Cabo Verde – Fogo – Pico do Fogo | VOLCANOES

Photowalk: Pico do Fogo & 1995 peak


Fogo (Cape Verde Islands) rises steeply from the ocean, pokes through the clouds and towers above them. From the coast of Santiago or the peaks of São Nicolau it is as forbidding as a fortress. Fogo is a volcano, still active, and inside the crater the latest eruption still smokes gently.
Fogo is a menacing place: dark lava flows from centuries of eruptions to reach down its eastern side to the ocean. But it has a soft heart. Amongst the clods of cold lava that have covered much of the floor of the crater are fertile fields. Spilling over its northeast side are woods of eucalyptus and cool valleys in which grow coffee and vines. Inside the crater lives a race of people who have defied government orders to evacuate and instead live and farm below the smouldering peak that last erupted in 1995. (Read more: Bradt Travel Guide)

For some walks it is essential to have a guide. An example is climbing the Pico do Fogo, because the path shifts with the movements of the ash.

The Pico do Fogo is one of the steepest and most spectacular volcanic cones in the world.

The 1,200m ascent and descent takes from 5 to 7 hours, depending on your level of fitness.  Start early, before the sun is out and haze obscures the view. The usual route up to the Pico starts from a track on the northern side and begins with a long march up gullied slope that is hampered by thick deposits of volcanic lapilli. These are fine fragments of lava, a bit like sand or gravel, which are ejected explosively from the vent during the volcanic eruption. It feels like walking through deep sandbanks. By the time you reach a small group of small volcanic spatter cones marking the foot of the main ascent – a continuous slope inclined at 30-40° and over 1,000m high, you will feel (a bit) tired.

Higher up the slopes the lapilli beds thin out, leaving a treacherous veneer of loose ash and gravel underfoot. Like walking on marbles.

However, as the going gets tough, the views get better! The northern half of the great crater spreads like a map below: a vast field of lava flows dotted with small volcanic craters clogged with bits of lava and known as scoria. It is truly a ‘plain of craters’. Beyond that, in the haze that had already begun to form, were the immense cliffs of the original volcano crater. Known as bordeira, it once rose another few hundred meters before it was destroyed in a great rockslide towards the ocean floor to the east. The collapse left a scar which has been as much as half filled by the lavas which today form Chã das Caldeiras. The Pico rises out of the centre of the scar. But the old walls still ascend around the Pico as sheer rock faces, a kilmetre high in places.

Of all the volcanoes in the world, I know of no other where the evidence of a giant lateral collapse, involving hundreds of cubic kilometers of rock, is so spectacularly preserved. (text: Simon Day, Bradt Travel Guide)


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Starting to climb very early in the morning. The light is blueish.


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View over the settlement


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Our vertigo-proof guide, O Ze, always walking higher up.



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The lavas of the crater wall are coloured every shade from red through oranges and yellows to bleached whites – the result of corrosive attack by the acid gasses that still fume from vents on its floors and walls although there has been no eruption in the Pico since 1785.


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Their names rock!


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O Ze descending to the Pico pequeno, the 1995 peak.


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Me ‘skiing’ down the slopes. Great fun!


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The 1995 peak showing bright colours.



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O Ze and his friend demonstrating the geothermal activity by kindling some twigs.