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The most famous landmark of Gran Canaria is el Roque Nublo (Rock in the Clouds), an ancient and sacred place of worship of the Kings and elders of the Guanche people.

Though not the highest peak of the island, at 1,803m it is a volcanic monolith, rising out of the Caldera (cauldron) de Tejeda.

Hikers and rock climbers are regular visitors. Walking to it is easy; at road's closest point, you'll see a parking area and a well kept path which will take you up to the rock. The view from around the Roque Nublo is breathtaking, so it is worth the hike.

History

Roque_Nublo_1The Roque Nublo, visited by thousands of tourists each year, is the emblematic symbol of Gran Canaria. The 80 metre tall volcanic monolith stands at 1,813 meters above sea level and was formed as a result of extensive erosion and is all but very little that remains of the once mighty Roque Nublo stratovolcano which stood in the center of Gran Canaria between approximately 4.6 and 3.0 million years ago and who's central crater was located close to where the Roque Nublo stands today.

The rock formations of which the Roque Nublo is composed were deposited at some time between 3.9 and 3.0 million years ago, during a period when explosive vulcanian-phreatomagmatic eruptions dominated the Roque Nublo volcano's activity. During this period the highly explosive eruptions emitted a series of dense, water vapor and lithic rich, relatively low temperature pyroclastic flows, resulting in a rather unusual type of non-welded ignimbrite (also termed block and ash flow) of trachy-phonolitic composition.

These heterogeneous ignimbrites containing varying proportions of crystals, vesiculated pumice, ash, and up to 55% Lithics (rock fragments) were to form massive layered sheets of breccia-type pyroclastic deposits known as the Roque Nublo breccia, of up to 60 metres thick in places and extending up to 25 km in length as they were channeled down a number of prehistoric canyons, towards the coastline, of which some flows were transformed into lahars. Many of the breccia sheets are also interlayered with lava flows.

As the volcano reached maturity and as the eruptions continued piling up layer upon layer of Ignimbrites, lavas and other fallout deposits, the volcano was to build a high asymmetric cone whose southern flank was much steeper than the northern and western flanks, steep flanks that were to become unstable and begin to suffer from periodic gravitational collapses not only to the south but also to the north and west.

Roque_Nublo_sunsetFinally, towards 3 million years ago (the exact date is uncertain) as the volcano reached the peak of its evolution and having reached an estimated minimum altitude of between 2500 and 3000 metres, a catastrophic edifice failure occurred and the entire southern flank of the volcano collapsed in a giant debris avalanche, much of which was channeled down the area of today's Barranco de Arguineguín, this event resulting in the formation of an enormous horseshoe shaped crater.

Coinciding with this event, the volcanic activity was waning, this period being marked by the intrusion of a number of phonolitic domes with associated fumarole activity around the periphery of the volcano until around 2.7 million years when activity ceased.

Following this, whatever remained of the volcano's central cone has been largely erased by 3 million years of erosion on its southern side and mostly buried by post Roque Nublo lavas to the north and east. It is during this time that the Roque Nublo was to take its shape as it is seen today.

The Roque Nublo monolith once formed part of the uppermost layer of a cerca 400 metre thick, series of breccia sheets, in part destroyed during the collapse of the southern flank. Some of these avalanche debris form giant dislodged blocks, which are very evident between Ayacata and Cruz Grande. The Roque Nublo being the eroded remains of one such dislodged and broken block of breccia sheet. The rock is composed of tephritic and phonolitic lithics and is rich in large plagioclase phenocrysts, set in a matrix of phonolitic pumice and ash. The Roque Nublo monolith breccia may be of the same formation that caps the Mesa de Junquillo.

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