|Path leading from the summit of Arthur's Seat
I am in Edinburgh this week, and to my surprise, I found out that there is an interesting hike to the top of an extinct volcano, Arthur's Seat, right in the middle of the city.
|Radical Road, a path under the Salisbury Crags
|St. Anthony's Chapel
|Levitation practice in the chapel
|The last two meters to the summit
|Even dogs can make it to the summit
|The easy path to the summit goes behind the Salisbury Crags, not under them
In any case, the volcano is cold, no craters can be identified, and there are no lava flows. Still, the rock formations are interesting and the views superb. To have such a mountain right in the city is exceptional.
This experience inspired me to write about some of my earlier adventures in climbing volcanoes, some which have been on more exciting volcanoes.
I considered Mt. Mayo, an active and beautiful volcano. However, I ended up choosing a visit on the infamous, but momentarily quiet Mt. Pinatubo instead, as there were access restrictions to reach the summit of Mayo. As everyone knows, Mt. Pinatubo erupted with catastrophic consequences in 1991.
The mountain is within the area of the Crow Military Reservation. A permission is required and an permit for an overnight stay can be particularly hard to acquire. But I was lucky to get the necessary permits, thanks to the friendly Philippines army folks. Every tourist entering the area has to have two soldiers as security guards. I'm not quite sure what dangers they were protecting us from, but all the soldiers that I met on the trip were very friendly. (Except maybe the ones that bombed the road right in front of us on our return trip, from aircraft. But maybe it was an exercise run, and I think our driver knew to stop right before the bombing was about to happen.)
|Air raid in front of us
We used 4x4 vehicles to carry us nearer the mountain within the reservation. The area around Pinatubo is a mixture of hills, rivers, and sand fields. We must have crossed the same river 50 times going towards the mountain.
I planned to spend the night in the crater, so I had a tent with me. I also took a swim the crater lake. The water was pleasant, not too cold. But on the other side of the lake there are places were the water is actually boiling. We used a small canoe to explore other parts of the lake, and were hoping not to fall over, as the water can indeed be quite hot.
The crater seemed to have almost permanent clouds couple of hundred meters on top of the lake level, hiding the highest crater walls. This may be due to the hot steam rising from the lake. It was hard to believe that just 17 years ago this was an inferno. The crater is green, blue and silent.
|Canoeing on the crater lake
On our return trip, there was plenty of excitement in addition to the bombs... we were on the sand plains, probably doing 50 km/h when the vehicle suddenly drops on its side, and I see the back wheel run past us. The wheel has come off!
It was surprisingly hard to find the missing wheel, it took several minutes to spot it. On closer investigation, the threading had come off from the bolts. The vehicle was probably used day in and day out on the same route, taking constant beating.
|The wheel has come off!
But no problem, our 11-person expedition had two vehicles, so those of us who did not have to stay with the broken car loaded ourselves on the other one and headed back. All seats in this vehicle were taken, someone was even sitting on top of the hood.
|We found the tire!
There are several guides that can take you to Mt. Pinatubo. I used e-Philippines Adventure Travel and I was generally very pleased with their service. Recommended.
It was like a scene from the Lost TV series. I woke up after a boat ride and found myself on tiny tropical island with an overwhelming volcano almost pushing a tiny village to the sea. Smoke was coming out from the mountain. Can this place really exist in Europe?
I was in Stromboli, one of the Aeolian islands off the coast of Sicily. I had flown to Sicily for a couple of days for some volcano fun. Straight after arrival, I drove from the airport to Etna and climbed to the top despite various difficulties (bad visibility, ongoing volcanic action, missing the lift down, being alone in the night on the mountain, etc). Maybe not the wisest climb that I've ever done. But that was just a warm-up for the real goal of the trip, to see the wonderful lava fountains of Stromboli.
|Moon, as seen on the descent from Stromboli in the night
Stromboli is perhaps the destination for the travelers who are interested in volcanoes but not too keen on extreme mountain climbing or going out to unstable environments. Stromboli spews 100-meter lava fountains every couple of minutes, but is still relatively safe and easily reachable.
|The inhabited part of the island, as seen from the mountain
To get to Stromboli, you have to use one of the boat lines that runs through the Aeolian islands. I took a boat from Messina, and booked a guide with Magmatrek, the main local climbing company. You can find their offices next to the church. Contacting them over the Internet or via phone in English can be difficult, however.
|On the top, with a view of the craters below
|A lava fountain
The climb to the summit begins from the tiny village between the mountain and the sea, in the afternoon. You have to climb a vertical kilometer, but other than that, the walk is easy. The idea is to arrive right before sunset, so that you get to see the wonderful colors of the sunset, and then get to see the lava fountains in darkness. The sounds and scenery are exceptional even during the day, but in the night the experience is out of this world.
|This is why you need a helmet.
That is not dust on the lens, it is freshly brewed stones flying around.
|Sunset from the top of Stromboli
Once the guides tell you that it is time to go down, you will descend the mountain by jumping down on soft ash for about half a kilometer. This can be a lot of fun, but don't count on having any dust-free items on you afterwards. If the sky is clear, the view of the moon on the sea is very beautiful.
|Walking up on the ash-covered mountain