The Day When I Climbed Mount Etna
The most exciting day of my life, by Claudia.
Above: una foresta dell' Etna.
Soon, we saw a road sign. It said: 'Sabbia Vulcanica.' This means: 'Volcanic Sand.'
Now we knew that we were definitely going in the right direction!
The forest on Etna was gradually turning into a strange mixture of dead and living trees.
We arrived at a little area of buildings. This area is called un rifugio. It is the highest point that you can reach by car. If you want to go higher up il vulcano then you have to walk or go in a special bus.
We bought tickets to take l'autobus.
No one was allowed to wear sandals. We had to hire walking boots and buy socks. We hired jackets too. When you are climbing a mountain it is cold and windy, even during the hot summer in Sicilia.
Dressed like mountain climbers, we headed towards the bus. This was no ordinary bus! It was a cross between a tractor and a tank. Un autobus speciale.
It was a bumpy, half-hour ride up the rocky, winding track. The roof of a destroyed building lay on the black ground. Dead trees were everywhere. There was no colour and no life. It seemed that we had landed on a dead planet.
Ice patches lay here and there, even though it was August.
Photo: a patch of ghiaccio - ice,
in agosto on an upper slope of Etna.
The bus stopped and we all got out. Had we arrived at il cratere? No such luck! There was now a long and difficult journey on foot. It was time for us to be mountain climbers!
La nostra guida - our guide - welcomed us. He was called Salvatore Turiddu and it was his job to lead everyone up to the summit. He looked very relaxed. You could tell he was used to working on un vulcano.
As we walked up the steep slope I started to feel dizzy. There wasn't enough air. The lack of aria was causing altitude sickness.
I have never had this experience before. No matter how deeply I breathed in, my lungs just did not seem satisfied.
However, I felt safe knowing that I was following the expert volcano-climber, Salvatore.
The higher we climbed, the colder it became so we put on our jackets. The strong wind was blowing volcanic dust into our eyes.
It took about one hour of climbing to reach the summit. We all felt very tired. In fact, mio papà was so tired that he had to lie down on the volcanic ash for a rest. Povero Papà! Poor Dad!
When at last we arrived at the enormous crater, a suffocating cloud of sulphur blew over us. It was a powerful smell of rotten eggs. I covered my face, trying not to breathe in the gas. I wished I had una maschera antigas - a gas mask.
Once again, I felt safe knowing that Salvatore was guiding us. He seemed to know everything about the volcano. We followed him along dangerous paths. There was so much zolfo (sulphur) coming out of
il cratere enorme that sometimes you could not see properly. It stung my eyes so I covered my face as much as possible.
As we walked along a narrow ledge, I was nearly blown into the crater by a strong gust of wind. My heart was pounding with fright as I struggled to keep my balance.
Through the sulphur cloud I could see the top, inside part of il cratere centrale. I tried to see further down inside but it was hidden under a thick blanket of greyish white sulphur smoke. Che paura! Scary!
Around the crater the rock was stained a yellowish green colour. Salvatore said that this was the effect of
lo zolfo, the sulphur.
We spent about one hour walking beside the crater.
All around, there were little vents with gas and steam coming out. I decided to put my hand on a little vent and burnt my fingers! Oplà!
"Così impari!" said mio papà. "That will teach you!"
It was time to walk back down to the waiting bus. The slopes were so steep that sometimes we lost control of our steps and had to slide down. It was like skiing on black snow!
Back in the bus we saw how dirty we had become. Our legs were black with volcanic dust. Our clothes, hair and faces were covered in it! Mamma mia!
As the bus descended the bumpy, winding track, I noticed the first sign of life. It was a little green plant growing on the black ground.
Lower down the slope, more little plants appeared. It was very nice to see some colour again. We were gradually returning to planet Earth! We felt like astronauts who had just visited another pianeta.
Il Monte Etna is a mountain in Sicily, Italy. In italiano we say una montagna in Sicilia, in Italia. It is over 3,300 metres high. But it is no ordinary mountain! It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, with four main craters and hundreds of vents.
The ancient Romans believed that the god of fire, Vulcanus, had a workshop inside Monte Etna and that
he made tools there.
Etna had an eruption of ash just a few days after my visit! On this page I describe what I experienced when I climbed to the summit.
On 17 August, I went with my family to the central crater of Monte Etna. This crater is called il cratere centrale.
As we drove up towards the mountain's summit, I wondered if Papà had taken the wrong road. It didn't look as if we were on a volcano's slopes. Where was the lava? Where was the volcanic ash?
All around us there were lovely green forests.
We began to notice dead, white trees lying on areas of black lava in the forest. They looked like ghost trees! Poveri alberi! Poor trees! I felt so sorry for them.
Why can't trees have legs so they can escape when molten lava is heading their way?
Back at il rifugio, we bought some souvenirs. I bought a little eagle carved out of the black lava rock.
The eagle, l'aquila, is a symbol of il Monte Etna.
When we headed back downhill in our car, it was great to see the colourful green trees, the blue sea, the birds, flowers and all the natural things that are around us every day. I was also very glad to breathe in fresh air that didn't have the smell of rotten eggs.
Having spent so long on the colourless and lifeless upper slopes of the volcano I now really appreciate the beautiful colours of our planet and the clean air. To visit the summit of Etna is a fantastic experience. Volcanoes are a very interesting and exciting part of nature, but I would not like to live in a world without trees or plants.
We must all help to save our forests and to keep the air clean.
Claudia's Advice Section For Climbing Mount Etna:
1. Do not wear your best trainers as they will be ruined.
2. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes against the stinging of the sulphur clouds and the flying volcanic ash.
3. Make sure that you are feeling energetic.
4. Be prepared for a strong smell of rotten eggs. A gas mask would be a good idea.
5. Do not be tempted to go into the crater.
6. Do not go during un' eruzione - an eruption.
An interesting fact:-
The veil of Saint Agatha.
Saint Agatha (Sant'Agata) is the patron saint of Sicily and Catania. She lived in Sicily in the third century.
Catania is a city that is built beside Mount Etna. The veil worn by Sant'Agata is kept inside the cathedral of the city.
When there have been dangerous lava flows heading towards Catania, the veil of Saint Agatha has been held up in front of the lava and stopped its flow. It is believed that Saint Agatha and her red veil protect the city from the eruptions.