Erta Ale volcano excursion, visiting the summit crater with an eruption in progress

December 29-30, 2010

Erta Ale trek to reach the summit crater and observe the eruption in progress. Unfortunately, only a month before my tour, the beautiful lake of molten lava has been made invisible due to a new heavy eruption. However, the volcanic landscape is spectacular and, during the night, it was still possible to see the fiery red smoke coming out of a small aperture in the crater.

Track to Erta Ale Road to Erta Ale
We start early in the morning in Afrera, to reach Erta Ale volcano through a track in terrible conditions, often hidden in the dust.

 

Roads in Danakil
Sandstorm Sand storm
Suddenly, a strong wind followed by a sandstorm, brings the visibility down to a few meters. In these conditions, it's often difficult to see the next vehicle, causing the convoy lose the track. Luckly, after a couple of hours, we are able to come out of the mess and continue the journey to Erta Ale.

 

Dust storm
An Afar seems to wander like a zombie, surrounded by a thick cloud of dust and sand.

 

Afar people Afar hut
At the foot of the Erta Ale volcano, the sand storm terminates thanks to the volcanic ground, having much less dust. Before climbing to the Erta Ale base camp by 4x4, we cross a small camp inhabitated by Afar people.

 

Danakil desert
After about 8 hours drive from Afrera, we finally see the distant volcano Erta Ale, which appears as a flat and insignificant hill.

 

Erta Ale base camp Camel
The 4x4s are parked at the Erta Ale base camp. From here, we will continue con food, carrying water and food by camels.

 

Erta Ale trek Erta Ale excursion
Trekking Erta Ale Lava
We start the climb in late afternoon. Soon, we find ourselves walking under the warm light of sunset, before being forced to turn on the headlamps at nightfall, continuing to trek in the dark. The total distance to be covered is 10 km, with an elevation gain of about 600 meters. The climb is easy, provided that you drink a lot. In just 2 hours and 40 minutes, the group reaches the top of the volcano Erta Ale in the heart of the night.

 

Erta Ale eruption
Erta Ale picture. Unfortunately, a recent eruption happened in November 2010, just a month before I took this photo, has caused the almost complete coverage of the incredible fresh lava lake, that was visible for several decades. A little disappointed, we spread the mats on the ground and we start to sleep without doing any other hike. To have an idea about how the Erta Ale was, please see this excellent link: ERTA ALE BEFORE 2011

 

Erta Ale crater Erta Ale
More Erta Ale photos. The following morning, I take additional pictures of the crater, under day light.

 

The rim of the crater and the small huts built by Afar, to allow tourists to take a shelter from the wind during the night on top of the volcano.

 

Erta Ale caldera Lava flow
Still disappointed by the apparent absence of fresh lava, we take a trek inside the crater.

 

Erta Ale panorama
A panoramic view of the crater shows quite clearly what happened to the caldera, radically changed from just a few months before (TRY TO COMPARE WITH THESE PICTURES). Apparently, a large eruption caused the filling of the caldera, with plenty of lava that was even overflowing. Subsequently, the lava lake has collapsed, leaving solidified lava.

 

Solid lava
Bizzarre lava formations.

 

Erta Ale volcano
Erta Ale picture.

 

Camel Camels
After having visited the summit crater, we trace back the 10km that separates the top of the volcano from the base camp, where the Toyota 4x4 are parked.

 

The entire trek is made along an easy, but long, trail.

 

Road to Erta Ale So we say goodbye to the soldiers who escorted the group during this hike on Erta Ale, and we start driving to continue the visit to the rest of Danakil depression.

 

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