Volcán Acatenango Hike – Day 30 & 31

Fri 2nd & Sat 3rd Mar

A rubbish nights sleep, waking up with a start on the hour every hour thinking I’ve slept throu my 0430 alarm! Teach me to go out the day before a big thing!

Decide to get an Uber to get me to the Ox offices. Fear sets in slightly when no lights are on in the office and no one appears to be around but bang on the door and Alonso my guide answers.

The door goes again and it’s 2 Belgian guys – Arne & Sebastien. Then the rest of the group turn up – a group of 7 18-20 yr olds with their leader on a mission here from the states. All seem very nice even thou am a bit apprehensive of one large group – less interaction.

We were told that we needed 55l plus rucksacks. I filled my 30l at home but wasn’t big enough so end up taking the big one just in case. When we get there – everyone has had to hire 65l ones – the reason being – we have to carry all our food and our camping equipment. Luckily I get the tent poles…the Belgian guys get the inner and outer parts of the tent. It’s from here I assume I’m sharing a tent with these.

Everything loaded on the bus, we set off but first making a breakfast stop in Central Park. All sat around the coffee bar we have a breakkie of scrambled eggs, plantain and refried beans with a cuppa and toast. The tour organised this but isn’t part of the cost so was about 44Q.

After this we start on the 30-45 minute journey to the base of Acatenango. Once here, there are some loos and some stalls for some last minute snacks. They even sell small bottles of rum for the summit or base camp but our guide had already packed us wine! The best purchase here and the best piece of advice I can give thou is to buy a walking stick. This cost a measley 50Q and we all thought we’d never have completed without one

So….how many other blogs have u read in ur contemplation of hiking Acatenango??? We all had and were full of angst as we were about to embark on the start of the path…which we all had read was the worst part. Ok, these other blogs did not lie. For about the first 20 minutes, you are straight in, the gradient is steep and the pace quick….not to mention the terrain ur walking on – scree, which is like sand so like 1 step forward with sliding 2 back!

After the top of that first bit, we take a much needed rest….then the ascent continues again up to the farm. It’s here we take a proper rest and sit down. We’ve not been going long but this sit down in a field is the most welcome break ever.

We all look forward to the fact that everything we’ve read says it gets better after this. The terrain might get slightly better but the ascent is still as steep

at least we have some lovely scenery to keep us going!

20-30 minutes later we finally we reach next stop and what they call the entrance (where u register to go up the volcano). What after all that – we’re only now at what u deem to be the entrance!!! U meet a lot of people here on their way back down and listening to their tales of how awesome the summit is lush u on – even thou they all say it’s tough – tough but worth it!

The next part of the path is easier but it still all really depends on ur fitness – it’s all still up! It does get a bit colder through the next parts as u head through cloud forest terrain.

After about 4 hours trekking up we stop for lunch. It’s amazing how by this point u don’t care about the dirt and u just lie in the scree, enjoying the rest and the sandwich provided

Our guide has been pretty honest with us about things so far….when we look in need of a rest he tells us to keep going and it’s in 3 or 7 minutes etc until the next planned stop. He does this also with the steepness and the terrain and tells after after lunch it’s much easier as we follow a path around the volcano which still goes up but does have some flat parts and even a bit of down. He doesn’t lie and the trek from lunch is much much easier. The only next difficult bit is the slight ascent up to base camp.

Full of excitement at being nearly there, we plough on up and finally hit base camp

The only disappointment once we arrive is that the clouds that have bothered us since lunch still haven’t blown away and we have zero visibility of what’s around us. Pleasure at having a toilet in camp is short lived once I find it (euuuggghhhhhh)

Tents and camp set up and wind howling, there’s very little to do but head to bed. We doze from between 4 and 6 when we are told dinner is being done. We all carried a big bowl of pasta each and Alonso is painstakingly trying to warm up the tomato sauce in his tent. The wind around the fire is blowing a gale making being outside a bit difficult and smoke in your eyes stinging like hell.

Disappointingly, there was no view of Fuego and it’s lava for us. The clouds did not pass and about 8pm, with the wind still howling most of us resigned ourselves back to bed!

Dressed already with my water/wind proofs over my clothes, I daren’t take them off and head to bed fully clothed along with bobble hat, sleeping bag and liner and 3 pairs of socks!

I actually sleep fairly well for someone who is not a camper and the wind howling like hell. A lot say the rumblings of Acatenango keep them awake but that was well n truly drowned out by the wind – lucky for me, I brought my earplugs!

At 0430, Alonso wakes up the camp. 15 mins to get ready – cue more layers! I’m now wearing gym shorts, gym trousers, hiking trousers and waterproofs. On the top I’m wearing 2 gymtops, a thermal top, a lightweight jacket, down coat and waterproof – along with 2 hoods, bobble hat, buff, gloves and 2 pairs of hiking socks!

Now I’m ready to attack the final ascent to reach the summit of this mighty volcano. The next bit is tough. The terrain is difficult and it’s bloody freezing. My fingers are going numb and there’s frost on the ground. Alonso is going like a rocket and unfortunately my 2 Belgian friends after 1 struggled a bit yesterday decide to turn back. Whilst this is happening – I get a very welcome short break! Up we go again and even I have to say can we not at least have 2 minutes! I know we’re getting up there for sunrise but there’s no point killing us in order to do it. A few more rest stops do follow as we wait for slower members of the group to catch up – thank god for this as think he’d have us running up there if not!

The last bit is very steep but with the orange glow over the sky in the distance we plough on throu to get our arses up there

Then WOW!!! What a bloody view!

The top of Acatenango (3976m/13045ft up) is itself stunning and its crater formations but the view of its neighbour Fuego words can’t describe.

We wander to different parts of the crater, watching the sunrise and watching Fuego blow out plumes of smoke, all totally captivated and mesmerised by this phenomenal view (photos to follow when upload off camera…wifi not strong enough yet)

It is possible to do the 700m crater run but the wind was too strong and I had too many layers on (felt like Michelin man) to do any running so 2 if the young whipper snappers from the States did it! Well done guys!

After about 40 mins up top (that’s plenty of time as it’s freezing!) we start the descent back to base camp for breakfast. A different route down which consisted of mainly sliding but wasn’t too bad and was quite quick.

Breakfast consisted of the most amazing banana bread with chocolate spread, jam or peanut butter, a hot drink & juice. Then it was time to pack the camp away and by about 0900, we were on our way back down. This is a much simpler, quicker route but it is quite slippery in places. Alonso taught us the trick of small fast steps – in the end it felt like we almost ran down to the bottom.

A few breaks stops but not as long or as many as on the way up. Back at the farm and 10 mins to go, I was like chop chop….let’s get going….I want to get home and have a shower!

At the bottom, I take off my boots and put on my flip flops – oh my god, that feels heavenly! I’m sure I was the envy of a lot in my group! That’s dirt too not tan lines – god I’m looking forward to a shower!!!

Myself and the Belgian guys treat ourselves to a well deserved, much needed cold beer which goes down an absolute treat!

Back at the Ox offices, we give back all our camping stuff and say our goodbyes, feeling extremely proud of what we have all achieved!

Fitness:

This is a difficult hike up a very steep volcano. It is tough. I consider myself fit and hike up mountains so was semi prepared but don’t underestimate how hard this is and the pace was quite fast. It’s not gazing out at the scenery or anything….it’s up up and up and u stop for breaks.

Carrying quite heavy rucksacks also adds to the challenge! Or u can pay a local 200Q each way – but I did feel sorry for this dude carrying 2 via rope in his head – the strength in him omg!!!

Food:

A lot of what I’d read said the meals provided weren’t adequate….unless this has changed but I found the food more than filling. Lunch was a pizza like sandwich – massive, full of filling and extremely filling. Dinner – a big bowl of pasta and tomato sauce and breakfast banana bread. If this isn’t enough then take stuff too but it was plentiful.

The one thing they do say to bring is plenty of snacks and u tend to eat one at every stop. This depends on ur personal preferences but maybe because of all the snacking is why the meals provided are more than sufficient

U also need to carry about 4l if water with u.

Timings:

I think the hike in total took about 11 hours.

Approx 6 up to base camp, 1.5 to the summit with only about 30-40 minutes back down. Then from there to the bus about another 2.5 hours.

Clothes/Accessories:

Hiking boots – I would say these are essential. Some wore trainers and it was tough without any grip. The right footwear makes a hard job a bit easier

Shorts & vest/t-shirt

Hoodie/fleece/jacket

Long pants

Thermals

Down jacket

Hat, gloves, scarf/buff

Waterproofs are great for helping block out the wind

Flip flops for the bottom so u can take ur boots off!

Sun cream

Sun glasses

Wet wipes – u get filthy!

Head torch

Cost:

This cost 89$ through Ox who came out as one of the best companies to book with.

There is another reputable company too called Old Town Oufitters but they need a minimum of 4 for 125$.

The one thing I read was don’t scrimp on price. I can only speak for Ox but they have great guides and if u hire any of their stuff – then it’s fit for purpose – eg, sleeping bag, big jacket etc.

There is also a 50Q entrance fee to Acatenango, the cost of breakfast and snacks and 5Q if u want a walking stick

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