Anyone who knows will tell you this is possibly the most revered climb on the island. There are several climbs here that deserve careful consideration before attempting them, however The Valley of the Tears also known as VOTT has become THE targeted climb for most first time visitors, we say first time as most are quite content to only do it once. The appropriate nickname has been assigned but if you want to see the spot on the map, look for the GC-606 El Carrizal or El Carrizal de Tejeda. As a stand alone effort, the climb is 11.8km at an average of 8% gradient which already sounds quite terrifying, take into account the descents and the fact that you’ll gain almost 1000m elevation and you’ve got yourself a somewhat tricky challenge, adding to this the effort it takes to get there and whichever way you look at it you’re set for a grand day out.
The most popular starting place to tackle this climb is the town of La Aldea de San Nicolas. It’s also possible to reach the start point via the GC-210 from Artenara (direction Acusa Verde) but we’re going to look at the climb from La Aldea. Most visiting riders stay in the South so whether you’re getting a shuttle to Mogán or riding from the door, La Aldea is an essential pit stop to re-fuel. Once you’re in the valley there is only one stop option and since most like to just get the climb over with it’s a good idea to use the town wisely so to speak.
Leaving La Aldea you’re looking for the GC-210 direction Artenara, the road quickly turns into what you can expect to endure for the next 24km, you can forget the typical glass like tarmac you may be used to here on GC, from here on if it’s narrow, bumpy, barren and very hot you’re in the right place 😊 It would be easy to think that you’re already in the Valley of the Tears and the nature of the GC-210 often lulls riders into believing it so, but the 12.5km road though the land that time forgot is just the warm up. The narrow undulating road follows the dried up river bed complete with its own wall of steep switchbacks and a dam, the perfect start to prepare you for what’s coming up.
When you reach the final bend before taking the right hander onto the GC-606 it’s a smart choice to take in the view 😉 If you’ve gone under a small tunnel you’ve gone too far. Take on some fluids and maybe a gel or easily digestible treat, eating on the VOTT isn’t always so pleasant. Then since you have a bit of elevation here, you can marvel at the wall ahead plus it’s a good chance for a short run up. Once you join the GC-606 you’re officially on the VOTT climb proper.
The very start of the climb is quite simply called ‘The Wall’ by strava users and the first 1.4km segment at an average gradient of 14% gives you the true flavour of the road ahead. Hang in there (literally) you will get a plateau and a short descent just after this section so count down the metres if your dripping sweat allows you to see at this point! This is how it’s going to be from here on out for the next 10km, brutal gradients with the occasional relief and wonderfully so (if you’re anything like me and like to know how much suffering is left) you can count down the kilometre markers from 11km - 0km to track your progress. Noteworthy is when you arrive at the 8km to go mark, if you’re in need of that pit stop take the road to the left towards El Carrizal centre look for the tiny Bar Restaurante El Cairete, it’s actually a little house, it may look closed but the owner is likely to be around and ready to rescue stricken cyclists in need.
The climb is as beautiful as it is hard, the tiny road has little traffic serving a few tourists, the residents and farmers and of course the odd crazy cyclist. The views of Tenerife’s Mt Teide on a clear day can really make it all feel worth it, as well as the over whelming sense of sheer joy and achievement once you reach the end emerging to the blissful sight of the GC-60 and that all important kilometre zero. Whilst you revel in the joy and catch your breath, now is the time to decide where to go from here. Unless you’re staying in Tejeda or Ayacata, they’ll still be some riding and climbing to do to get back to base, so enjoy the celebrations and get ready for the ride home. For a proper recovery and re-fuel, the cyclist friendly rest stops in Ayacata are often the rest place of choice to muster up the energy for the last stretch.
Times for the VOTT on Strava range from the mind boggling 42 minutes to well over 3 hours! Most mere mortals can expect to take around 1-2 hours depending on fitness.