Are you looking for an adventurous tour into the wild? Then El Reventador, a volcano with a bad temper in Ecuadors rainforest, may be an interesting option. The name translates to “the Exploded” and for good reason as it regularly spews and fumes, causing much unease with local inhabitants. Its most recent eruption was in 2010 but the largest recorded eruption occurred in 2002, during which the plume from the stratovolcano reached a height of 17Km and pyroclastic flows could be observed at the slopes.
Although, it has since mellowed, fumaroles activity can still often be observed in the crater. Despite El Reventador’s relative dormancy, it remains a spectacular beast to be admired, as it’s 3485m symmetrical cone bursts out of the cloud forest with solid determination. The volcano’s main peak lies inside a U-shaped caldera which is open towards the Amazon rainforest to the east. However, due to its location, it is prone to bad weather. Levels of rainfall reaching 5500mm per year have been recorded. Until recently, the combination of unfriendly weather and permanent volcanic activity has kept explorers at bay.
Nowadays, intrepid explorers attempt El Reventador, but not without difficulties: Rest assured that if you are looking for a challenging mountain to climb, this active volcano won’t disappoint you.
That’s as far as the theory goes. Having climbed El Reventador many years ago in one of its more calm phases, we decided to go back and see the volcano in plain activity. Our trip began in Quito, driving about 100 km from Quito on the winding highway to Lago Agrio. We took our time, making several photo stops along the way as it was a nice day with good views, first on the Andean Mountains including Cayambe and Antizana and later the surrounding rain forest. In the afternoon we reached the nice Hosteria El Reventador. As the name suggests the Hosteria not only provides cozy accommodation, hearty meals and cold beer to adventurers before and (especially) after exploring El Reventador, but also offers some excellent views on the volcano from its viewpoints! The friendly staff also organized a local guide to accompany us on our way up, as there are not many people taking up that challenge and the route often disappears in the thick and fast growing tropical vegetation.
Anyway, the next morning we left the comfort of the Hosteria and started the hike up the slopes. Thanks to a light but steady rain temperatures were not too high, which often is a problem when hiking in the tropical rainforest. As we climbed upward the vegetation remained dense and at times almost impenetrable; our guide had to forge our way with a machete several times. We also crossed several small rivers and climbed some mud walls on our way up. Finally we got out of the trees onto a wide plain at approximately 2200m altitude. While the rocky ground was covered by a thick layer of mosses, the shrubs were full of epiphytes of which surprisingly many turned out to be orchids. A beautiful garden right at the edge of the cold lava flows and lahars. We found two campsites and chose the one with direct sight on the cone and with a small stream nearby — there are several small creeks running through the plain but the water quality (and color!) differs a lot. We set up our camp including even a small campfire and enjoyed the afternoon, as it finally stopped raining and we could even spot the volcanic cone every now and then in the clouds.
The next day we spend exploring the area, especially the plateau and the lahars at the slopes of El Reventador. All the time we heard the volcano´s activity and every now and then caught a glimpse of its eruptions, throwing ash columns up into the sky. But the best was still to come, when the clouds vanished in the late afternoon and opened the view on the volcano. When it got dark we could clearly see the glooming of its pyroclastic activity, a really amazing sight!
The fourth day we started early again and after breakfast we broke camp. Our guide came to meet us at the campsite to guide us back on another route, following first a huge lahar and later hiking along one of the rivers running down the slopes into the valley. We decided to stay another night in the Hosteria El Reventador, relaxing in the pools with some cold beer, before driving back to Quito the next day. On the way back we stopped at Termas de Papallacta ending our adventure with a relaxing bath in the thermal springs before returning to Quito in the afternoon.