Volcanoes number 10 and 11: The thunderstorm volcanoes

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – what a difference a day makes.

We’d started out on our trek along a section of the GR400 in the Auvergne region in France in the presence of azure skies and a scorching heat. The mission: three days to climb four volcanic peaks of Europe’s largest stratovolcano – all part of my #40by40 quest to climb 40 volcanoes by the age of 40.

As the sweat ran rivulets down my spine and soaked into my clothes, we worked our way slowly up above the tree line and were rewarded with rolling French countryside stretching out to the horizon, dyed deep green from hearty rainfall – not that you would have guessed it given there was barely a cloud in the sky.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEight hours later, however, and my clothes, which had been damp from sweat, were now sopping, having been drenched by a monstrous deluge of rain.   Continue reading

Volcano number 9: The boggy volcano (part 2)

[Read part one of boggy volcano here]

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Day two of my ninth volcano, walking across the Cheviot Hills in England’s Northumberland National Park, and we were off. The rain of yesterday was gone, replaced by a gentle frost and lashings of lush sunshine. Now this was more like it.

My walking boots were still sodden from yesterday’s dismal weather and bog-hopping. Pulling on my cold, stinky, sopping socks that morning had given me shivers. I’d held the offending items at arm’s length, nose wrinkled, viewing them with contempt, before plunging my feet into their soggy centres. I admit, a whimper had escaped my lips.

But now, as we tramped uphill, my feet felt toasty – or as toasty as wet feet can feel. The second day of our adventure across the volcanically formed Cheviot Hills was to take us from Barrowburn back to Wooler via some summits. The original plan had been to include a few more summits but going on the day before’s poor time-keeping (and my poor fitness), I decided to scrap some that were more out of the way. Thus, our route was more direct.

Of course, that wasn’t taking into account the possibility of getting lost – and get lost we did. Continue reading

Volcano number 9: The boggy volcano (part 1)

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The road stretched ahead of me, weaving its way into the lonely depths of Northumberland National Park. As the boyfriend and I strolled along, the click of my walking pole on the road, the rolling mountains of the Cheviot Hills rose up around us, luring me in with their promises of high adventure.

At this point, I had a spring in my step. I was outside the concrete confines of London, relishing in the sublime English countryside, setting out to climb my next volcano (number nine) in my #40by40 quest – albeit it was an ancient one, resulting from volcanic activity when the continents of Scotland and England crashed together some 350-400 million years ago.

I breathed in the pollution-free air. Apart from the sticky humidity and spittles of rain, it felt good to be alive.

That feeling lasted all of about two hours. Continue reading

The pitfalls of preparing for volcano number nine

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The bags are packed; map directions sorted.

The boyfriend and I are about to set off up to the Scottish border to spend two days walking over the sparse and volcanically formed Cheviot Hills – subsequently bagging volcano number nine in my #40by40 quest.

I have to admit, I’m a little excited. All that fresh air and open space – not to mention another volcano – I’m feeling giddy just thinking about it.

But several weeks ago, I wasn’t this cock-a-hoop.

Why?  Continue reading

5 steps to an epic volcano-climbing adventure (without making my mistakes)

460Just over two years ago I came up with a crafty idea. I thought, why not set myself the ambitious quest to climb 40 volcanoes by the age of 40 – a feat that needed to be achieved in a five-and-a-half-year time frame?

It was a bold, daring plan, borne out of a fascination of lava and plate tectonics… and the itchy-feet desire to make more of my life and challenge myself. I’d just quit my pharmaceutical journalism job of five years to go freelance and I needed a new purpose. I chose adventure. Continue reading

Volcano number 8: The accidental volcano

Yip that clock is ticking – 40 volcanoes by the age of 40 (#40by40), and I’ve currently checked off… a big fat seven.

As you know it’s not quite the progress I was hoping to have made but in the name of positivity, you have to admit, it’s progress of sorts.

Now that I’m taking a more flexible approach to achieving my quest, I’m also being a little more creative and allowing some lines to be blurred. And so, when my mother informed me that Scafell Pike, England’s tallest mountain at 978m, just happened to be part of a volcanic igneous rock formation (the Borrowdale Volcanic Group) formed some 450 million years ago, it played with my mind. Continue reading