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Erta Ale | by maksid
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Erta Ale

Erta Ale is a continuously active basaltic shield volcano in the Afar Region of northeastern Ethiopia. It is the most active volcano in Ethiopia.

Erta Ale is 613 metres high, with one or sometimes two lava lakes, one of only five in the world, at the summit. These lava lakes occasionally overflow on the south side of Erta Ale. It is notable for being the longest existing lava lake, present since the early years of the twentieth century (1906 – some say from 1873). It is located in the Danakil Depression or Afar Depression (Afar triangle), a badlandish desert area spanning the border with Eritrea, and the volcano itself is surrounded completely by an area below sea level, making it one of the lowest volcanoes in the world.


Erta Ale is part of a chain of active volcanoes located in the center of one of the six Afar rifts where an open ocean has formed in connection with a hot spot (inner Earth volcanism).

There, a new sea is “under construction”…


In my visit there, only the one of the two craters were active. To reach the active one, we walked through the bed of the non active crater at night time…


Here how it was my visit there :

We’ve reached the surrounding area of Erta Ale with 4WD car early in the afternoon. We had then our lunch and some rest in a place with a few empty huts, 9,6 Km far from the volcano and the craters and before the sunset we’ve started trekking : from some meters below sea level to 613 meters above.

3 hours trekking for those 9,6 Km, half of them in full darkness and it was amazing how that local guy could find the way upon that black lava rock – he was from a village many kilometers from there and we took him with us on our way there.

And then we reached the top of the volcano… It was dark of course, with only some red lighting in the far end, above the one crater… We walked through the first crater (through the bed of it !) which is non active these days - thanx god that didn’t started been active again that night hahaha...

I could hear empty spaces below my feet as I was walking upon there and I was trying to step over veeeeery carefully – they told me also that solidified lava cuts like a knife - and finally : above the lava lake… No words for this…

It looks more black with some lava cracks in these photos and less like a lava lake, but it was one unique sight, you could feel and smell the hot breath of the earth there, it had amazing movements, some small fireworks here and there and then many times suddenly some big black solidified parts were swallowed by fresh hot wild lava… wild and amazing are poor words…

We overnight there under the stars – with sleeping bags – and very early at 4:00 in the morning descent back… very early in the morning because when the sun is up, the heat is way up too…

In that trip to Danakil depression - Dallol and Erta Ale, for 4 days I was alone with some cool and really kind Ethiopian guys.

I must mention my guide all these days, Abita, know he’s a dear friend of mine.


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Taken on November 16, 2009