We stayed two extra days in Xela, because we knew that our next volcano adventure would be a big challenge for us. We had arrived at in La Soledad, a small village at the bottom of volcano Acatenango. Our plan was to hike to the top of volcano Acatenango (3976 meter) during the night, to be able to see eruptions of the active volcano Fuego, which is just next to volcano Acatenango.
Eruption of volcano Fuego during sunrise (if you look close you can see red hot boulders rolling down the sides of the volcano)
We arrived early in the afternoon in La Soledad, and quickly found the family house, where we would spend the next two days.
Meet the family (the youngest son is missing, he was in school)
We spend the rest of the afternoon and evening we with the family, and I tried to learn how to make tortilla’s. It looked so easy, but the dough didn’t stick together, so it was really difficult. When the tortilla got thin enough, the dough fell apart. I did make one!
The family make 200 tortillas everyday, and they are served as a side with every meal. The tortillas were great, and we ate a lot
We also prepared a few things for the hike: one bag of freeze dried food, hot water in our thermal bottle, cookies from the local bakery, water, cameras, headlamps, raingear, all the warm clothes we had (wool underwear from Aclima), gloves, beanies, trekking poles, first aid kit and extra batteries. In the late afternoon it started to rain… and it rained a lot. Is there any better way to test if our new tent is waterproof? – I don’t think so.
As you can see on the upper picture there was a small lake around/inside the tent and the water was running underneath the tent to! Everything inside the tent stayed dry – thanks to our tent (Galaxi 3P) from Nemo Equipment. Now we only hoped that it would stop raining before we had to hike up volcano Acatenango . After having dinner with the family, we went to bed and got 3 hours of sleep before getting up at 11.30 pm, just before midnight.
This is how Esben looks when, woken up at 11.30 pm. Eating a baked glaced donut from the local bakery before starting the hike
The hike is 4-5 hours to the top of Acatenango. We started our hike at midnight, because we wanted to make it to the top before sunrise.
No pictures from the ascent, because we hiked in total darkness in the light of our headlamps. We thought the hike to the top was 6-7 km long, but instead is was a good 8 kilometers. We started out in 2300 meters and hiked to 3900 meters, in total we climbed 1800 meters in elevation. On the way up our speed was 2 km/h, which was perfect – BUT… 500 meters from the top, Esben started to suffer from altitude sickness, making every step to the top more difficult. We spend an hour walking the last 500 meters and Esben was not feeling well.
We made it to the top while it was still dark – and we were met by a bigger eruption from volcano Fuego, were we could see lava coming out of the creator. Because of Esbens condition he was not able to take a picture.
Nienke Hilhorst send this picture of a night eruption of volcano Fuego – Thank You!
The sight of volcano Fuego was amazing, and we saw several eruptions during sunrise. I got to take the first pictures! After putting on all our warm clothes and feeding Esben with freeze dried food, he was doing better.
Watching the sunrise from the top of volcano Acatenango
Esben felt better and took this amazing picture – I love it
It was a huge challenge to hike to the top of volcano Acatenango, and it was a huge achievement for us to make it all the way during the night. Volcano Acatenango and Fuego are often called twins or pair of volcanoes because superficially they appear to be joined together. In Guatemala there is also two other pair volcanoes: volcano Santa Maria-Santiaguito and volcano Tolimán-Atitlán. In each pair, the volcanoes located to the southeast are younger and active: Santiaguito, Atitlán and Fuego. This volcanic activity in the southeast suggest that the volcanic chain is moving.
Oh, by the way after 30 minutes of walking the rained stopped, and during the rest of the hike the weather was dry. Summery of the hike: It took us 5 hours to hike to the top of volcano Acatenango (because of altitude sickness the last 500 meters took us 1 hour), we spend 1½ hour at the top and 3½ hours of hiking down. In total 10 hours!
YES – we made it all the way to the top!
We took it slow on the way down… we felt tired, and we also spend time on taking pictures. This was our decent from volcano Acatenango.
Leaving the top of volcano Acatenango
Following the trail through the volcanic sediment and enjoying the fantastic view!
In the beginning of the decent the volcanic sediment is very loose, and we were almost skiing down on our hiking boots. After about one kilometer the trail gets more and more compact
Getting down through the cloud forest and subtropical jungle
Walking through and old hollow tree, that was still a live
Getting to the last part were we walked between the corn fields
Getting back to the local family – hanging our sweaty clothes to dry and playing around with the cat before taking a nap in the tent
Volcano Acatenango, Fuego and all the other volcanoes (The Central American Volcanic Chain) in the area were created millions of years ago, when Cocos Plate (Oceanic Plate) collided with the Caribbean Plate (Continental Plate), where it subducted/slipped underneath it. The friction between the edge of the plate and the asthenosphere made the plate melt resulting in Magna, that erupted onto the surface of the earth, which created all the volcanoes that can be seen in this magical landscape through Central America.
Living close to a volcano is dangerous and evacuation of the local family happens. The last evacuation was in 2015 were a 100 nearby residents was evacuated. In 2012 roughly 33,000 people left 17 villages near the volcano. The bigger evacuation was because volcano Fuego ejected lava and ash, that flowed 600 meters down the slopes of the volcano. The volcanic soil is very fertile, which makes it perfect for farming, which attracts the families. During our stay we also noticed the ash falling from the sky.
During night we were woken up by an earthquake, this was a first – and what a start on Esbens birthday! In the morning we said goodbye to the family and started the day in pouring rain… well it was Esbens birthday…
More about Esbens birthday in the next post…