Now it’s time to share my volcano adventure and climb to Acatenango in Gautemala.
After exploring Tikal in Flores we heard about some huge things happening in Guatemala. The Fuego volcano has just erupted! It was a freaky feeling to realise that it’s not that far from I was and it was the closest I had ever been to this kind of event.
The eruption has huge impact on the communites near by and the last one in June 2018 was terrible. Hunders or thousand of people lost their lifes, homes and living. According to the locals huge amount of people are still missing.
Parts of Central America is filled with volcanos and just the landscapes create huge respect for the natural forces not even thinking about the eruption. I have to admid that I was a little scrared at the time too and completely sure I was not heading South any close to the volcano…
But guess what happened..
With some friend we eventually decided that we need to see Fuego and the eruption. After quickly booking tickets to the 10 hour night bus from Flores to Antigua we were set for an adventure.
Arriving to Antigua went well and I understood right away why travellers love it so much! The city is filled with cute little street and you can get very close to local people and their daily lives. The bonus are the volcanos surrounding the city. It was so cool to sit on the roof terrace in the hostel and see the huge volcanos and mountains all around. You could even see the ashes rising from the Fuego.
We knew that we have to get up on Acatenango which is the volcano just next to the Fuego. We were set for the best spot for Fuego spotting. I was so excited!! And trust me also little nervous because climbing a volcano was never on the list when I left for this trip 😀
How to book Acatenango
Acatenango is a volcano giant peaking at 4000 meters which meant that the climb was due to take a whole half a day. In Antigua you can find tons of tour company’s and hostels offering trips to Acatenango with different kind of options.
The trips are available from around $45 but this means carrying up your own food, some camping gear and sleeping on the floor of the tent. We opted for a little more expensive option aroun $70 but this meant only carrying our own snacks, water and personal items. We would get food in the camp (with marsmallows and wine!) and camping beds in the tent. I knew it would be terribly hard so I was happy with any little help you can get.
Packing for a volcano hike
You will hear people saying that this is the hardest thing they have ever done in life. Sounds fun right?
The best thig to prepare with are good shoes. I can’t highlight this enough because you will walk for kilometers on the mountain. Our guide was funny and said he has seen a guy going up in flip flops, I could never imagine trying!
Warm clothes: The camp is located at 3700 meter which means freezing temperaturs. I had to borrow some warm clothes from the hostel because I was never prepared for this.
Pack light! This is one of the key things since you will need to carry your stuff up and the altitude will only make it harder. What feels like a decent weight on the ground will be terrible on top.
How to climb Acatenango
We were the last two to jump in the van that came to pick us up in the morning so we finally met the group. There were around 20 of us doing this together.
Once we got to the starting point the altitude was about 2500 meters and the views were already cool. But the peak seemed so far away and this really made it all more realistic. We got last instructions from our guides and set walking..
The first part was quite steep and I could feel how hard it was going to be but there was still plenty of energy left. We were set to stop every now and then to rest for a bit and the first stop surely didn’t come any too soon. With more and more time passed I could feel my legs getting tired very fast after each stop. There was one bit in the woods were surely just swearing and biting my teeth made me go forward.
You feel so strongly the need to just give up and would do almost anything to make it stop. But after biting through it it was an amazing feeling of pride and effort once we got to each stopping point. Well before half way I was sure I was dying but surtain that I would make it up to this b*itch ass mountain (exact words used). The only way to stop this insane suffering was to get up there.
Reaching the top
Slowly we climbed to the forest line and to the clounds and finally above them. It was a crazy feeling see the clouds below us and all the mountains and volcanos rising around. This was also the highest I had ever been!
Time it takes to get up depends on your own physics and the speed of the group. After more than 4 hours we finally got to the point where the path starts curving around the volcano and closer to the camp. This felt heavenly and suddenly my feet were much lighter.
We crossed an area where the volcano had once erupted and the whole side of the mountain was just black tiny rocks sliding straight down. After this we headed in to the last bit of forest and suddenly it was right in front of us. The whole group screamed, we could see Fuego and ash cloud!! This was already good enough reward for the effort.
After this we ran to the camp that was on the perfect little cliff facing directly to the Fuego. The camp was in a perfect spot and we quickly settled down. Everyone was so exhausted but so excited that we almost forgot the tiredness.
THE SUNRISE HIKE
The night was ridicolously cold.. Even with the camping bed which I’m sure already made it much more enjoyable I had shivered in my sleeping bag for hours. If ever this was the night I thanked again for my unreal sleeping abilities that I had gotten some sleep because many of the people didn’t..
The guides woke us up at 3:30 and it was time to climb last 300 meters to the very top. All my body parts were in pain from the climb day before and I was deep frozen but atleast the climb would make you move. In the pitch black we were just a line of torches on the mountain side.
I found this last bit quite pleasent to climb even if it’s partly much steeper that anything we did yesterday. Maybe because the last bit was so much shorter. It was still dark by the tip we reached the peak. At 4000 meters the wind was even stronger than in the camp and it has to be the coldest I have ever been in this life.
Freezing at the peak
We took some pictures with the group while shivering and trying to protect against the wind. Soon the sunrise started and coloured the whole sky in pink and yellow tones. This was such an incredible and once in the life time moment that made the whole experience truly amazing!
But I have to tell you that after like 20 mins I looked at the guide and said that I’m going down and don’t particularly care if anyone else if leaving because I need to go 😀 All the people who know me know that I hate cold so that wind was getting to me way too hard.. It felt like my fingers and toes were about to die if I didn’t get down as soon as possible. Other people found it good idea too so we got one of the guides and headed down. In the camp we made some hot chocolate and porridge for brekkie and defrosted for a good while.
Leaving was getting close and I just sat there so overwhelmed and full of gratitude for one of the craziest experience in my whole life. Almost as if it was weird to go back on the ground and normal life again.
The climb 5/5: Definately one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But so rewarding to complete.
The view 6/5: AMAZING! I saw the different climates on the way up and at the peak the view is unreal.
Weather 2/5: Our group was very lucky it was clear but I have never ben this cold in my life.