroded trail, and start counting trail markers- all 45 of them to the crater rim:
Photobucket

Clouds came in and out, as they always seemed to on Pico, which at times provided some surreal views as if I were back on the airplane, or climbing the “Mountains of the Moon” in Africa.
Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Fumaroles and other evidence of volcanism was everywhere on the mountain:
Photobucket

Photobucket

Lava tube:
Photobucket

I reached the end of the trail at the crater rim in about an hour and a half, but I still had another 250′ of scrambling before I could reach the actual summit.
Photobucket

Photobucket

As I neared the summit, I passed through some warm steam vents. Interestingly, swarms of a gnat-like insect seemed to congregate in the steam, which can somewhat be seen here:
Photobucket

I’ve stood on many summits in many parts of the world, but I must admit that Pico is quite unique and certainly one of the most memorable. The views were unlike any other summit views I’ve had. Horta:
Photobucket

Looking South (notice the other hikers). If someone were to head in the direction of this photo, the next time they would hit land would be on Antarctica, 9,000 miles away.
Photobucket

More summit shots:
Photobucket

Photobucket

Pico is not only the highest point on the Azores, but it is also higher than any other point on the Portuguese mainland, so I can now claim 2 country highpoints (the other being Orizaba in Mexico). Contemplating this fact, I started to wonder what climber in the world had the most country highpoints. That is an answer which I do not know, but a fascinating list of the highest point in every country can be found HERE. It would be a pretty interesting goal to climb every countries’ highest point (or for that matter just to travel to every country). The peak list would have a few twofers, at least, such as Mont Blanc in Italy and France or Everest (China/Nepal). Now if I just win the lottery, I’ll try to be the first :)

Complete List of Honeymoon Trip Reports:
Barcelona
Gaudi
Spanish Pyrenees
Climb of Tosa d’Alp
Cardona Castle
Montserrat
Five hours in Lisbon
Horta Part I
Horta Part II
Island of Faial
Island of Pico, Day 1
Portugal and The Azores Highest Point: Montanha Do Pico 7,713′
Watching Whales & Swimming with Dolphins
Pico Adegas, Gardens, and More
Island of Pico

1 Comment

Add a Comment
  1. Stunning shots and a great climbing report, Frank. Brittany certainly knew that it would be worth it so she was right to make you have a go anyway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Frank's Blog, 14erskiers.com © 2014 Frontier Theme