It’s true that when I look at a mountain or volcano from the bottom, my first thought is usually, “I can’t do that.” Today, when we first saw Izalco from the highway on the drive, that same thought rippled through many in the group. Today’s climb of Izalco involved a climb down 500 metres from the volcano Cerro Verdeto a saddle then a 600 metre climb up to the crater rim/top of Izalco then the 600 metre descent back to the saddle and then the 500 metre ascent back up Cerro Verde. When I first heard the route plan, my thought was that’s a “double-double.” On our way to Cerro Verde this morning, we stopped in and learned about specialty coffee and the art of roasting and brewing coffee. If you look closely at the picture of Izalco above, you can see some straight lines on the left side about halfway up, that’s coffee growing.
This was out first close-ups view of Izalco, from Cerro Verde, before we began the first descent to the saddle. The faint grey line on the right hand side is the route up the volcano. As per park regulations, we started the double-double at 11 am which mean we were climbing that grey line in the absolute hottest part of the day! It was steep and a pretty good pull (climber speak for a descent work-out/steep hill). We were sweating and doing out best to stay hydrated as we climbed up, step by step…doing our best to find a breathing/stepping rhythm that allowed us to make way up the steep slope of the volcano.
On the way up, we passed by several fumaroles. Some were actual holes with steam rising out of them; others were patches of dirt with the hot vapour mysteriously passing through the soil. Izalco is the youngest volcano in El Salvador and the third youngest in Central America. It was discovered/formed in 1771. It last erupted in 1966 but obviously, there is still a “little action” (Lay volcanist term for steam coming out of fumaroles) on the go underneath the surface.
We celebrated our arrival at the top, ate some grapes and a guava. It was my first guava on a volcano. After about 30 minutes on top, we descended down to the saddle and then climbed back up to Cerro Verde.
We are staying in the saddle between Cerro Verde and Santa Anna. We are climbing Santa Anna in the morning. It is El Salvador’s highest volcano. The picture above barely captures the magnificent sunset we witnessed tonight. I’ve always cherished the moments I’ve stayed/camped/climbed above the clouds and today was no exception. The sunset was absolutely spectacular and we all sat watching it until the sun fell gracefully behind the horizon. With darkness, the clouds cleared, treating us to a view of twinkling lights from the villages/town/cities below. In the morning, if it stays clear, we’ll have a view all the way to the Pacific Ocean. We’re tired from a great day out on two volcanoes and heading off to bed to rest up for the next one tomorrow. It is a volcanopalooza after all 🙂