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Suazo at the summit of El Popo. Suazo on El Popo.

Greater merit and more adrenaline in scaling an active volcano: climber

Volcanic risks official called it Russian roulette

There is greater merit and more adrenalin in scaling a volcano while it is active, according to a climber who reached the peak of Popocatépetl last week.

The alert level for the volcano known colloquially as El Popo and Don Goyo was raised to yellow Phase 3 on March 28 due to increased activity and remained at that level for 41 days before it was reduced one notch yesterday.

Iván Suazo, a 31-year-old mountaineer, summited Popocatépetl on May 2 and recorded a video while perched on the lip of the crater of the smoldering volcano.

“It’s a challenge in itself to scale a mountain . . . but it’s more of a challenge to climb a mountain, in this case Popocatépetl, while it’s active. I believe that it has more merit and [there is] more adrenalin at the top,” he told the newspaper El Universal.

Following last week’s ascent, Suazo said that he and his climbing companions were only able to remain on the crater for 10 minutes because of a range of factors, including earth tremors and that “approximately three-quarters of Popocatépetl felt hot underfoot. . . It wasn’t a good sign that we should stay up there long,” he said.

Suazo added that very heavy snow was falling, reducing visibility to almost zero, and that gases were emanating from the volcano.

During the eight-hour ascent, the architect said that he and his fellow mountaineers only took short breaks due to the risk of suffering from hypothermia, explaining that “it was very cold.”

Suazo has now climbed Popocatépetl twice and has also reached the summits of the Iztaccíhuatl and Pico de Orizaba active volcanos, meaning that he has conquered Mexico’s three highest peaks.

He said he was aware of the warnings about increased activity at Don Goyo, adding “we don’t want to disrespect the authorities.”

However, Suazo also said that he would likely climb El Popo again.

“I’m going to wait a while, it won’t be immediately. I don’t have a fixed time to go up again but we probably will . . .”

Suazo and his party are not the only daredevils to have scaled Popocatépetl while it was in a phase of increased activity.

At least three youths climbed to the top of the volcano in March, where they too recorded a video in which the release of gas is visible. Experts agreed that the group of young explorers was fortunate not to have lost their lives.

Ramón Espinasa, deputy director of volcanic risks at the National Disaster Prevention Center (Cenapred), said that it was “reckless” to climb El Popo when it was active.

“If they want to have adventures, go and climb Iztaccíhuatl, Pico de Orizaba or other mountains because [scaling] Popocatépetl . . . is a kind of Russian roulette.”

Source: El Universal (sp) 

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