An unexpected climb: Acatenango Volcano, Guatemala

An unexpected climb: Acatenango Volcano, Guatemala

April 02, 2020

Written by traveller Chrissy V.

 

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many places throughout my twenties, but hiking and camping up a Guatemalan volcano ranks pretty high in my book.

 

 

I remember my two girlfriends and I finally deciding to do it (largely on my influence), even though we were not at all prepared. We had no proper gear, so we had to borrow from the hostel whatever we could muster from their donations left by previous travellers.

 

The bus ride to our volcano was about an hour long, as we made stops to pick up similar-minded people. Finally, our food was brought onboard, and we all agreed then and there, that we were probably not going to survive: a yogurt, banana, a small sandwich, a cup of noodles, and cereal with milk powder were supposed to last us for over 24 hours? Did they realize that most of us are North Americans?? Too late to turn back now.

It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day, and our hike began gradually. After some climbing, we all started warming up and removing layers (without anywhere to put them), only to put them back on after every cool 5-minute break. This cycle continued as internal temperatures rose and fell, never really finding a happy medium. But man, this forest was gorgeous. Winding trees and roots in every direction (often finding their way around our feet), with barely a path to pave our way around the volcano.

 

Nearly 10 hours of climbing went by, and we’d finally reached camp. It was barely visible now, about 10pm. We were exhausted and cooling down by the minute, since our sweat from the day was dampening our only clothes. But our guides told us to warm up a bit in our tents (which they carried and set up for us), and meet outside for a warm fire, some hot dinner (pasta – so that’s what our noodles are for), and the main attraction for the evening: Volcano Fuego, Guatemala’s famously active volcano.

Our guides said Fuego was particularly active for us, lighting up the sky with its explosive lava every 20 minutes. We found out a couple weeks later that it was so active because it was building up to a full eruption.

We went to sleep around midnight and were promptly awoken at about 4am so we could reach the summit before dawn. Only about a third of us actually completed this final 300 metre hike: it was cold, steep, and very slippery. Out of breath and exhausted, we finally reached the top. Man, was it windy without coverage from the land and trees. Fuego was magnificent, but I didn’t realize that the most beautiful part of the trip was going to be the sunrise. As the sky brightened, Fuego’s molten red opening dimmed and the gorgeous pink and orange sky shone in its place. Freezing cold at this point, I couldn’t help but smile to myself at the feeling of accomplishment.

The trip back down was a whole different ball game. I decided it would be a great idea to run down, as I saw some of the guides doing it. While definitely fun, it led to some risky turns down trails that headed to our volcano’s core. Once our guide redirected me, we worked our way to the base to find cold beer waiting for us (with only a couple of falls on my ass).

Honestly, this hike ranks at the very top of my list of travel experiences, and it stayed fresh in my memory long afterwards – my sore quads made that a guarantee. Perhaps finding out about Fuego’s eruption later on should make me think twice about doing something like this again, but I’d hike another volcano in a heartbeat.

This post was submitted by a traveller as part of our Trade Your Time for Travel program. Click here to learn how you can earn travel credits towards a future trip with us, just by sharing a memorable travel experience.  #tradeyourtimefortravel

Travel to Guatemala with Origin Travels on the Markets, Volcanos + Kayaks trip! Please note that this itinerary does not do the Acatenango Volcano hike, but Origin Travels can help you arrange this hike if you stay a couple of days after your itinerary finishes!



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