Ascent of Tope da Caroa on 2013-04-05

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Adrian Rayner
Richard Mclellan
Denise Mclellan
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Friday, April 5, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Taxicab
Peak:Tope da Caroa
    Location:Cape Verde
    Elevation:6503 ft / 1982 m

Ascent Trip Report

Wed 3 April. After our Monte Graciosa and Monte Malagueta ascents on Santiago we take an evening flight to Mindelo on San Vicente where we spend the night.

Thu 4
Next morning we take the 8 am ferry to Sao Antao. Mindelo has a very attractive harbour with a number of smart boats and is ringed with fine summits. The ferry terminal building is quite fancy, nicely designed, with facilities including an ATM. We board the ferry with about 10 minutes to spare and the departure is on time. This is all on a whole new level compared with our experiences elsewhere in Cape Verde!

We enjoy the crossing in warm sunshine. The 1hr 15 crossing is bouncy with a stiff breeze, but quite comfortable. We dock at Porto Novo on Sao Antao, again a modern terminal with ATM and info centre where we buy a good 1:50,000 map of the island.

We are "adopted" by a taxi driver who recommends the Casa Luciano refugio for our overnight (it's not where he says and our route isn't too efficient but it works). We make the short walk into town and buy food and drink for our ascent. Then our driver takes us to the village Curral das Vacas N17.04204 W25.21830, 800m. The drive is very impressive with steep barren volcanic slopes and deep ravines.

We start hiking at 12.15, initially turning L on a steep unpaved road then at N17.03871 W25.22007, 930m, immediately after a tasty looking rock pinnacle, forking R on a cobbled path. This path is then followed as incredibly it finds a way up the rock face to the skyline 600m above, with many tight zigzags and in some places a lot of supporting stonework - an impressive piece of engineering and some stunning scenery.

Finally the trail crosses the ridge at 1550m. At this point is a low pumice cliff with a few caves (locked doors, N17.04070 W25.23317). We spend a while comparing maps and eventually locate the refugio Casa Luciano, nowhere near where our taxi driver told us and actually 2 miles off route and downhill! Anyway, we continue on the main path (middle path of three, N17.04139 W25.23366) which makes an initial steep descent then follows a nice rocky defile. It widens and descends to an area with several flat concrete areas for gathering water - all dry.

We turn R at N17.05318 W25.25412 onto a wide dirt road, passing several basic houses, also a Co-operative store (N17.05427 W25.25575)! We ask here about accommodation but none is forthcoming (complete lack of interest in potential tourist revenue evidently), so we make the 2 mile detour to find the refugio Casa Luciano. This is an easy two miles on a decent unpaved road; there is a R fork at N17.06220 W25.26578, the track then passes R of a small cemetery (N17.06997 W25.26661); we then take a shortcut footpath L which passes a church, then the refugio is the first group of buildings, at N17.08021 W25.26976, 1066m, with Telephone sign. This last hour is mostly in low cloud - quite cool, almost chilly.

The Casa Luciano refugio has facilities for camping as well as beds. We are served a good filling meal - it was well worth the two mile detour.

Fri 5: Ascent of Tope de Coroa
After an early breakfast, Adrian and I are away at 6.15 am. Denise and Richard pack up their tent and follow a little later: they have extra days and plan to stay at Tarrafal tonight. In the early morning cool we walk at a good pace and are soon back at the main junction in the village (N17.05318 W25.25412) where we continue straight (S) following the main (dirt) road as it bends R and passes a few buildings. There is a rather vague flat area where we simply head SSW towards a trail we can see passing through a V-shaped col above us; in doing so we descend a little to pass a building (N17.04728 W25.25506), then ascend following goat tracks. We keep left of a gully here but it's probably best to keep to its R, following the obvious path which then crosses the top of the gully.

At N17.04487 W25.25778, 1490m we pick up a rubbly path which makes a rising traverse of the R slope of a hill. It passes through a small saddle (N17.04341 W25.26164) then contours L of the next hill. The trail remains obvious as it follows the next gentle ridge then passes above a deep reentrant (N17.03747 W25.27177) before swinging NW (sharp R) then W, to reach the foot of some rubbly zigzags, which lead to a rather tedious slope of loose pebbly ground. Partway up this slope is an obscure fork (N17.03979 W25.28215), where we take the obvious route straight up although it might be nicer to fork R here, which is the way we later descended. Further up on the main trail is another fork where we keep L although R would work equally well. Bypassing a small crater these routes soon converge at the summit cairn (GPS N17.03717 W25.29159, 1993m). The 1:50,000 map has a 1982m spot height here, making it the highest point.

600m to the SW is a shapely conical hill which the map has as 1979m ie 3m lower: visual and GPS observations tend to support this. We descend easy scree direct to the gap between the two (the lower summit has about 102m of prominence according to the GPS). We head straight up the loose pumice slope beyond, but this is hard work - best to keep L (E) and follow a trail up a re-entrant, which leads to a cairn (N17.03250 W25.29588, 1986m) on the SW rim of a small crater. This is lower than the NE rim (GPS N17.03341 W25.29507, 1989m) but a better viewpoint with a fine view of the coast nearly 2000m below. We regain the main summit (easy trail gains the S ridge which is obviously better than the direct scree ascent). At this point Richard and Denise arrive and we have a quick chat before they head for the SW summit and we retrieve our packs and head down.

In descent we initially head ENE then E, on the obvious trail keeping L of the crater, then follow an attractive line (still on trail) which passes R of a steep ravine then contours to rejoin our upward route at N17.03979 W25.28215, which we follow down. There is a breeze which partly counteracts the hot tropical sun. We are back at the pass (caldera rim) in 2 hrs 30 from the summit and descend the zigzag trail, enjoying the superb rock architecture and struck by the contrast between the caldera, with its old volcanic cones and generally gentle contours, compared with the jagged vertically of the world below.

We're back at the road (Curral das Vacas) at 2.20 pm. We hope there will be a minibus back to Porto Novo but by 3 pm we give up and take a ride with a taxi who's waiting for another group to return. We buy tickets for the 5 pm ferry then celebrate our successful completion of the two Cape Verde ultra prominence summits with a very welcome beer.

The ferry ride from Sao Antao is pretty bumpy with a lot of rolling in the stiff breeze but it's a capable vessel and folk seem generally OK. We find a hotel in Mindelo for our last night, planning to climb the San Vicente island highpoint Monte Verde tomorrow before flying back to the UK.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5846 ft / 1780 m
    Total Elevation Loss:5846 ft / 1780 m
    Round-Trip Distance:23.6 mi / 38 km
    Grade/Class:YDS 2
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country
    Gear Used:
Hut Camp
    Weather:Hot, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:5190 ft / 1581 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3878 ft / 1182 m; Extra: 1312 ft / 399m
    Loss on way in:1312 ft / 399 m
    Distance:14.9 mi / 24 km
    Route:from east
    Start Trailhead:Curral das Vacas  2625 ft / 800 m
    Time:21 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:4534 ft / 1381 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 3878 ft / 1182 m; Extra: 656 ft / 199m
    Gain on way out:656 ft / 199 m
    Distance:8.7 mi / 14 km
    Route:from east
    End Trailhead:Curral das Vacas  2625 ft / 800 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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