A brutal, rampaging wind was sweeping across the volcanic landscape when the VPo man made for an ascent of Chile’s Crater Navidad. The charging wind picked up massive quantities of volcanic soil, relentlessly sandblasting the VPo man with grains of pyroclastic material. Step by step, using his determination to overcome both the dangerous conditions and his own fragility, the VPo man eventually found himself on the rim of the crater, fighting to not be blown off the cinder cone.
After a harrowing descent to safety, the VPo man commented, “standing on the rim of the crater at its highest point, I was scared shitless. The wind was fierce, blowing at what must have been at least 50 miles per hour. A few times I thought I was going to be blown clear off that son bitch.”
Located in Chile’s Parque Nacional Nalcas-Malalcahuello, Crater Navidad was birthed by Volcan Lonquimay on Christmas Day, 1988. Crater Navidad was formed when a river of lava flowing under Volcan Lonquimay erupted not at the volcano’s summit but through a path of lesser resistance just below and to the side of Lonquimay. During this volcanic event, a large area around Volcan Lonquimay was covered with fresh lava and pyroclastic material, and the cinder cone of Crater Navidad was formed.
While the VPo man is known for wilderness escapades in the Northeastern U.S., this intrepid explorer had never set foot anywhere near a volcano until venturing to Chile. When asked about his impression of the volcanic environment, he commented, “It´s intense. It’s like strolling through a lunar landscape. Much of the volcanic soil was gray and soft and deep, like walking on a beach dune. Making progress through the deep, soft soil was slow. In some areas a layer of volcanic stones covered the soil. The stones were loaded with air pockets, making them very light. I loved booting it over the stones, the feel and crunchy sound of them underfoot. Also, in such a barren landscape you lose your sense of distance, which adds to the otherworldy look and feel of this environment.”
When asked about his next adventure, the VPo man simply said,”Right now I’m focused on going back to my hotel room and trying to wash all the dirt out of my nose and ears.”
Epilogue: 3 days after this hike, volcanic soil was still showing up on q-tips I used to swab my ear canals with. Good hike.