I awoke at 5:30 searched for my passport, packed 2 liters of water, a cliff bar and some nut bars. The crew of Himmel and I took the 7:30 ferry to Pico, met our guide, Mateo, and headed off to the Casa da Montanha. The mountainside house is at 1,200 meters, I was under the mistaken impression that hiking Mt Pico was be a walk in the park. I apparently had not read the following website.
https://www.geekyexplorer.com/climbing-mount-pico-azores/ “Pico is basically a very steep uphill hike. In some parts it feels dangerous. The wide range of hard rock formations and different types of soil are quite a challenge to your feet, ankles and knees.” Steep, yes, almost vertical. Dangerous, yes. My fear was I would lose my footing and bounce off sharp volcanic rocks. Mateo did a great job with motivation and when I feel behind he encouraged me to move to the position directly behind him. This was immensely helpful because he modeled the best footholds and baby steps. He frequently reminded us to breathe and use small steps and to traverse rather attempt to climb straight up. At least 200 times he must have said, “We are almost there.” I was reminded of a mountain hike with Marcia. Climbing up a winding trail, we were hiking with my former student, Melinda. Over the course of 90 minutes or so, she repeatedly said, ‘It is just around the bend.”
The greatest challenge on Pico was reaching what looked like the summit, only to realize the steepest climb was still ahead. The below picture is not the summit.
We had to cross a crater before reaching the incredibly steep peak. As I was approaching the peak, my legs were jello and my left leg started to cramp. At that point I would have put the odds of me standing on the summit at about .01%. I yelled to the group that I my legs were cramping. They kindly let me rest for several minutes and then we pushed ahead. By taking it one step at a time, I got across the crater.
When we approached the steepest part of the climb, it was time to stow the trekking poles and use our hands and feet to ascend. While climbing, I worried whether I would have the strength to descend. At multiple points, I thought I was making a poor decision to continue upward. If I had not been with the Himmel crew, I am sure I would have quit. The last 30 or so ft the rock were quite water. Steam was emerging from cracks. Even though I was unsteady on my feet, it was a good feeling to reach the top. We had a lunch of bread, cheese and ham/salami. We sat there and enjoyed being above the clouds. The descent was not a difficult as I feared. Lunch provided some energy and going down required a different set of muscles.