Thursday, 9 March 2017

Barranco de las Angustias Trail Running Route, La Palma, Canary Islands

Click here for route map  
Length 9 km (5.6 miles), terrain: rocky, steady climb, gain of 410 meters

The Canaries Islands isle of La Palma is really vertical. There are not many places to run that are even halfway flat. So this is the first of a few La Palma runs that will take you uphill and back, through the island's fascinating volcanic landscape.

This run will take you into the caldera, the huge crater left over from the first volcano that created the island, 2 million years ago. It's the biggest volcanic crater in the world, created when the volcanic mountain collapsed into itself and emptied its debris westwards into the Atlantic waves.
The high trail and the low trail
The caldera is an amazing blend of sheer rock cliffs and peaceful pine woods. There is a network of hiking trails along the rim and down into the crater. This running trail follows the last, not-too-steep part of trail LP 13, which loops within the crater. We will just follow the little stream-like river up into the ravine of Barranco de las Angustias for 4 km, as far as Dos Aquas, where two streams merge tp then flow further through the barranco. The route then turns around and heads back to the start.

NOTE: If you feel up to it, you can follow the whole LP 13 hiking trail, beginning at Los Brecitos lookout, and continuing downhill for 13 kilometers to La Viña parking lot, 4-km after joining into this route. You can't drive up to Los Brecitos, you have to take one of the waiting taxis from La Viña. But this way is more of a hike than a run, with a lot of steep steps and a bit of climbing and a lot more amazing views than this run. I've done this one, also and can really recommend it. Enjoy the hike!

Getting to La Viña parking lot, you need to head to the town of Los Llanos, and get to the northeastern corner of town. Look for signs pointing to Taburiente national park and Barranco de las Angustias. You'll drive up and over a pass, heading down into the mouth of the caldera. The narrow serpentine road La Viña ("grapevine") already provides breathtaking views of the caldera ahead.
Someone carved a face into this cactus near La Viña
The dirt parking lot next to the river places you at the beginning of the gorge. You just have to head northeastwards into the rugged valley.

From the parking lot, just take the trail to the right-hand side of the river. 

In most places you have a choice: either run in the gravel bed of the river or run the parallel trail up a bit higher. Sometimes the two merge, sometimes the trail crosses from one side of the river to the other. But they always stay close together.

Right at the beginning, you'll pass a small banana farm on the left side (the Hacienda del Cura), with its bridge. Don't head up its side-road: stay with the river.

From now on, just watch for trail markers, although they are sometimes a bit hard to see. Most signs point towards the campground, the "Zona de Acampada".
Hikers along the trail
You'll need to jump the stream various points, but because the water flow is normally minimal, it's never hard to find a good spot for that. It's a lot of fun. And if you get your feet wet, so what?

You'll be running past cactus, cliffs, and occasional magnificent views, when you get a glimpse up a side canyon or a view up the barranco.

Just enjoy the general quiet, with the occasional songbird or crow adding their own sounds to the scene. In the afternoon, you'll encounter hikers regularly, coming down from Los Brecitos.

Just past the 2-km marker, you'll pass an overhead viaduct at La Estrechura. Then, a half-kilometer later, walking above the river and with the river to your right, you'll come to an abandoned house on a little hill, the Morro de la Era. Shortly after the house, you'll pass a little dam down on the river below.
Side canyon
Running along the rocky cliffs, you'll be able to recognize pillow-lava, formed underwater and then pushed up here, high above sea level.

At the 4.5-kilometer mark, you'll come to a wide (and probably dry) dam and its buildings along the right side of the river bed. It looks like an abandoned gold mine. This is Dos Aquas, a waterworks that captures most of the valley water and canalizes it into a covered channel.

Just past the dam, the Rio Taburiente merges into the Barranco from the left, at a spot that's difficult to cross, so it's best to turn around and head back home from here. From this spot further northwards, the trail gets steeper and rockier. 

Luckily, everything looks different going the other direction, so you can enjoy the second half of the run, too!

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