NEMO tour – La Soufriere experience
April 23, 2013

NEMO tour – La Soufriere experience

Tue Apr 23, 2013

by Loren “Leddie” Da Breo

Close to 200 persons, including an entire bus load of students from the St Vincent Grammar School, climbed to the peak of La Soufriere, as part of an educational trip last Friday.{{more}}

The trip, organized by the National Emergency Management Office and the Seismic Unit of the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, was part of the series of activities organized to commemorate the 34th anniversary of the eruption of La Soufriere on April 13, 1979.

The youngest hiker was a 10-year-old Grade 6 student, who is about to write the Common Entrance Exam.

He was accompanied by his mother, who said “I brought my son for the experience and I am expecting him to write an essay as part of preparation for his exams”.

One middle-aged woman, who was making the trek for the first time, said she felt like giving up and returning to base. However, with help and motivation from others, she pressed on and made it to the top.

“The journey was filled with lots of love,” one climber said.

The Grammar School students, with youthful energy in abundance, were among the first to reach the summit. For some it was their first trip to the volcano, for others it was not. One student from Chateaubelair had climbed the mountain twice before from the Leeward side of the island, but this was the first time he was making the trek from the Windward side. Another student, a 15-year-old, made it quite clear there wouldn’t be a second time for him.

“That walk was torturing; it killed my foot,” he said.

One man said it was his first trip in 19 years, while a young woman said she had always wanted to make the climb and finally did.

Before the hike began, Dr Richard Robertson, geologist and senior research fellow at the Seismic Research Centre at UWI, introduced the climbers to the professionals from the Soufriere Monitoring Unit, the Forestry Division and National Parks who were our guides.

The climbers were advised to take as little up the hill as possible.

“If you don’t want to get tired on the way up, don’t carry too much stuff”, said Robertson.

However, clean drinking water was a must, they were told.

The briefing was given at the base of the volcano at an area called “Bamboo Range”, where most of the deposits were fragmented material, pyroclastic flow and ash that came down from the volcano during the 1902 eruption.

The walk up the hill began at 9:15 a.m, through bamboo areas and bush to the first official rest stop at “River Bed”, a very old lava flow from thousands of years ago. From the “River Bed”, the gradient changed significantly. It got steeper and steeper until the climbers arrived at “Jacob’s Well”, another lava flow area just before the final flank of the volcano.

Once they got past “Jacob’s Well”, they were out of the tree line and were now travelling mainly on gravel and stones. Most of what they walked on at that point were pyroclastic deposits from both the 1902 and 1979 eruptions. They eventually got into areas of pyroclastics, blocks and bombs, then to the top and where they were able to view the crater.

The top was quite foggy, obscuring the view of the dome at times. After almost an hour at the peak, the group began their descent, until they arrived at “Bamboo Range”. The whole climb had taken the slowest walkers about four hours.