Volcán Cerro Negro, the youngest volcano in Central America, last erupted in 1999. Less than twenty miles from León, a city that I will be posting about soon, the volcano’s main attraction isn’t the crater itself, although the powerful opening to the center of the Earth–which in the past three decades has spewed columns of ash and gas up to 24,000 feet high–is not unimpressive. Instead, most people climb Cerro Negro just to descend it. Why? Because its steep slopes, almost 2,400 feet high, consist of black volcanic stones, which are finer than normal gravel and heavily mixed with ash and dust. How do visitors get from top to bottom? Many locals do it by foot, running down in great leaps. Most tourists rent a wooden board with a metal underside: either a snowboard or sled design depending on their experience and daring.
The volcano and its surroundings, together known as the Reserva Natural Complejo Volcánico Pilas El Hoyo, amount to a protected area of 2,140 hectares that includes at least five different types of ecosystem. Entrance fees, as well as the rental of sleds and protective gear, somewhat help incentivize the conservation of the volcanic complex by surrounding communities, mostly farmers (cattle, peanuts, eucalyptus, corn, etc.).
Having only snowboarded once before, I opted for the sled, and Pierre did the same. We hiked up the volcano on the larger rocks (fist-sized to full boulders) for maybe fifty minutes, pausing to take photos of the beautiful hills that starkly contrasted with Continue reading