Trip Start May 24, 2005
66Trip End Jan 13, 2006
A day I've been looking forward to, climbing South America's most active volcano.
We arrive early and are given all our gear, including crampons, gas mask, an ice axe and bright blue jump suits making us look like a cross between mad scientists and james bond villains.
From the office it's a short drive up to the ski resort where we then have to WALK up the resort as the lifts are closed, even though there is snow still. We have been given proper solid mountain boots that work a treat and our feet don't feel the snow at all. Walking up the ski slopes takes a couple of hours and we finally stop for a rest. From here the rest of the ascent looks deceptive as we can no longer see the crater, just white snow, after asking the guide though I learn we still have 2-3 hours to go...few
From here the going gets even steeper and we are shown how to use our ice axes incase we slip and start sliding away, practice this involves throwing ourselves down the mountain a short way and stopping for practice, all great fun.
As the mountain gets steeper and steeper the wind picks up more and we look like proper mountaineers, traversing the slopes and leaning into a howling wind before finally breaking the summit ridge into a cloud of noxious fumes and volcanic ruble on the floor. We don our masks and venture over the small crater for a look at the lava. We don't have to wait long before we are shown our first explosion. Whilst waiting for the next one I realise that we are surrounded by hand sized volcanic rocks so ask the guide if they are cooled lava. "Yep" he replies, "if the explosions a big one, don't forget to run".....hmmmm ok, run from the lava explosion, no, I won't forget that!
Luckily we don't get any this size, although the longer the gaps are in between gets you wondering if the next ones going to give you the warmest shower of your life. One gap was slightly long leading to a larger burst that did get me worried, leading to a few photos of sky and ground as a fell backwards
Now it was time to head all the way back down again, luckily the snow is in the right condition for another part of the day I've been looking forward to, sliding down! We walk over to a different side and the guide shows us how to control our speed with our axes, then it's just a case of dropping over the edge and letting gravity do the rest! Great fun, Lou loved it as well, but after a few long slides we have really numb bum cheeks!
An hour or so later and we are back in the van , totally shattered but a great day.