First (almost) 4000m peak – volcano Acatenango

More than 2000m of elevation difference, “sleep” at the “top” and never-ending descend

Jan wakes up without the sore throat (it looks like the local medicine worked – fresh lime juice) and despite his still-full nose he’s feeling good enough to climb the volcano :). We wanted to go at 10am but we are definitely ready almost at 12 (last time we wanted to go even later so why hurry). Starting point: Itzapa, 1800 meters over sea level.

The road is steep just after the village and there is big similarity with the downhill after visiting bicibomba. After 1.5km of climbing steep uphill with an unpaved road I ask Branley if this is the road to the bici machine… yes, but we’ll not go as far and it is only one more kilometer uphill (now I feel much better, because I remember this hill as a long, really steep and impossible to climb). We are gaining an altitude and we are still on the same road. If he meant 1km in altitude I’ll kill him :) …

I ask again, “Branley, how far we’ll go?” … that if I remember that crossroad where we turned back to Itzapa and the other direction was to the volcano. So first-val: That is 50m from the bicibomba (!) and that we will not get into the house doesn’t mean “no, we’ll not go that far”. Second: the last week we canceled the trip to the volcano because we were tired after this bicycle trip. Third: I remember he showed me the crossroad, but I considered this information irrelevant – why would anybody go this high just because? Fourth: why we need to cross mountains where there are better roads?

The first stop we make after a village where we’ve seen first steps (or a try to get up) of a newly born cow. The second in that “familiar” village to refill sugar in our bodies from coke and cakes (I need to rise my mood or I would tear this young small cyclist apart – he’s got 50kg with the backpack and pedals uphill like nothing’s happening).

We start going down. Please, let’s not lose all the gained altitude! In 15min we are in Calderas and we lost only 200m. Maybe I’ll forgive Branley at the end. We find the fireman’s shad where we want to leave our bicycles but they are in action now. We hide under a roof to stay over a short strong rain. Meanwhile there are a lot of children, neighbors and other people around us (escaping rain or just wanting to talk with gringos). We get also an offer for a guide for Q100 for a person and for other hundred to carry our backpacks, but we aren’t loosers and refuse.

It’s almost 4pm and the firemen still aren’t here. We need to move to get up today. We ask the nice lady next door and leave our bicycles there. For a while there are no clouds covering the peak so we see what we are going to climb – freaking high!

First we walk one hour only to get to the start of the trek. That is steep from the beginning and we walk in a volcano gravel. Nice fields with corn, cabbage or carrot are around us. After 20min we look behind and there is a beautiful inversion in the valley (we are just starting and there are views like from a magazine).

Then we continue through jungle and it’s getting dark. At the crossroads we choose the way to the right which we then regret the next 40min. We climb uphill on all four through the narrow road cut in the plants and bushes and I hope that while I help myself holding branches along the way I won’t grab some snake. Finally a road – wide, good but it’s dark. We turn on headlamps and continue.

It’s changing around us. Not very dense pine trees with bushes and big grass bunches. It got cold and there is so thick fog everywhere that we don’t see much us and we rather imagine what can be around us :). We walk steep serpentines and find a small cabana – or rather a small shed. We are happy because the guy told us that it is only half an hour from here to get to the top.

We continue walking uphill. A really cold wind is blowing and we don’t see more than 4m around. There are not many trees around, just grass. Under us we sometimes see a light and hope that those are also tourists and not bandits (volcanoes here are known for robberies).

The top! It’s incredible windy and cold. We are looking for the crater, but we don’t find any! Then the light approaches – it’s locals with machetes but they are just tourists. We find a place which seems to be quite flat and without strong wind, we put on jackets (of course it’s not possible to close the zippers with our frozen fingers) and build our tent.

With boots and dirty we all three get inside to warm up a little. The tent is small and fast we feel the warmer air filling it. After 5min of defrosting we hear the raindrops. Jan gets outside to pitch the tent so we don’t get too much water inside and because we decided to stay all of us in the tent, Branley offers his big plastic sheet to the the guys who don’t have anything!? We eat the instant soup with cold water (we don’t even think about using the gasoline stove risking to burn this only warm and dry place around) and hard eggs and bananas. We also realize that this “flat” place for the tent is really in a slope and we are sliding to Branley who sleeps at the door. In the upper part are big rocks under the tent, but we cannot do anything with that now.

The wind is blowing strong and the wall of the tent bend inside, farts smell really bad after eggs (I’m thinking if it’s not a better option to be outside in the fog, cold and rain) and we are laying there in the small place trying to sleep. We put our waterproof jackets on our sleeping bags to protect them a little from water from the walls. Sometimes the tent gets bright when the lightning in the valley under us hits and we hope that it will not get closer because we are one of the highest points here around.

At 3am we cannot sleep anymore in these conditions. With Jan we talk, eat, watch Branley and don’t understand how he’s able to sleep in the same position since evening. We find out that we have an meteorological tent – when is raining outside, it’s raining inside, when it’s foggy outside, fog is also inside. The alarm rings at 5am to see the sunrise but the weather outside is so bad that I don’t even want to go there for a toilet. We try to sleep a little more and get up with light. Guys are outside and I am still in the sleeping bag – I’m wearing all my clothes and I’m still freezing.

Jan boils water and the stove explodes – burningman :). Fortunately nothing bad happens to him and the stove works after that also. We eat warm soup, have tea and I get a coffee in a original mug from plastic bottle. The sky clears and to the left we see a big mountain – Acatenango. This is not the top!

We pack our things but I don’t want to be without the sleeping bag – I create from it a dawn jacket with goretex upper layer :). Finally we see also our surrounding which we couldn’t even imagine. The way up is long and full of rocks but after one hour we stand at the edge of big crater full of black sand and with 15 tents in the middle (we were looking for this place yesterday). At the highest point we shake hands and make pictures. We are standing on the highest peak around – 3976 meters above sea level. It’s really windy and cold here. Under us we see just clouds and couple of peaks of other volcanoes. The view to the active one – Fuego – is incredible because it’s only 5km away, but no lava and no smoke. We hide from the wind and eat our last food (eggs and crackers). It’s nice here but we need to go. And suddenly BOOM! Fuego farted with a big cloud of dust :). Happy that we’ve seen eruption we start the descend.

Down, down, down and down! It’s easy to slide in the sandy gravel – like skiing but three hours of walking down the trails takes all energy from us and we look like 3 geezers pulling legs behind us when we finally reach the place with our bicycles. There we take time to recover a little, I make pictures with children, we refill energy with coke and it takes more than one hour more (of course half of it is uphill again) until we open the gate of the house in Itzapa. We are hungry, destroyed but full of new experiences.

Like our friend said once: trek to a mountain ends with a beer back in the cottage. Our ended eating perfect soup and drinking rice with milk in Maya Pedal :).


One Reply to “First (almost) 4000m peak – volcano Acatenango”

  1. It was fun to catch up on reading the blog. I have been busy since work started up again. I hope that you are eating enough & staying healthy. I enjoy your photos! It looks like you are having some great experiences! Be safe! Lacey

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