OL DOINYO LENGAI VOLCANO – THE CLIMB
Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano is situated in one of the beautiful places of North Tanzania, near Lake Natron where hundreds of thousands of pink flamingos fly every year. Ol Doinyo Lengai is unique among active volcanoes in the East Africa and unique in the world which produces natrocarbonatite lava or “cold lava”. It has a dark-brown or black color in liquid state and a fluidity as water. This temperature is much lower than other lavas but, however, not so cool because it is approximately 510-600°C. In a hundred years Lengai has erupted about 15 times, the last time was in 2013. Fortunately, eruptions happen without victims because the volcano has relatively small size and it is situated rather far from nearest Maasai villages.
With Altezza Travel team, we spent wonderful days in safari in the Serengeti valley and, to not relax, we decided to conquer Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano that means "Mountain of God" in the Maasai language. I’d like to make a little note to the present time, now we have a tradition that every new member in our company has to conquer Lengai and try his strength, no other way)
Upon the arrival to Lake Natron we stayed in Lengai Lodge which was really awful in all senses and in terms of service but it was situated on the hill and had a splendid view that had attracted us. And honestly, this region almost does not have high-class hotels and prices for rooms don’t correspond the quality, the cost is overstated tree-four times and, of course, we don’t like it.
After resting and having eating a snack, we had enough free time before the start of the climb, so we decided to take an excursion to Ngare Sero waterfall and visit the shore of Lake Natron. The ascent was planned for the midnight to reach the top of Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano before sunrise.
These territories near Lake Natron are famous by their landscapes and volcano, here there is also one of the largest the Maasai community. Knowing it and burning with interest, Dmitry made a decision to do an experiment and try to climb in Maasai dress right on the top of Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano. The cloak, consisting of two light tissues, slippers making of tires, a dagger, Maasai stick and a belt – a full set, we’ve got everything we need for a successful climb.
The climb begins at the high mark of 1100 meters and it means that during the night we need to ascend almost 2 km to look into the crater of the volcano. Once we are on the spot, we put thermal underwear and storm coats, turn on headlamps and start our road to the top.
The first 300 meters of climbing pass in a light trekking, on the way we meet small rodents. But as the volcano was closer, as the ascent rose steeply. Sometimes we stop to take breath and drink some water.
Closer to the mark of 2300 meters Dima was exhausted, Maasai slippers were torn and it was not so pleasant to go over stones in the sock feet… A strong wind blew through the cloak under which, of course, there was nothing. The rest of the way passes in monologues against mountains, Maasais and especially their clothes.
We meet the first rays of the sun at the mark of 2600 m, there are unrealistic views all around the rift valley… a truly wonderful picture.
In the distance there is a rocky tower and the top is close from here, but every time it goes away and it seems that there will be no end. Besides, the volcanic ash always forces us to roll back, therefore the ascent is much more difficult.
As for me, I don’t use trekking poles and having a solid experience in climbs, I can say that sometimes I had to crawl over the flagstones on all fours because the incline is too steep for walking climb. Having arrived at the same time that we, the Americans, reached the mountain foot, they looked up and refused to go to the top, saying that they did not plan to die in Tanzania.
Сoming up to the top, the unpleasant smell of fumarole gases, produced through the cracks, becomes stronger. It is necessary to be careful entering to the caldera because the layer is very soft and it is possible to fall in.
On the top the view is indescribable! And these sounds of rolling lava coming from the earth, these fantastic panoramas of African landscapes, all of that offers ineffaceable impressions! It was decided to write a word Altezza by stones, as a marketing campaign.
The main danger while conquering Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano (and any other active volcano on our planet) there are carbon emissions from the lower layers of this mountain. Without color, taste and smell, invisible and heavier than air, carbon dioxide accumulates in the earth in dangerous concentrations.
Fortunately, wind streams distribute this substance evenly over a surface of the crater, preventing the accumulations of its dangerous quantity along the most part of the volcano. In spite of it, the conquerors of Lengai should be careful and avoid steep gorges, bluffs and other places when there is no wind.
The descent from Lengai is, probably, more difficult than the ascent. Slowly moving down, everyone makes a swirl of dust which provokes heavy breathing. Very tired, we only look at altimeters, dreaming about a hot shower as soon as possible.
The climb took us about 9 hours. In fact, having a good physical training and not testing Maasai clothes, it can be done for 6-7 hours. We are waiting for you in sunny Tanzania!