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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hike Madeira Pico Grande 9 October 2012

 Rother Walking Guide routes 35 and 36 - but reversing the route.
Awoke on 9th October to a beautiful morning with blue skies over the hills above Funchal - an unusual ocurrence. Three cruise ships were in the harbour.
Left Dutch Link in time to catch the 0900hrs Nr 81 bus from just across the road from Funcha marina to Curral Freiras

 Arrived at the church in Curral Freiras nestled in the Nun's Valley just before 1000hrs after a pretty spectacular if not slightly scary bus ride winding around hairpin bends with steep drops on one side.
The weather in the mountains was perfect - not a cloud in the sky - so we stopped for coffee to discuss which route to do.
We had intended the relative short walk to Corticeiras but decided that we could not waste this perfect opportunity to do the Pico Grande Hike - a combination of Rother Walking Guide routes 35 and 36 - but reversing the route.

Hike 35 (maps from Rother Walking Guide)
  Hike 36

Shortly after leaving Curral Freiras we walked through a road tunnel to the village of Faja Escura

the surrounding mountains were just in the sun

after 15 minutes we found the path to the village of Faja Escura

over a foot bridge
soon passed several Chestnut Trees for which this valley is famous (see blog on Chestnut Festival last year )

entering Faja Escura

up a concrete track
surrounded by Chestnut Trees
The route to the Pico Grande clearly marked
However, this sign is about 20 meters past the actual left turn and we initially missed  the small green arrow on the rock (lower left)
the correct narrow trail
From Faja Escura, at 600 meters above sea level, the trail climbs steadily over 1000 meters to the peak of Pico Grande.

from time to time we came across stark reminders that there have been many forest fires on the island, the last ones in August this year. Some of them seem to have been started deliberately
in fact it looked as though a fire might be starting on the other side of the valley
much of the first couple of hours of the hike were in and out of Chestnut forest

an area of very long waterfalls after heavy rain
looking back on a spur up which we had just walked

At 1300 hrs, reached the Boca do Cerro at 1300 meters - stopped here for a welcome lunch after having climbed up 700 meters.
At the Boca do Cerro, the trail to the Pico Grande splits off
a crude sign

Starting on the climb to the Pico Grande
past a cave used in the past by shepherds
one of the trickiest parts of the trail - a wire has been bolted to the rock to assist one over this short rock climb


looking down to Curral Freiras where we started 3 1/2 hours earlier

the twin horns of the summit of Pico Grande come into view

the twin horns of the summit of Pico Grande becoming clearer

the left hand horn of the summit of Pico Grande

another couple just ascending
they made it
our turn up the final rock climb, again with a wire bolted into the rock to facilitate
at 1430 hours a happy Jeannette has conquered Pico Grande
and Mike - height 1654 meters above sea level, time taken 4 1/2 hours
wonderful panoramic views and glorious weather

on the descent

renegociating the first tricky bit
Just below the Boca do Cerro, the trail splits - the right hand fork goes to Encumeada (Rother Walking Guide walk 37)
we turn left to Boca da Corrida
more evidence of fire

another stark example
 looking back to Pico Grande, the highest point in the photo, on which we had been standing just 1 1/2 hours previously

Pico Grande getting further away
Curral Freiras

Boca da Corrida car park - the end of the trail
Info board at Boca da Corrida car park
we were in luck - from here it is 3 km down a steep not very interesting road to the nearest bus stop at Jardin da Serra. A Swiss lady guide who we had met on the trail kindly offered us a lift to the bus in the taxi she had booked - very welcome
View from the Boca da Corrida car park of Curral Freiras
Arrived at Boca da Corrida car park (1235 meters above sea level) at 1700 hrs - total hike time 7 hours (guide suggests 5 1/4 hours )

The taxi dropped us off in the village of Corticeiras where we caught the 1730 hrs nr 196 bus to Funchal. 
A very enjoyable hike in the mountains.

Mike did this hike the other way round in 2010 and could hardly walk for several months afterwards due to going too fast on the 1 km descent to Faja Escura (the rush was to catch the last bus), Doing the hike this way is much easier on the knees as there is more climbing but far less downhill. 

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