Volcanoes and Foggy Days, St. Vincent
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people
are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is
going home; that wildness is a necessity,”
His name is Franklin and at the age of 58 he has hiked St. Vincent’s active volcano 317 times. His trip with us up to the summit will bring his count up to 318, with the majority of his hikes being on the leeward side, where the hike doubles in time and the difficulty intensifies.
Feeling a little intimidated by the thought of hiking up this 4049 ft. active volcano on the more difficult side (Barbados has instilled a little bit too much of a sense of “slowness” for that daunting task), we chose to take the route on the windward side.
This side of the volcano takes about half the time as the other side and after nearly three hours in the car, we finally reach Georgetown and make our way to the path that will take us to the starting point of our hike. Backpacks filled with bottles of water and a packed lunch, we strapped on our sneakers and set off into the rainforest, Franklin leading the way.
The hike to the top is filled with dirt paths, bamboo steps, rocks and boulders that make up a dry riverbed that it’s said was caused by the flowing lava from one of the volcano’s past eruptions. As an active volcano La Soufriere has the potential to erupt again, although the last eruption was in 1979 with no fatalities.
The hike to the top was a challenge and we came to the conclusion that Franklin must be mad to do this hike sometimes four to five days a week. Why does he do it? To support his daughter through her university degree, which she has just completed. Legs burning and lungs screaming, we made it to the top after an hour and a half of nearly constant incline.
My imagination of the top of a volcano was a stark contrast to the reality. Unfortunately for us, we had picked a cloudy, rainy day to do the hike. Much of our climb was spent in fog and the clouds were so low at the summit that you could see nothing but the haze that it created. The wind blew forcefully against us and with no sun to be seen, it felt like a Canadian winter. Far from the heat that I thought would be rising from the crater.
La Soufriere typically offer stunning views of the island below and, once at the top, you can usually peer over the edge of the 1.6km (diameter) crater for a glimpse inside. If you hike from the leeward side, you can actually go inside the crater and walk around. I was told you could fry eggs inside the crater, though I was unable to put it to the test.
If you go, please try it out and let me know!