Pico do Fogo

  • Pico do Fogo
  • 2829 m
  • Primary factor 2829 m
  • Fogo island HP, Cape Verde
  • Location: North 14.95037, West 024.34236 (GPS at the summit)
  • Difficulty: YDS class 3 (top only)
  • Climbed February 20. 2018.


How to get there:
This mountain is located on the island of Fogo. The airline Binter (Cabo Verde) flies there from the capital Praia located on the neighbor island of Santiago. There is also a (unreliable?) ferry service between the two islands. The airport (SFL) is located near the main village on the island, Sao Felipe. It takes about one hour to drive from Sao Felipe to the very small village of Portela, located inside the big caldera crater, at about 1700 meter of elevation.
The least expensive transport is likely a taxicab, if you negotiate the price in advance, a reasonable price in 2018 might be 3000 in local currency. The return transport may be more tricky, perhaps just agree on a round-trip price including the wait. If spending more time on the island, there is a well organized local tour operator called Zebra Tours. They can offer accommodation, they run a local restaurant and they certainly can provide transportation, even a guide if that is what you want.
The volcano had a serious eruption in 2014 that destroyed most of the houses inside the caldera and pretty much filled the large, flat area with lava.
Route description:
Once in Portela, it is easy to see the road that continues a short stretch across to the base of the uphill slope. Drive or walk this short distance to a spot immediately before a small hut, near the high point of this road. This location is N14.96723, W024.35475, elevation about 1760 meter. There is a clear trail heading uphill from here. Pay attention as this trail forks fairly soon, the uphill route should keep left in order to get onto a trail that works well when going uphill.
Higher up, this trail enters a rock rib (small ridge), thus avoiding the slippery volcanic sand. The route is easy to follow, partly on solid rock and partly in nice zig-zags that provide good friction/footing. This trail runs pretty directly to the crater rim. Many tourists seem to stop here. In order to access the highest point on the crater rim, one should turn right (when facing uphill) and follow a clear trail a very short stretch to a natural weakness in the rock structure that blocks easy access. The scramble up here is a bit exposed, but not difficult, (YDS class 3). To secure and facilitate this short section, there is a solid steel wire bolted to the rock. One may simply walk up the rocks while holding onto this wire (YDS class 2+).
After this section, a very short zig-zag trail will lead to the highest point marked with a small rock cairn.
Note that the descent route is different. Initially, head back down the same track, but keep left whenever you see a track going that way. You will soon enter a slope of volcanic sand. Descending here is smooth and easy, like going down a snow slope with similar conditions. The route will pass a single rock, then turn a bit left before another downward slope. When you run out of sand follow a visible track, but keep right. In this way you will merge back to the path of ascent, however, the remaining distance down to the road is now quite short.
I took the 0750 flight from Praia, the plan was to do this peak as a daytrip and return for dinner with Heidi later in the day. The flight was slightly delayed and I did not know exactly how long this trip would be. The only thing I did know was that my return flight left Sao Felipe at 1630 and I better be there well ahead of departure time.
I had pre-booked transportation and a car from Zebra travel waited for me as agreed. He could assure me that the drive would only take about one hour, good since I had a report that this transfer was more like 1.5 hours. The driver indicated that a guide was required, but he quickly accepted my reply that a guide was not needed since I had guide qualifications myself.
Thus, by 0945 I was on my way, having told the driver that he should start looking for me around 1400. The ascent was indeed nice and the trail was easy to follow and quite nice since it mostly stayed away from the loose sand. I made a brief stop and had a drink of water after one hour, also checking on my progress. I had ascended 600 vertical meter already, thus a good estimate for the ascent would be 2 hours and I should be down with lots of time to spare. The view from here was already good, towards the sea as well as back down to Portela.
I continued uphill and soon I could spot that I was not alone on the mountain. A bunch of people were standing on the rim, easy to see against the blue sky. This turned out to be two guided groups of German tourists.
Shortly before I reached the crater rim, the groups passed me while descending. I continued directly to the highest point on the rim. The short scramble was easy and soon I was on top, the time was 1135, so 1:50 for the ascent. It was really nice and quiet, nobody around. I took several pictures of the crater as well as of the large caldera below. Across the sea, I could see the contours of Sao Santiago, quite blurred, but clearly visible.
There was another point on the crater rim that looked pretty high. I decided to use the water bottle test in order to estimate the relative elevation. The result was reassuring, the other cliff was indeed lower.
Now, when I had complete control on my time, it seemed nice to just enjoy this special place a bit longer. With more than 1600 kilometer to any higher point (Pico Teide), this peak ranks high with respect to isolation.
I decided to leave at 1200, noon. I knew that the route of descent would be quite fun, loose volcanic sand, very similar to descending a snow slope. I caught up with the German tourists and returned to the road by 1250, so only 50 minutes all the way down. My driver was not there, so I started the short walk back to Portela. However, he had spoken to one of the guides (with the Germans) and knew I would be early. He therefore came driving before I was all the way back in the village. We still made a stop there, a cold Coke was in order and my driver still wanted to chat with some of the locals.
We subsequenty left and drove back to the town of Sao Felipe in order for me to also see the location of the Zebra agency. After yet another nice break, I transferred back to the airport together with another party that Zebra serviced. Arriving at the airport about 1.5 hours before my flight, my excursion to Fogo was complete.