5.9.2009: Attention: The path is currently closed behind the Chapelle de Rosemont. See changed log conditions at the end of the listing!
Approach: By Le Vingt-Septième (27km from St. Pierre; 34km from St. Benoit) take the RF5. Follow the high quality forestry road „La route du Volcan“ via Nez du Boeuf (view point into the 1200m deep gorge of the Rivière de Remparts), Commerson Crater and the lunar landscape Plaine de Sable till Pas de Bellecombe, where a parking lot and a snack bar are available to visitors.
Attention: Visitors exploring the caldera should be in good physical condition, with hiking shoes and a supply of drinking water and food. They must be prepared to exercise caution, for the weather can change very quickly, moving from bright sunlight and heat (with risks of heatstroke) to dense fog with cold and rain. In dense fog, straying from paths is very risky. Visitors are advised to take the necessary precautions for sun, heat, cold and rain and not to stray from marked paths.
Trip advisor: The most tourist take the following trail: Pas de Bellecombe – Formica Leo – Chapelle de Rosemont - La Soufière – Cratère Dolomieu – Cratère Bory– Chapelle de Rosemont – Formica Leo – Pas de Bellecombe (Duration: about 5 hours, distance 12,25km, 680m differences in high). You can also do the trip counterclockwise, that doesn't matter.
Tip:If you got the opportunity than make a helicopter trip above the volcano or the whole island.
Near to Pas de Bellecombe is situated the Gîte du volcan (WP9). This is a little restaurant where you can stay there overnight.
La Piton de la Fournaise is a shield volcano on the eastern side of Réunion island. It is currently one of the most active volcanoes in the world, with more than 150 recorded eruptions since the 17th century. The last eruption began at 15th of Deceber 2008 and lasted till the 4th of february 2009.
A table with the recent eruptions since 1977 of the Piton de la Fournaise and a webcam you will find here.
The summit of the volcano is 2631m high. High cliffs known as remparts form the caldera's rim. The caldera is breached to the southeast into the sea. It is also unstable and in the initial stages of failure and will eventually collapse into the Indian Ocean. There is evidence on the submerged flanks and abyssal plain of earlier failures. The lower slopes are known as the Grand Brûlé ("Great Burnt"). Most lava eruptions are confined to the caldera.
Inside the caldera is a 400 metre high lava shield . Atop the lava shield are Cratére Bory and Cratére Dolomieu, which is by far the wider of the two.
Many craters and spatter cones can be found inside the caldera and the outer flanks of the volcano. At the beginning of the path that leads to the summit, there lies a noticeable small crater known as Formica leo, named for its similar shape to the pitfall built by the little insect antlion.
Some of the beaches there are of a greenish colour, because of the olivine sand resulting from picrite basalt lavas. The Grand Brûlé is formed from solidified lava flows accumulated over hundreds of thousands of years; the most recent ones are often the darkest and most vegetation-free, while older ones can be covered by dense wild vegetation. Iridium is being ejected through these vents.
The volcano is over 530,000 years old, and for most of its history, its flows have intermingled with those from Piton des Neiges, a larger, older and heavily eroded extinct volcano which forms the northwest two-thirds of Réunion Island. There were three episodes of caldera collapses 250,000, 65,000 and 5,000 years ago. The volcano was formed by the Réunion hotspot, which is believed to have been active for the past 65 million years. There is evidence for explosive eruptions in the past.
Most eruptions of Piton de la Fournaise are of the Hawaiian style: fluid basaltic lava flowing out with fire fountaining at the vent. Occasionally, phreatic eruptions (groundwater steam-generated eruptions) occur. Lava flows crossing the Grand Brûlé occasionally reach the sea, with spectacular results.
Eruptions within the caldera do not cause much devastation, because the caldera is uninhabited and little infrastructure exists apart from the highway.
Attention: Inform yourself if the path is open. Due to volcanic activity it might be closed for a while.
Pas de Bellecombe: Form the Parking place leads a path to the Pas de Bellecombe (2357m) which is situated over the caldera rim cliffs and offers a good point of view over the northeast part of the caldera. A good stairway path (more than 600 steps) descends from the pass to the caldera floor, (Enclos Fouqué). The stairway offers good views onto the Formica Leo
Formica Leo: This reddish little crater was built 1753 by a cinder rain.
La Chapelle de Rosemont: This natuaral grotto was formed by a emorme explosion of a gas bubble, which served alrady the first explorers Joseph Hubert & Patu de Rosemont 1791 and Bory de Saint-Vincent 1801 as safehouse and invites for a short break before ascending the volcan.
Shortly after the Chapelle de Rosemont the path divides. If the weather does not force you to a quick direct ascendent, take the less steep path to the left vers Soufrière.
La Soufrière: This brimstone pit (2518m) lies on the north side of the Dolomieu Krater, is 185m deep and its borders are very slippery. This pit was build during the eruption in 1964/65 where a lake of lava appeared. After that a gap occurred and the lake bottomed out leaving sulfric fumaroles behind.
Cratère Dolomieu: About one kilometer long and 750m wide the Dolomieu Crater ist h biggest of the two high plateau volcanos. It is appeared in 1791 as a result of the collapse of a hugh magma chamber. It was named by Jean-Baptiste Bory de Saint-Vincent in 1801 which heard of the death of his professor Dèodat Gratet de Dolomieu (specialist of basalt). Till the eruption in the second half of 2006, which recovered all, streams of lava, spatter cones and lava tunnels covered the bottom of the Dolomieu crater, which had a deepness of 80m in the East and 150m in the West before the eruption. Since the extraordinary eruption in April 2007, which caused the lowering of the bottom for about 300m, the crater has regained deepness. At the same opportunity ist northside collapsed in a thickness of 10 meters.
Cratère Bory: The steep faced Crater Bory is the smaller one of the two high plateau volcanos, which was built in 1791 and still presents traces of an recent eruption. It is 350m long and 200m wide. You can see the numbers of monitor units in the pit before dismount to the Chapelle de Rosemont (hard but short right path; less rude via Soufrière).
To log this Earthcache as a found, you have to contact me via geocaching, telling me, the awnsers to the following questions:
1.) Waypoint 2: Stairs: Look at your GPSr before and after climbing down the stairs. Tell me the difference in high.
2.)Waypoint 3: Formica Leo: Search for the enamelled tag „Formica Leo“. Which information about the high you can read there?
3.) Waypoint 4: Chapelle de Rosemont: Estimate the altitude of the entrance.
4.) Waypoint 5: Soufrière: Which colour could you see often at the black lava?
5.) Waypoint 8: Cratère Bory: Take a picture of you in front of the crater (enamelled sign (see reference-photo)) and upload it to your log (optional task since 1.1.2011).
Logs without the required e-mail will be deleted without comment. Due to "administration" of the log-permissions it is nessecary that every team send an e-mail by itsself even if you were there together. Do not wait for log-permission, just log your found directly after sending the mail; we will contact you if there is something wrong.
Changed log-conditions (5.9.2009) because the path is closed behind the Chapelle de Rosemont: Fulfill task 1.), 2.) and 3.) and upload a picture which shows you at the chapelle (optional since 1.1.2011)!