Circuit of La Soufriere
One of the Caribbean's many active volcanoes, La Soufriere is an excellent hike.
Time: 1.5 hours for the circle walk around the volcano; 2.5 hours to include a visit to the 4,813-foot summit. Difficulty: 3. Trailhead: Depart from Savane a Mulets, altitude 1,142 meters.
This trail goes around the volcano, ascending on the west via the Chemin de Dames (Road of the Ladies), marked in yellow. For the descent, the trail passes by Col de l'Echelle (Ladder Hill), an impressive area littered with boulders from the 1976 eruptions.
An information board (if you read French) gives the history of this volcano, which is a relatively young one. During the last thousand years, La Soufriere has shown considerable activity, marking the Basse-Terre region with lava lahars (flows) and heavy storm clouds.
The longest major eruption was in 1976. Others occurred in 1797 and 1560.
The hiking trail begins with a few hairpin turns, then conforms to the gentle slope of the mountain. The path is interrupted by two flows and all along the trail is a thick
bed of dried sludge, which destroyed the vegetation in this part of the cone in 1976. Plants are making a comeback, which becomes more evident farther along.
Approaching the west and northwest slopes, you'll border a zone that did not suffer the destructive effects of the last eruption; where the flora is intact.
As you reach l'Eboulement (the landslide) Faujas after less than a half-hour of walking, you'll see peat-mosses, lichens and mountain pineapples hanging on the fault.
The panoramic view is exceptional: the southwest of Basse-Terre, the Caribbean Seaa, and closer by summits like Nez Casse ("Broken Nose") and Carmichael. Looking toward La Soufriere, the volcano shows its teeth--an amalgam of precariously balanced rocks.
A few minutes later you will arrive at the north-south Great Fault, also called the "North Crevice." Its sheer walls, 60 meters high, are barren of vegetation.
Here the trail divides. To the right is the summit hike, taking about an hour to explore thoroughly (described elsewhere. If you're going to make the climb, now is the time to do it. Refer to the Summit of La Soufriere Hike 2 now and begin.