Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Montaña Cuervo and Montaña Negra

The island of Lanzarote is dominated by volcanoes and lava fields, varying in age from twenty-one million years to a few thousand. Over time this resulted in a mountainous landscape, ranging from great cliffs and glens, to isolated hills in a sea of old lava. In places this has been covered by deep sand, blown in from the Sahara to form the agricultural land called Jable. One of the most productive areas of farming was destroyed in the 1730's by the eruptions at Timanfaya, which resulted in dramatic mountains rivalling the Cullins, and many square Kilometers of jagged lava. A lot of the existing vocanoes and valleys were deeply covered in what is called picon - small granules of porous lava, mainly black - like the core of a Malteser. In between the northern end of  the valley called La Geria and Timanfaya is an area of deep picon with several younger (C5000 years) volcanoes protruding. One of these, Montaña Cuervo, has a relatively low, jagged rim, gashed down to ground level at one side, allowing easy access into the double crater.

This is a remarkable sight, containing so many different rock types and formations in a small area, including thousands of embedded chunks of Olivine (called Peridot when of gem quality). One side of the mountain, and half of the crater walls are covered in a thick layer of picon, as though a giant has thrown a bucketful at it!

About a kilometer away is Montaña Negra, a much larger (500 Meter) old volcano with a small crater, entirely covered in thick, black picon.    At its base, facing Montaña Cuervo, is a small, roofless stone building housing a covered well - a great rarity on an island with no surface water.

Spiralling up the mountain from the building are footpaths entrenched into the picon. The climb is incredibly tiring, like scaling a giant sand dune, as your feet sink deeply in at each step, and so each pace only achieves half the gain in height you expect. 

When, eventually you reach the crater, there is an unexpected profusion of vegetation, with an ancient olive grove, thousands of wild geraniums, and a sea of Sedum (Stonecrop). Although the landscape is very barren, the isolated bulk of Negra precipitates what moisture there is from the prevailing North East trade winds. The water trickles through the picon, which protects it from re-evaporation and keeps the fertile volcanic soil moist. (This is the same way grapes are grown in bodegas in La Geria which produce the Malvasia wines.)


Its central position on the island means that the view from the top of Negra is outstanding, covering the whole of Lanzarote, the archipelago of smaller islands to the North, and the Northern end of Fuerteventura to the South. Far below, you can peer down into the crater of Montaña Cuervo across the fields of picon. 

 The descent, whilst far less strenuous than the climb, does require a deal of attention, to keep one's footing, and to avoid going faster than is safe. Tobogganing down lava on the seat of your pants is not recommended!

1 comment:

  1. Great pictures Caminante. It’s almost as if I was there!