There are hundreds of incredible hikes on Madeira but sometimes you need to take it up a level and reach new heights. On this adventure, I headed up from Pico do Arieiro to the summit of Pico das Torres. There was some scrambling, abseiling and some basic rock-climbing involved in this ascent, which was done as part of a tour with local legend, Gonçalo Silva. On this day we were lucky to have incredible weather in the morning before the clouds came in to create a dramatic atmosphere up amidst the tallest peaks on Madeira.
PICO DAS TORRES HIKE/CLIMB DETAILS
Hike Distance: The total distance of the hike was 15 kilometers. This distance starts at Pico do Arieiro and finishes back there after summitting Pico das Torres at the midway point of the hike. So you basically see most of the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike on this journey.
Hike Duration: The hike will take you about 8 hours because of the of the wild terrain and technical sections requiring rope, harness etc. The total moving time was 4.5 hours.
Hike Difficulty: This trail is difficult and not for inexperienced hikers. You have 1,100 meters of incline, which is tough in itself. However, the really tough and dangerous parts of this route are when you need a harness, local knowledge to know which way to turn, and lots of safety procedures. I did this hike with Gonçalo Silva who runs a local tour company called Endemicxperiences.
Hike Incline: Total incline for the hike was 1,100 meters
MY EXPERIENCE ON THE PICO DAS TORRES SUMMIT HIKE
In the center of Madeira, you have many impressive mountains and numerous sharp peaks. The clouds often wreak havoc in this area as they float through almost daily creating an incredibly dramatic atmosphere at almost 1800-meters above sea-level. I’ve hiked many trails in this region but this was my first time pairing hiking with some mountaineering.
I linked up with an experienced local mountaineering guide called Gonçalo Silva who runs the local tour company called Endemicxperiences. I’ll add some more information about Gonçalo and the tours they offer at the bottom of the blog post. We drove up to Pico do Arieiro and set out for Pico das Torres. The route would take us along the regular track towards Pico Ruvio before we divert off to reach Pico das Torres instead of Pico Ruivo.
The trail began and even after just a few moments, we knew it was going to be an interesting day as we shot down off the regular trail to take a cliff-side detour. Gonçalo knows many of the ancient trails created by the cattle herders, many of whom were the true adventurers among us as they hiked the entire island rounding up their cattle, goats and sheep. Today the trails are overgrown and most don’t know about them or miss them altogether.
The journey along this trail is always a pleasure and I still think it’s one of the top ‘official’ day-hikes in the world. This day was no different as we made our way along the narrow stairs down into the valley.
After progressing through a couple of tunnels and the mid-section of the regular route to Pico Ruivo, we detoured up onto the old path, which is essentially closed. It’s been shut off for a while due to a landslide, but with a guide and the right equipment, it is possible to pass and necessary for our route to reach Pico das, Torres. From this point on it was new territory for me.
This trail led us towards our ascent. From the path it seemed pretty steep and quite dangerous but as we managed bit by bit, the route unfolded and wasn’t as sharp as it had looked. The trail begins with some moderate scrambling up to a small waterfall. Here there was an ancient rock wall, that the cattle herders had used to keep all of the livestock together and with a water source.
The trail now required some scrambling across and up the rock wall that was at times home to some loose stones. This part was tricky but going up proved to be much simpler than coming down. We didn’t use a harness on the way up but there were many moments of exposure and with a big slip, you would have some trouble. It is possible to have a safety rope if you deem it necessary. The clouds were beginning to roll in by this point, which created a great backdrop to our ascent.
There was one small section where we did clip in as the rock-face was quite slippery but it was near the very top. Now we climbed our way into the plateau area where you will be directly below the ‘Shark Fin’ and on the flat area before your final climb to reach Pico das Torres.
This area has some unique rock formations, cave passageways and even some wave structures as you would find in places like Arizona in USA. The red colors of the rock contrasted brilliantly against the not-so-brilliant invasive grasses.
The final climb was a pretty straightforward scramble but was on the Pico do Arieiro side, so we now had an amazing view into the valley we had just crossed.
After our long journey, we made it to the Pico das Torres summit with views from side to side of Madeira Island. Not many people set foot on this summit so the hike felt even more special knowing that we were on a very alternative adventure. The clouds were now quickly rolling in but I had just enough time to enjoy the view, fly the drone and have a quick picnic before we headed off down to continue our loop route. Here are some of my favorite views from the summit with the boys.
Our descent was following the same way back down the rocky cliff-side but we would make an alternate loop back to Pico do Arieiro once we reached the path. On the descent, we used our harness and ropes on three separate occasions and opted out of them on a few other spots where they would’ve been used as a safety backup. We didn’t need any special skills and Gonçalo was patient with us as we tentatively made our way down.The abseiling and free-rock scrambling were all great fun even with the crumbly rocks of Madeira.
We decided to take an alternate route home despite it being an overgrown path. As is often the way on Madeira, when a landslide damages a trail it can often be abandoned by local authorities and it becomes very overgrown. This was one of those trails. Formerly a glorious route, we were often on our hands and knees crawling through the dense shrubs. The trail had many spectacular staircases and views back to Pico do Arieiro so it was worth the battle against the bushes.
We eventually joined back to the classic route and made our way up the steep stairway to Pico do Arieiro to complete the loop. Sunset was a ripper with the clouds blowing through and I managed to grab a quick video while we trekked our way back to our starting point.
ABOUT ENDEMICXPERIENCES AND MY GUIDE GONÇALO SILVA
As I mentioned earlier, my guide for the day was Gonçalo Silva who is a professional mountain guide. He spends his time in Chamonix (France), Nepal, Norway and Madeira leading mountaineering expeditions and other outdoor adventure tours. He is one of the most experienced guides out of Madeira and has a few decades of hiking, mountaineering and climbing under his belt. Above all, he was a great guy and very genuine and down to earth. We were beginners but he was super patient and you could tell he was just glad to be out enjoying nature as were we. If you want to get in touch with Gonçalo to organize a trek to Pico das Torres or any of the other adventures he offers like canyoning you can do so via this Facebook Page: Endemicxperiences or via email at email@example.com