My legs are still wobbly from the “short but merciless slope into Las Manchas” as the guide describes it, when we arrive at the foot of Helm’s Deep – an abandoned quarry which vaguely resembles a scene in Lord of the Rings after which we have named it. Knowing how much dust this volcanic gravel of red scoria kicks up, and keen to avoid an allergic nasal attack, I opt to go first over the face of the ever-shifting slag heap mountain.
Deciding that my best bet is to tread where others have trodden before, I set off, placing my feet in what looks like vague impressions in the gravel but as I get half way across, the entire slope begins to slide inexorably downwards. I try to run but my left foot slides down, knee deep into the surface as more and more gravel shifts and my whole body starts to move involuntarily down the slope. This is a nightmare.
With Jack urging me to move quickly, I manage to half run and half drag myself to terra firma as the dust cloud rises behind me and Jack emerges from it, berating me for destroying the path with my flawed footwork. Resisting the urge to stove Jack’s head in and bury him in the quarry, I tell him to go first on the next and final loose scree slope which we have to cross.
The slope is a shorter distance than the last but it falls quickly down a narrow precipice and disappears into an abyss. Jack sets off confidently, telling me that the trick is to go fast and keep going. As he runs, the entire face of the slope breaks loose and starts to slide towards the precipice. Jack starts to slide with it and for a second I see panic fleet across his brow (later denied vehemently), but he manages to pull himself out of the shifting mass and reaches the far side. Meanwhile the gravel avalanche continues, a flow of scoria falling into space and sending up a yellow dust cloud that mushrooms and engulfs me.
When the dust clears, all semblance of a trail is gone and what’s left is me on one side of a landslide waiting to happen, and Jack on the other, looking suitably remorseful of his earlier remarks. Any satisfaction derived from the ‘told you so’ victory is dwarfed in the realisation that I have no other choice but to cross.
One of the biggest advantages to producing guides of any sort in PDF format rather than in a printed book, is the ability to keep them as up to date as you possibly can. And that’s what we’re doing in Santiago del Teide as we face Helm’s Deep. With only a copy of our own Into the Valley Island Walks guide in our hands, we are walking the route exactly as anyone buying it would do for the first time, making adjustments to the text where a new sign has appeared or way-markings have been given a facelift.
Enjoying the beauty of the almond blossom, despite the presence of an icy-feeling wind which makes it quite the coldest Tenerife hike we’ve ever undertaken, we arrive in Arguayo and find a sheltered spot overlooking the Santiago Valley in which to enjoy our packed lunch. A British couple pass by and we chat for a long while about walking on Tenerife. The couple have a guide book which they’re following but which, despite it being the latest print, is woefully out of date.
Proudly boasting that our routes are never far from freshly walked we leave them and continue on our way until we arrive at Helm’s Deep. In the short time that has passed since we last walked Into the Valley, the quarry has degenerated to an unstable state and is now, in our opinion, unsafe to traverse. Since returning we have alerted everyone who has recently bought this Island Walk to the danger, recommending that they use the alternative route given in the guide. We will be returning to the scene of the adventure on Friday in order to plot and record a new section and we will email the amended PDF, with our compliments, to all those customers. That’s the difference between buying Island Walks and buying a book.
As you will have gathered by the fact that I am here to tell the tale, I made it across the precipice without loss of limb or life. Actually, I did it very nimbly and without destroying the trail in the process, ahem.