Wednesday February 8th was the day that the first group would summit Villarrica. The plan: Summit Team (Kayla, Kelby, and Tehnuka) would leave the house early and ascend to the top of the volcano carrying a filterpack, traversing DOAS, and sun photometer, along with our guide, Tomas. The Ground Team (Nial and Yves) would be stationed at Los Crateres gathering data with a UV camera, scanning DOAS, stationary DOAS, and HD video camera.
The summit to the crater is a 2-4 hour hike (depending on how fast you can go up a steep slope) and requires a ski lift followed by a long slog up a rocky slope, then about an hour hiking up the icy glaciers with crampons and ice axes. We began early in the morning, arriving at the bottom of the ski lift at about 8am packed down with gear, helmets, gas masks, and climbing equipment. The hike was much less strenuous than any of us anticipated, and it offerred an astouding view of the surrounding lowlands.
The summit team made it to the top in about 3 hours time and began setting up equipment. Due to park regulations, we could only remain at the rim until 3pm, so we had to work fast. Tehnuka got to work setting up her filter pack. This instrument collects particles and acid gasses direction from the plume. The H2S from Villarrica is quite strong, and sitting directly in the plume for a few hours requires the use of full face gas masks.
Kelby started by doing walking traverses with a DOAS beneath the volcanic plume. The night before, we rigged up what we call the DOAS helmet. We strapped a spectrometer to the back of Nial´s caving helmet, and kelby wore that atop his head while holding the laptop collecting the data and walking beneath the plume. It makes the rocky hike a bit exciting when you are not able to move your head — this meant stumbling over rocks (can´t look down) and blanking random passerbys asking what we were up to (can´t stop moving or look to the side to say hello).
Meanwhile, Kayla was moving around on the crater rim gathering sun photometer measurements. This instrument looks at the incoming light from the sun and how it is scatterred by the plume. By looking at the change in irradiance of sunlight in 5 different wavelengths, you can back out information on particle and aerosol size distribution within the plume.
The Ground Team stayed at the Los Crateres site all day and got what might just be some stunning data. The conditions from that site were good for several hours. Now, we have to combine all of our data to see how it matches up!