La Grande Soufrière is Guadeloupe’s active volcano situated on the Basse Terre island, and is the highest mountain peak in the Lesser Antilles (1467m). Having stared up at the thing for two weeks, I decided I would very much like to climb it. And very recently I had the pleasure of meeting someone with the same intention.
I bumped into Aziza outside a bar on my way home from work. She had been at the diving club all afternoon and had mentioned something about the volcano during a very fluid French conversation I didn’t fully comprehend. Anyway, after a quick drink together we both decided we would climb it the next day, and agreed on a 7am rendezvous outside my house. Being very much not a morning person, I surprised myself at how quickly I agreed to meet at this unruly hour.
To climb La Soufrière requires driving to a small carpark just north of Basse Terre, the capital town on this side of the island. It was a one hour drive from my place at Malendure, fuelled by croissants and the wonders of Caribbean radio tunes.
We arrived amidst a torrential downpour, and so waited a while in the car since Aziza had forgotten both a jumper and a raincoat…
The climb on foot is surprisingly short, and we were advised to give it four hours in total. Aziza set a pretty fast pace given she had to be at the diving club for 1pm, so we managed the whole thing in 2.5 hours. It is definitely a good idea to head up there early, as we were amongst the first to reach the summit. On our descent, we passed many a guided tour, equipped with fluorescent armbands, matching hats and camp-style chants.
It must be said, to expect a breath-taking view at the summit is sadly an unrealistic dream. We were quite literally in the clouds for the majority of our climb, but that didn’t take away from the experience. At the top, there was so much wind you could lean forward into it without falling! It was refreshing, and a huge change of climate from the hot, sunny beach I’ve been living on.
All in all, a great trip. Even though it offered very little in terms of a view, at least I can now say I’ve been to the highest point on the island. There are also some small hotsprings (bains jaunes) to relax in once you reach the bottom (or before you even start!) – we sadly didn’t have time, but maybe for the next visit…?