From Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo and back.
Starting Point, Pico do Arieiro
Poço da Neve
Like many islands around the world a radar has been built in the highest point of it.
Thanks to that installation, it is possible and easy to drive all the way up to Pico Arieiro (the journey takes about 40 minutes from Funchal). You will also find there, a gift shop, a snack bar and a Petrel (Europe’s most endangered seabird) conservation museum – there is only 80 breeding pairs left of this endemic species on the Island.
But getting back on track.
Go to the left side of the radar to find the “Pico Ruivo 5.6 km” sign. Go down a slope and follow the ridge after reaching Miradouro do Ninho da Manta.
The next part of the trail will be the annoying one (you will do it twice, as the way back is the same). Half a kilometer of steep stairs.
The first tunnel awaits you. You will go through five of them in total, each way. A flashlight is a plus, but a cell phone flashlight will do. It is crazy to imagine the construction of the tunnels and to see all pickaxes marks on the wall. On the way you might run into some Red-legged partridge like we did. They are not frightened at all, and might like to stand around the trail to eat crumbs.
The intersection with the east path is blocked and it is not possible to go that way (closed for safety)so it won’t be possible to take a wrong turn. You will have to take the western way around Pico das Torres, which is about an hour shorter. Through a long tunnel below the Pico do Gato.
Two more tunnels, a few hairpin bend and ridges will lead you to another stair section, leading to the pass at the end of it where the western and eastern road sections join (once again the path is blocked).
Follow the road north through burnt trees remain in multiple fires. The white tree trunk certainly do add something to the landscape. Turn to your left when crossing the path from Achada de Teixeira (on your right), the refuge will be less than 100 meters from there.
Keep left again to reach Pico Ruivo summit (the right path going to Bocca de Encumeada).
Congratulations you are at the highest point of Madeira. 1861 metres high. The way back is the same track ass forth, going all the way back to pico Arrieiro. The hike took us around 5 hours return (not including the photo break). But you might still feel it in your calves (as we did) a little longer. Stretching when reaching the car park doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all.
Watching the sunrise from Pico Arieiro before starting the hike is an option. In any case we would not suggest to start walking too late. The summit is shrouded in fog and mist at the end of the morning. We started with a strong wind under the sun but did end up inside the mist when we reached the car park at the end.
Just a little below Pico do Arieiro, is Poço da Neve, an old “well of snow”, the last one standing. 7.5 meters in diameter, it could store 265 cubic meters of ice. There are things that seem trivial today, but were once difficult to get. Back then, it was hard to find ice during non-winter periods. Leather bags were filled with snow and hail until a Hotel or a Hospital would need it.