Text and pictures © 2009-2013 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2012/12/07
"Volcano: A mountain with hiccups."
Left: A view on Mt Etna from the ash slopes beneath. What appears to be snow near the summit are indeed sulfur deposits.
The second largest active volcano of Europe, standing about 3300m above Sicily, Etna is hardly a destination you can skip when visiting the island. Although there's no climbing on it, there is excellent backcountry skiing to be done in winter; which will be for another time. Since it's just a hike we initially plan to do it on our own, but many things contribute to getting on a guided tour: there are signs that say it's forbidden to go on your own (although nobody is actively checking), you get to ride the cable car and then big ass trucks for 2/3 of the way up, and also there aren't any maps of the trails. The reason for the lack of maps is that as the volcano erupts every few years, the orography changes completely. And another reason to go along with a guide is that you get all the interesting comments about the history of the volcano.
Right: Fumarole above the main crater.
Left: Hiking through cold lava flows, very sharp and irregular.
Right: Near the main crater the acid emanations irritate the nose and the lungs, some protection, albeit minimal, can help.
Right: Sulfur deposit.
Left: Standing above the main crater, about a km wide.
Right: Fumarole of hot steam.
Left: Upper part of the main crater of Etna.
Right: Standing on sulfur deposits.
Left: Tourists above the cliff of the main crater of Etna.
Right: The main crater of Etna seen from a distance.
Above: The summit crater of Etna, seen from the summit.
Left: Mix of sulfur and magnesium deposits.
Right: Hiking next to a minor crater.
Right: Dog on a lava field.
Left: Panorama of the main crater of Etna, seen from its other side.
Left: Running down the ash slopes.
Right: Looking over Sicily, most of which is visible from the summit on a good day.
Left: Previous mountain hut covered in hardened lava.
Right: Backscattered light due to the dust in the air.
Above: Crossing above the gigantic east side lava field: about 5km wide and arriving right next to the cities.
Left: At lower altitude some pants are visible. Although volcano ash is a very good terrain for plants to grow, the high altitude and dryness makes it inhospitable above 2000m. Among the few plants growing that high is a chamomile. Farther down there are plenty of orchards and vineyards.
Right: Crossing the lower lava fields before heading back to the cars.
Left: Nice clean feet after walking all day on ash powder.