For some reason a group of 11 of us decided that it would be a good idea to climb Acatenango volcano, a 4,000 meter high non-active volcano just outside of Antigua. The climb takes about a day and a half- one full, hellish day to get up and about 2.5 hours to get back down.
Kel, the biggest trooper I know, was climbing after 3 days of being sick, having had a spew in the morning and no food in his stomach. After only a very short moment of doubt at the start, he made it all the way to camp at the top through nausea and cramps without a word of complaint.
The climb was honestly the hardest thing I have ever done. From the very beginning we were trudging up a steep hill in loose volcano shale, taking one step forward and two steps back. After a few hours of that we made our way into the jungle canopy, but without a break in the hill. It was honestly non-stop uphill climbing for 6 hours until we reached camp, carrying packs with clothes, sleeping bags, 4 litres of water each, snacks and first aid kits. It was absolutely killer – though I never doubted we’d make it, I wish my head would SHUT UP and stop telling me how tired/sore/over it I was.
Once we made it to camp, we decided to hike another two hours to the very top of the volcano to watch sunset. Kel bowed out at this stage to get some rest as he was exhausted, which turned out to be a very good decision. If we thought the first 6 hours of climbing was tough, it was absolutely nothing compared to the climb to the top. 2 hours of absolute hell – honestly one of the most unpleasant thing I have ever done. Climbing up the shale was not so much one step forward and two steps back, but rather one step forward, two meters back sliding on your ass. The wind was so strong that it whipped up the volcanic dust and left a layer of dirt over your teeth because you were panting so hard.
I very much doubted that I was going to make it to the top, but the moment you did we all said “this is the most amazing thing I have ever done”. We were above the clouds on top of the volcano with a huge crater in the middle and the sun shining over the clouds. The amazingness of it was only matched by the cold – it was freaking FREEZING up there. We stayed for sunset and then very quickly made our way back to camp, sliding 80% of the way on our butts again.
Feeling very proud of ourselves, we had an awesome dinner around the campfire and all crashed out pretty early, having a terrible night sleep in the cold and rising at 5.30am to watch sunrise. We left camp at about 8 and were back at the bottom of the volcano by 10.30- exhausted, but very proud of ourselves.
That afternoon we jumped straight onto yet another very packed bus and made our way to San Pedro on Lake Atitlan, with two crazy but fun Brazilian girls singing songs for us in Portuguese. Today we’re all a bit stiff, but surprisingly not as sore as you would think. I have a feeling that after a few weeks the pain will have faded enough for us to make the stupid decision to do it all again on another mountain / volcano.