Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lascar Volcano

From the moment that we arrived in San Pedro de Atacama it seemed as if our every action was being watched. This dark feeling came from a volcano that overshadowed the town. It was like the Eye of Sauron was watching us from Mount Doom, plotting our downfall. There was only one worthy response ... to scale the volcano and teach it who was boss!

Of course this was to be no simple task. The summit of the crater is at an altitude of 5641m. In order to acclimatise my body I had to engage in a week of preparatory hikes at high altitude. Naturally there is no point being acclimatised if you are a fat bastard, but luckily my body is in a prime state of physilogical perfection. However, physical preparation alone would not guarantee a successful ascent. This bugger, known as Lascar, or ´fiery tounge´in the Inca language is one of the most active volcanos in the Andes. Previous eruptions have led to the relocation of a nearby town, Talabre, which had been subject to lava flows. An eruption in 1993 resulted in ash fall in Buenos Aires (on the other side of the continent). That is why the volcano is considered a good Chilean volcano, because the fireworks are in Chile, but the ash and smoke fall in Argentina! The most recent major eruption was July 26 2007.

Nevertheless, I was ready to accept the challenge. Before you can begin the ascent it is necessary to take a jeep to the base. Naturally there is no road, and you cant even drive straight there as the route is mined (the legacy of a conflict that almost erupted between Argentina and Chile in the 1990s). The jeep ride takes over an hour and a half and my insides had been turned into a papaya smoothie by the time I arrived at base camp!

Actually there is no camp, but there are a few ostriches, llamas, flamingos, and even prarie dogs that hang out at the lagoon that marks the beginning of the ascent.

For those of you who have been inspired by this blog to rush out and climb your nearest active volcano, I will share with you some of my hard earned knowledge:
Take small steps ... dizziness and fainting is common at this altitude.
Keep your chin up and develop a rhythm.
Use hiking sticks. You might look like a try-hard when you wear all the latest hi-tech northface gear to walk the dog, but climbing volcanos is serious business!
Stop every 100m of ascent for a quick breather and a swig from the canteen.
Dont spike the canteen.

As you can see from the following evidence, the volcano has been successfuly tamed.

Things started to get a bit hairy though when I noticed a profusion of steam and sulphurous emissions eminating from the crater. Luckily I managed to prevent the imminent eruption by quenching Lascar´s thirst.

See the video below for the final moments of my successful mission to free the town of San Pedrom de Atacama from the dark shadow cast by Mount Doom!

No comments: