Zipline over the world’s most active lava lake
It isn’t every day that a Brazilian celebrity calls you to see if you’ll zipline her over Erta Ale volcano in Ethiopia. But if you know Frederick Schuett, this is the type of requests that fulfills his need for extreme adventure and exploration. Karina Oliani chose Frederick Schuett because she had seen his previous expedition to Turkmenistan to zipline across and into the crater of fire with National Geographic and George Kourounis.
After agreeing to the expedition, Schuett wanted the heat suits to look different from the last expedition. Instead of putting Oliani in a bulky suit designed for men working with molten metal, he wanted to design a bespoke suit. He consulted with Nikki Quilley, ex-collections Director to John Galliano on the Paris runway and brainstormed options. He wanted an attractive suit that was still fully functional.
Custom sewn locally by bespoke seamstress, Judy Witty, Schuett decided on the third version and the two new suits had a more superhero feel and added shape to the wearer. Sponsors such as Carbon X came on board and donated fire proof fabric, Bullard donated fire rescue helmets, Mechanix Gloves donated fire resistant gloves and DEUS Rescue donated technora heat resistant ropes.
The expedition itself was seven-days, in and out of the Afar depression (the hottest and driest place in the world). The team hiked four hours from basecamp through inhospitable terrain and camels were used to carry the equipment. The team slept in primitive rock huts at the edge of the crater. The team worked in above 40 degree temperatures and were escorted by the Ethiopian military, with machine guns to keep the team safe because of the threat of terrorism.
The zipline was difficult to set up even with previous consultation with an ex-military colleague. It was challenging to make solid anchors on loose, crumbling, abrasive lava rock. Even with gas masks on, the acidic air burned their eyes and lungs if the wind blew toward them. Schuett single-handedly rigged the zipline across the crater through the night so it would be ready as the sun was cresting the horizon. Oliani became the first woman to cross the lava lake on the zipline, with Schuett minutes later as the first man to cross. The full documentary will be released in Brazil this year.