Guadeloupe
La Soufriere
Summit Climb
Part 1

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Time: 2.5 hours. Difficulty: 3-4. Blazed trail, but can be very slippery. Trailhead: Depart and arrive at Savane a Mulets. For access, use Trail 1.

Arriving at the Great Fault on the north face (See Circuit of La Soufriere Hike), go right along the trail with some very slippery rocks.

It's a short climb--only 10 minutes to the summit. Proceed with extreme caution and watch your steps carefully. I took my worst fall in the Caribbean on the slippery summit rocks; or, as they say on some islands, "I bust my ass."

Don't expect to find a single immense crater, as you may have imagined. La Soufriere possesses clustered, numerous eruptive mouths called pits or craters, which are arranged in a string along the fracture zones.

Once on the plateau, you'll follow the length of the Great Fault, likely to be hazed over by escaping sulphurous vapors. Your route, marked with green posts, highlights the most obvious formations. Feel free to leave the official trail to explore on your own. Now is when a guide would be most useful.

At the end of the Great Fault, take the rocky trail to the right, which climbs past a small concrete refuge and leads to la Decouverte, at 1,467 meters, the highest point of La Soufriere. When the weather permits, which doesn't seem to be all that often, the view is exceptional.

Continue south until you are above Dupuy Pit on your left. Then skirt the fracture of the Faujas Landslide and bear right. About 100 meters after la Decouverte is a trail bearing right to reach Piton Saussure or Piton du Nord at 1464 meters. The view of the leeward coast is grand.

Returning to the primary trail, you'll enter a vast lunar landscape, the result of an intense downpour of stone and sludge projectiles in the 1976 eruption. Even the hardest rock formations were softened, rounded by this hellish brown sheet. Vegetation totally disappeared and is only now slowly coming back.

At your feet will be a pool established after the last eruption, not far from the former "Devil's Pool," which disappeared at the same time.

Before you, bordering the cone to the southwest, is the piton (peak) of the South or Piton Dolomieu. That ascent is extremely dangerous and ill-advised.

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