When New Zealand adventurer Bradley Ambrose hiked the ascent to reach the rim of a volcano on Ambrym Island in Vanuatu, New Zealand, he was a man on a mission. He had already climbed 4,000-foot (1.22-kilometer) on his ascent. As he made the careful descent to Benbow's crater, a lava lake 1,000 feet (304.8 meters) below the rim, he came that much closer to making it a reality.
"You need to rappel the height of the Statue of Liberty to get anywhere close to the lake," Ambrose says. "Once there, you can feel the tremendous heat radiating out of every burst of lava, the slightly frightening tremors shaking the ground under your feet and the pitter-patter of lapilli and Pele's Hair hitting your helmet and clothing."
Those projectiles are airborne stone and mineral threads ejected from a volcano. It wouldn't be the first time Ambrose had stood within melting-reach of the crater's molten lava, but it would be the first time he would assemble ingredients, wrap them in foil and cook them using volcanic heat.
The dish? S'mores — which, by the way, aren't really a thing in New Zealand, says Ambrose.
To make the sticky, gooey dessert, Ambrose squeezed an oversized marshmallow and part of a chocolate bar between two graham crackers and waited for it to melt on a precipice near the spitting lava. "I'm hoping that's what a s'more looks like," Ambrose says to another climber who was recording the cooking session.
Ambrose later posted the video to his YouTube channel, and that's when the Internet lost its mind. His technique was wrong, all wrong, when it came to making s'mores. Why would he even consider placing an unroasted—unroasted!—marshmallow atop a cracker of graham and chocolate of bar? The nerve!
"I've never tried making them before," Ambrose, a native Kiwi attempting the American campfire classic, admits, "and since doing it, I've had help in what to do next time. If I tried it again, I would roast the marshmallows over the lava lake and then put them in between the graham crackers. I've been told this melts the chocolate and makes a perfect s'more."
Ambrose isn't the first to whip up a meal using lava as a heat source. In 2014, chef Sam Bompas borrowed an artificial volcano at the University of Syracuse to grill steaks. The mock volcano, which is powered by a furnace the size of a car, heats basaltic rock until it becomes molten. Bompas placed a grill holding corn and ribeye steaks over the 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,093 degree Celsius) lava flow, and within a few minutes, the steak was cooked to perfection — charred on the outside and medium-rare in the center.
Ambrose, whose next adventure involves embarking on an expedition to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, says he'll keep the s'mores incident in mind when climbing Mount Nyiragongo.
"I have a few ideas about what to do there when we get down to that lava lake," he says. "I may take a stovetop espresso maker and see if I can use it to make myself a coffee."
As for more lavaside s'mores?
"I think I would save making s'mores for a campfire," says Ambrose, "purely because the chocolate started to melt in my bag before I even got to the lava lake."