Mexico Week 8 – Nevado 4000m a.s.l.

This week, three of us CIIV volunteers spent 2 night on Nevado de Colima, a mountain in the neighbouring state of Jalisco, which gives us a great vantage point to collect gas and thermal data from Colima Volcano.

We left mid-afternoon and made the several hour journey to the Parque Nacional Volcán Nevado de Colima. Once in the national park, we made our way up the winding road, up to the Civil Protection Observatory. Our base for the two nights was just over 4,000m (or 13,100 feet) above sea level. For the first hour or so, I didn’t feel any effects of altitude. Later in the evening, I felt as if I’d had a few glasses of wine – a little woozy and lightheaded. I seemed to sleep this off, and when I got up for my first 2 hour shift, I felt absolute fine! Sadly, my fellow volunteers were not so lucky! One suffered with extreme nausea while the other constantly fought off bad headaches! We all suffered from the cold. After living in Colima city’s regular 30°c, below 0°c felt very chilly! Despite all of this we had data to collect, so we rolled up our sleeves (figuratively – it was far to cold to actually roll up our sleeves!) and got to work!

We set up the equipment just as dusk fell. Unfortunately, our first night was cloudy, so we were unable to collect data from the volcano. We made use of our time on the mountain by collecting weather data. We divided each day and night into 2 hour shifts, to allow us all to take breaks and catch some sleep. My favourite shift was the 5am-7am shift, watching dawn break from behind the clouds, casting orange and blue tinges over the landscape. Our second day was cloudy too, so our weather data collection continued. I went for a wander to take a few pictures, and to have a look at the rocks! The sunset was very pretty, casting colourful shadows over Colima and Jalisco, and lighting the clouds up with a golden outline.

Late on the second night, the crater began to peep through the clouds. By midnight we were able to collect both SO2 and thermal data from the volcano! The view of the stars was also fantastic! I tried to stay outside and watch them, for as long as I could, but I barely lasted 15 minutes – It was just too cold! As dawn broke, we set up the FLYSPEC alongside the other cameras, finally recording the complete set of data we had aimed to gather. We continued our observations throughout the day, napping by the log fire on our breaks, until we had to pack up and return to the lab. We had fun getting the truck to start and high altitude, and had to gather a few helpers to push start the truck down the hairpin bends of the mountain road.

Very sadly, at the end of this trip, my well loved Nikon camera has given out. This camera has lasted may trips from the UK and Europe to Asia and East Africa! I hope I will be able to repair it back in the UK, but the rest of the photos from my time in Mexico will be taken with my phone.

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