The team has been in the lush paradise of Ecuador for less than a week, and are already blown away by the majesty – and challenges - of this low-latitude volcanic candy store.
A warm welcome from colleagues at I.G. and I.R.D. equipped the team with all-important local knowledge and insight into the particular challenges in the region. When planning an expedition with maps and satellite images, everything appears possible to the armchair volcanologist. On the ground is a different story… What appeared to be a field fit for making snow angels turns out to be an unstable glacier riddled with crevasses; what appeared to be a pleasant grove of trees turns out to be a swampy den of man-eating snakes; what appeared to be a gently degassing lava dome turns out to have been blown to pieces in a recent eruption. The team immediately felt charged to take on the new challenges ahead!
Setting up base for a few days in Quito, the colourful capital of Ecuador, the team set in to making preparations, including a kickoff of altitude acclimatization, taking in some local sites, and meeting some wildlife.
From Quito, one doesn’t have to go far to get onto the sharp end of an active volcano. Led by their new friend Marco Almeida - I.G.'s expert in thermal monitoring from I.G. - the team ascended their first active Ecuadorian volcano – Guagua Pichincha!
Guagua Pichincha rises to 4784 m, and is smack beside Quito to the West. Pichincha is very much an active volcano - with frequent signs of unrest, and recent eruptions in 2002 and 1999. Quito was buried in 30 cm of ash from the eruption of 1660. The I.G. keeps a close eye on this sleeping giant, and the team briefly joined this effort with some quadcopter test flights, and thermal imaging of the relatively cool - but always dangerous - lava dome.
The team is just getting started with these outstanding Ecuadorian volcanoes. Stay tuned for more from the TRAIL BY FIRE!