The Silver international award team successfully completed their first expedition of the year this past weekend, 14th and 15th of December. Eight students from grades 10 and 11 set out early on Saturday morning, to be the 'early birds' up on El Volcan de Izalco, Cerro Verde. The group descended the dreaded steps of Cerro Verde in good spirits, with a few shaky legs, a bit of singing and a lot of good humour.
Then the assault on the steep ash flanks of Izalco began in earnest. This was a critical point for the group, as historically this volcano has a reputation for separating out who is going to make it through to the final expedition, and who might need to work on their physical fitness and try again on a different year. Just to increase the challenge, the teachers decided to lead the group straight up a 100m ash slope, 'off path'.
The team slipped, and slithered, and swore never to do this ever again, but through it all they pulled through and the whole team made a triumphant summit of that moonscape crater, well before the first tourist crowds arrived. Some celebrated by taking a natural sauna in the steam vents, others decided to have an extended picnic. The whole group were already on their way down before the first walking group of tourists could be seen making their way out of the edge of the lava fields below.
The chosen route took us a different way to the conventional path, and the group cut across to the far flank of the Cerro Verde volcano without returning via the 'dreaded steps' route. This was somewhat of a relief to the silver team, and possibly even for the staff team too! Carrying 15 gallons of water between them, and taking turns with the heavier equipment, the group carried all the necessary gear to the base of Santa Ana and struck camp in solitary splendour.
The evening sun set with rosy hues and a balmy comfortable feeling descended on the group. Marshmallows were carbonated to varying degrees, a melon was zealously consumed, reflections about the day were made and the moon rose in an uncanny ring of clouds, like a circular picture frame. In the night the campsite was visited by three wild coyotes but this failed to make much of an impression on the ABC group, and only the security team noticed.
The sun was then full in the sky and it was time to retreat to the leafy shade of the lower slopes. The team were jubilant in their shared triumph. The staff are confident that this will be a great year for the silver award at the ABC!