Volcanopalooza 2015: Expectations Lead to Expectations

The everyday practice is simply to develop complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions, and to all people, experiencing everything totally without reservations or blockages so that one never withdraws or centralizes into oneself.
–Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

The above quote seems like a perfect corollary for today’s climb on Tecapa. The quote encourages us to remain open and accepting of every moment and to experience everything…even if that everything or that volcano doesn’t turn out as expected. It also hints to the dangers of expectations (or in other words, predicting what you think you might experience). Today, the group had a lot of expectations about what our climb might be like…

Let me digress a bit…we are on one of the first offerings of a new itinerary. The itinerary, a partnership between a UK company and an El Salvadoran company, is freshly minted and trying to bring the experience of climbing nine volcanoes together in a never offered before way. That’s seriously cool. It also means that the have been some “spanners in the works” and that some of the words used to describe some of the volcanoes haven’t really reflected what turned out to be the experience of climbing them. Where there have been differences, the climbs have generally turned out to be longer, harder, steeper, and hotter than described.

So, when today’s description, said it would be an easy day of about two hours and that we would “Make our way down” from the crater to the sulphur lake, we likely should have dropped any expectations of what it might truly be like. I mostly did (i.e. drop any expectations) and made sure I packed snacks and lots of water. Others did not (and did not have enough water and snacks as it turned out).

We drove up from Berlin to Algeria and met our local guides. We started steeply up through the coffee fields and then followed a dirt track to the crater rim of Tecapa. It was a 600 metre ascent and we made quick work of it. We started making our way around the rim past an antenna installation and then, soon after, expectations started to get in the way. Given the written description, most (i.e. most likely all of us) expected the descent from the crater to be easy and swift…likely about 45 minutes or so based on the the times given in the description. Turns out, it turned out quite differently.

It took about 3 hours to get down because the path was almost non-existent. We had to pass through an area that had been previously burned over, thus removing the tree canopy, and thus allowing a thick blanket of vegetation to cover the way. Our lead local, Luis, hacked, bashed, whacked and thrashed his way through the dense green vegetation with a machete in the blazing midday sun. The rest of us following slowly behind trying to avoid the brambles, downed burned trees, rolling rocks, and stinging nettle-like plants. The descent required several pauses and stops and it was hard to get any rhythm going. Almost the entire way down, we joked, complained, and bemoaned the differences in what we’d expected and what we were experiencing.

One of the phrases in the description said we’d enjoy a leisurely pace to the climb today and that turned out to be absolutely true because it took time to machete-open the path around the crater. I used the time to look deeply at the vegetation and to photograph the flowers and moments that were capturing my attention. The experience was in stark contrast to many of our other climbs where we moved up and down very quickly. I tried my best to “drop all story lines” about the descent to be able to enjoy it to the fullest. The views were fabulous and the opportunity to photograph/see in new ways/capture beauty were an intense part of the experience. So to close, I recall Archibald MacLeish said, “The only thing more painful than learning from experience is…not learning from experience.” I might adapt it based on today to “The only thing more painful than having expectations is continuing to have expectations. Yet another day of learning from learning lessons from volcanoes…

We’re up early again tomorrow to drive to our next (and second to last volcano of Volcanopalooza 2105)…time flies when you are climbing steeply over hill, dale, and volcano! We’re camped on a beach tomorrow evening so not sure I’ll be able to post an update…

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2 Responses to Volcanopalooza 2015: Expectations Lead to Expectations

  1. S-J says:

    I’m famous in your blog 🙂
    Great work – I really enjoyed reading your blogs

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