Traditionally, Piton des Neiges is climbed before daybreak to admire the sunrise over the ocean from the summit. We have a long way to go today, as the actual day’s trek is Refuge de la Caverne Dufour to Bourg-Murat, a long descent from 2,479 m to about 1,600 m, with minor counter ascents and about 12 km in length. The summit climb is an extra, with 3 km and 600 meters of altitude each way. The summit was always planned as an option, Elisabeth decided yesterday not to strain her knee – which has not caused any issues so far – with an excessive decent day, but I can’t resist a 3000+ m mountain and so the morning sport is my private pleasure: Lustwandler solo on the Piton des Neiges.
I have set the alarm clock for 3:30, but this was pointless, because the others already make a lot of noise long before 3 o’clock. It does not seem that many had already thought yesterday to put the things for the ascent in order to be able to get dressed quietly in the dark. In general, we have slept little, it has become fairly quiet in our multi-bed room only long after midnight.
Accordingly tired and in a good mood I slip out of my sleeping bag and get quietly into my clothes, grab my camera bag and ultra-light backpack, say goodbye to Elisabeth and start at 3.45 from the hut. The hut is now relatively empty, who climbs today in the dark, is already gone. I expect dawn just after 5, so that should turn out well with 600 meters of altitude.
It is still pitch dark, the headlamp creates ghostly shadow figures from harmless rocks and plants. It goes over many loose stones and scree upwards. The path is marked with white paint blobs that reflect quite well when you shine a light on them. The trail itself is not always easily visible due to the nature of the ground, but it is easy to walk. I make good progress, on the mountain in front of me the light cones of the headlamps dance everywhere.
It does not take long until I overtake the first hikers and also quickly leave them behind me. And so it goes on, I overtake one team after the other, after a few days of Mafate training and without significant luggage I literally fly up the mountain. The following picture is a look back and taken just before 5 o’clock.
Aufstieg zum Gipfel des Piton des Neiges (3.070 m), © Markus Proske — NIKON Z 7, NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S, 24mm, 4/5s, Blende 2.8, ISO 6400
I’m at the top at 5:15, as expected in 1 and a half hours and just in time for dawn. Low down on the slope, there are still many strings of lights to be seen. Not to see, however, is the ocean, a cloudless sky is unfortunately not granted to the early risers today.
Stirnlampen im Aufstieg, © Markus Proske — NIKON Z 7, NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S, 24mm, 2/1s, Blende 8, ISO 5000
The cold at 3,071 m should not be underestimated. In the ascent I was nice and warm thanks to a brisk pace, meanwhile I have the fleece up, the hood on and Goretex jacket and pants on. A down jacket would now also be fine. Time for the next picture: it’s now 5:30 am.
Before sunrise, © Markus Proske — NIKON Z 7, NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S, 24mm, 8/1s, Blende 8, ISO 110
At 5:45 am the summit is bathed in warm morning light, these are not yet warming rays of sun, but it still warms a little from the inside. The picture shows most of those who have made it to the summit so far. Further down, the headlamps are still dancing.
Das erste Licht des Tages sorgt für eine marsartige Atmosphere am Gipfel, © Markus Proske — NIKON Z 7, NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S, 34mm, 1/80s, Blende 2.8, ISO 3600 Seflie am Gipfel des Piton des Neiges (3.070 m), © Markus Proske — NIKON Z 7, NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S, 70mm, 1/160s, Blende 2.8, ISO 1600
Beim Warten auf den Sonnenaufgang ist es richtig kalt…, © Markus Proske — NIKON Z 7, NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S, 28mm, 1/60s, Blende 2.8, ISO 100
At 6 o’clock, the sun rises not from the sea, but from the clouds. Shortly after, we all enjoy the warming rays of the sun.
Sonnenaufgang um 6 Uhr, © Markus Proske — NIKON Z 7, NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S, 50mm, 1/160s, Blende 5.6, ISO 64
Hoch über den Wolken…., © Markus Proske — NIKON Z 7, NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S, 40mm, 1/160s, Blende 5.6, ISO 64
Before heading back down, another look down at Cilaos – where we spent our resting day and started our ascent yesterday. In the background, the ocean to the south of the island and the port of Saint-Louis.
Blick auf Cilaos (1.800 m tiefer) und St. Louis am Meer, © Markus Proske — NIKON Z 7, NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S, 34mm, 1/80s, Blende 5.6, ISO 320
Descending, you now see the path and the volcanic landscape of Piton des Neiges. At the top the ground consists of lava sand interspersed with stones, further down the ground is stony/rocky. The lower or more protected the location, the higher the sparse vegetation of heather plants.
The following picture shows very small the Caverne Dufour. From the right we came yesterday, down there is Cilaos. And today we go straight on into the background of the picture.
Refuge de la Caverne Dufour und im Hintergrund in den Wolken der Piton de la Fournaise (2.632 m), © Markus Proske — NIKON Z 7, NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S, 35mm, 1/80s, Blende 11, ISO 140
At 7:45 I’m back at the hut, Elisabeth has already seen me from afar and comes towards me a bit! ❤️
We eat breakfast together, I repack my equipment back into the normal backpack and 8:45 we start together in today’s hiking day – to be continued in the next post!
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