Back when I first started dreaming about this idea to climb 40 volcanoes by the age of 40, I
spent an age on Google getting whipped up in the excitement of rugged volcanic landscapes, bubbling lava, snow-capped cones, and wilderness and vistas as far as the eye could see.
I put together a grand list of 40 volcanoes – they were dotted on practically every corner of the globe; some on islands in the middle of the ocean, others in remote and often exotic locations, requiring days of trekking to reach. Many were active, with lava lakes or hissing vents. And more than several were majestic in their height, taking on the craggy peaks in the French Alps, and promising winter mountaineering experiences.
It was a dizzying list. Just looking at it made me giddy, bursting with adrenalin and excitement.
And then reality set in. Eight volcanoes a year. That sounded like a lot of planning, a lot of time off work, a lot of cost. On the technical side, I had no winter mountaineering experience, couldn’t navigate, and had no idea how I would react to altitude. I didn’t have the kit and, to be brutally honest, my fitness levels had some improving to do.
It’s about then that self-doubt reared its ugly head.
And self-doubt, I have found, is a great excuse-provider and procrastinator. When you doubt yourself, nothing gets done. Nothing is achieved. Goals, dreams and ambitions vanish.
As a result, I have barely scratched the surface of my 40 volcanoes – as I write this I have a mere six volcanoes under my belt. Ideally I should have clocked up 10. I’ve done my fair share of self-flagellation and self pity.
But now that’s getting pretty boring really.
It took awhile but I came to the conclusion that the list of 40 glamorous and grandiose volcanoes I had originally picked would have to be tinkered with.
I still feel somewhat loath to include ones that are no more than a doddle, mainly because part of the premise of the quest is to physically challenge myself and have an experience. But I’m leaning towards a compromise situation.
In this scenario, I am looking at cheaper options or where I can get more bang for my buck, so to speak. For instance, the Canary Islands are a volcanic hotspot – why go for just Mt Teide when I could island hop and notch up all volcanoes in the archipelago? This would make it a condensed and more intense adventure, still challenging but potentially more likely to be pulled off (at least that is what my mind is saying right now having not researched it yet).
But it’s exactly what I did with my tour in Sicily. My original list had just included Mt Etna and Stromboli but I was able to add two bonus volcanoes – Gran Cratere and Fossa delle Felci on the Aeolian Islands Vulcano and Salina. By climbing four instead of just two, the trip was much more of an experience.
This is also the reasoning behind wanting to climb five volcanoes in New Zealand in March instead of my original listed three. The research hasn’t been done yet, there are no plans in place, I haven’t considered the logistics (mum can I borrow your car?) or the cost but I’m quietly confident this is doable without too much self doubt getting in the way. The five, in no particular order, will be Rangitoto, Mt Ngauruhoe, Mt Tarawera, Mt Taranaki, and White Island. Exciting, right?
At this point in time, this is as far as my volcano-climbing plan has got for 2017. I have a couple of ideas in mind but nothing set in stone yet. I’m very conscious I will have to make some decisions pretty soonish.
Of course, I’m also aware that if I cluster the volcanoes in this way, more than half my original list will be binned. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing and I don’t think that it makes the quest a failure. All that has happened is the quest has evolved. It’s more joined up rather than hodgepodge volcano hopping. Plus, as someone commented recently, the volcanoes are always going to be there – the quest doesn’t have to end after 40 have been reached.
As my skills and confidence grow, and as I become better (hopefully) at tackling my self-doubt, some of those more giant exotic volcanoes will become less scary. And, who knows, I might just give them a go.