Leaving our Mark and Scaling the Heights

Mike and Liz Downing
Fri 11 Jul 2014 00:54
More work to keep us busy. Have been up the mast to check everything looks okay and under the boat to check the rudder bearing and give the waterline a wipe. She's remarkably clean underneath and a wipe around the waterline was all that was needed. The water here is clear, but definitely cold, but not so bad with a 7mm semi-dry wetsuit on! The only problem with that is that without weights its incredible difficult to get down under the boat and you literally have to grab hold of what you can, like the rudder, and pull yourself down. Anyway, the rudder bearing looks okay, just some antifouling missing where the rope had got caught. Had to go down to check it as a boat we know was lost about 2 weeks ago off Madagascar when their bottom rudder bearing failed. The people on board were okay and save by a freighter that was diverted by the rescue authorities to go to their assistance. So we've checked and it looks okay, so finger crossed. Then there's finishing our picture on the wall - although purely functional  rather than artistic (Clive, where were you when we needed you!) it still took quite a lot of time and patience to get it to look okay.
Despite all the work we did manage a trip to the island of Pico. When here 18 years ago we would stare across to the mountain, which we still do constantly as the clouds around it are forever making different patterns. (We must have as many photos of Pico as we do of the Sydney Opera House!) Anyway, staring across we said it would be good to climb to the top one day. Last Wednesday was a glorious day with not a single cloud on Pico, so after an 18 years wait it was the day to give it a go. The local Tourist Information write-up suggested it wasn't to bad - 5km along a well marked route. What an understatement! What it didn't say was that the 5km involved a climb of 1,150 metres, or 3,737ft! The mountain is 2,350m (7,637ft, approximately twice the height of Snowdon), but the climb starts at 1,200 metres where the road ends. The route is very uneven climbing up lava with quite a bit of rock scrambling, and quite exhausting, but easier going up than down. Going back down we wondered how on earth we had managed to get up! So coming down took a lot longer, but it did mean we got to see a beautiful sunset looking down over the clouds below us. 18 years ago you could go up in the afternoon, see the sunset from the top, camp on the mountain and see the sunrise from the top the next morning. You're not allowed to camp anymore so that wasn't possible, but at least we did see that sunset.  We ached just a little the next day (another understatement!) and had a well earned day's rest.  
Another trip up the mast to check the rigging looked okay. There are pictures everywhere.
Our picture taking shape,with masking tape still in place.
It took two - painting letters drives you round the bend!
The finished article - purely functional recording our visit. Wonder if that will still be here
in 18 years time.
Looking across the water to Pico, which you can't help doing all the time.
Arriving on the ferry at Madalena, the port of Pico. The crossing takes about 30 minutes.
Not a cloud to be seen on the mountain, which is very rare. Note the small pimple on the
top of the mountain.They call it Little Pico - it's actually about 80 metres (260ft) higher
than the surrounding summit.
On the summit, sitting on the top of the pimple! The views were fantastic and as the cloud
started to roll in, it was all below the point where the climb starts so we were looking down
on top of the cloud the whole time, just like being in an aeroplane. Talking of which, the
local planes were actually flying below us.  
To climb it they highly recommend you hire a guide as people do get into trouble. So we
did and that's his finger in the corner of the lens! His name was Noel and he was great,
knowing everything you could ever want to know about the mountain, the rocks, how it
was formed, plant life and where all the fumaroles were - the mountain still breathes
steam and gases if not fire! One day it's expected to erupt again.
Above and below, the terrain to be climbed.
Heading up again after a break,climbing on lava flows and tubes.
Not too difficult going up, apart from puffing and panting - coming down on this was quite
a different story and very slow going.
On the edge of the top crater with just Little Pico to scramble up. That was a proper climb
using both hands and feet.
Noel, our guide. He was French, but has lived on Pico for many years. He didn't stop talking
from start to finish and looked after us very well.
Views from the top, looking along the length of the island of Pico.
And that's the island of Faial, where Horta is, and the boat.
Looking down on the cloud that surrounded the southern side of the mountain.
Later in the evening now and the cloud has started to engulf the whole island, but below
us. The rock is all that can now be seen of Faial.
The sun went down just as we arrived back at the starting point,so perfect timing and the
end of a perfect day.