Saturday, December 6, 2008

Volcán Momotombo

Nicaragua is indeed the land of lakes and volcanoes. On Wednesday I took on the local ´big one´: Volcán Momotombo. It rises 1280m from the shore of Lake Managua and is fairly active. The last proper eruption was in 1905, and in 2000 it caused a few tremors, raising fears of an eruption. On the lakeside at the foot of the volcano, a geothermal power station provides one third - or 10%, depending on who you speak to - of Nicaragua´s electricity demand.

I climbed with David (on the left in the above photo) and Seth, a couple of New Yorkers whom we met on Ometepe and caught up with in León, and our guide, Anry.

The route up above the vegetation line is pretty tough going. The surface is covered in an ever-changing assortment of volcanic rock, varying between sand and small rocks to fairly big chunks. It´s hard work when each step you take slides back down half the length of your stride! Hopefully you can see from the photos the weird but beautiful moon-like landscape. There are also incredible views of the lake and around.

It took us about 5-6 hours to get to the top. Here, the ground looks like rock but is actually hot mud, with steam coming out of holes everywhere. You have to be careful - David lingered too long with a foot in the mud without realising it and later discovered that the sole was coming off his boot!

The loose surface that had hindered our ascent was, our guide assured us, going to help on the way down. Having already smashed his 4-hour estimate for the climb up, we became less confident of his 2.5-hour estimate for the descent. It turns out that a 45º incline of mixed sand and rubble covered in loose (and very sharp) volcanic rocks is not at all easy to get down. We were advised to "go with it"; not too hard on the sandy bits, where you can be fairly sure you´ll stop, but trickier on the patches of firmer ground where you could keep sliding for some distance without stopping.

Of course, one option is to adopt the ´crab´ technique, as demonstrated here by David. It looks effective, but in the end we all went for ´sliding down occasionally falling with much swearing´ technique, which proved the most expedient.

Volcano 0, us 1. Go team!


1 comment:

david said...

I don´t know about England, but in the USA, EVERYONE who is anyone is doing The Crab these days.