Nestled against the Tognoni Range, Camp Santiago is stretch of land that forms a popular starting point for travelers climbing Mount Verthandi. As the first of many base camps along the Verthandi route, it is best known for its verdant forests, atmospheric fog, and glittering night sky views.
The primary source of travelers originate from the south, beginning at The Calderas and passing through the Hotlands by way of the Stone Forests. After the initial pause at Camp Santiago, climbers must navigate the steep cliffs and cave passages of Tognoni Range before hitting Verthandi proper.
Camp Santiago is also known for the main opening of Duensing Lake, a massive series of underwater caves whose openings – most only a few feet wide, though often incredibly deep – pepper the southwestern slopes of Verthandi. Believed to be connected by ancient lava tubes, the Duensing Aquifer formed over thousand of years of periodic flooding from First Water River combined with natural collection of rainfall and snowfall through porous rock. Though the opening at Camp Santiago is only twenty feet across, the depth of this water source provides its deep blue color: light is swallowed in the staggering 1,034 feet before the bore of Duensing Lake meets the top of Duensing Aquifer.
Additionally, much of the water of Duensing Aquifer is relatively warm due to proximity of the Hotlands, and these openings are known for their hotsprings on Verthandi’s southern and western slopes. This warm source of water creates the frequent fog within and surrounding Camp Santiago – especially during the treacherous cold seasons – steeping the area in legend, mystery, and superstition within Walking Folk lore.
Though less dangerous than her sister slope, Skald, Verthandi is still a diamond-level range; death due to falls, inclement weather, sinkhole, cave-in, or other mishap is a risk all climbers must accept, especially as in many cases, the body cannot be retrieved. It is WalkingFolk custom to bring a stone from one’s homeland to offer at Camp Santiago, in order to “ground one’s spirit” so that if the body should perish, the spirit will recognize the way to return to Camp Santiago. As a result, the cliff faces of Tognoni Range are piled with the gifts of thousands of visitors, and the fog that creeps in is said to be the dead attempting to find their way to the camp.