Acatenango and Fuego Volcanoes
After Pacaya Volcano, I wanted to tackle the Acatenango Volcano. Its summit towers at 3880 metres, almost 1300 metres higher than Pacaya. This time, I could climb this volcano without having the proper equipment. Thus, I went to the village of San Juan Calderas.
In the village, I stumbled upon Aprode Guides Association while looking for another association. The group office is in fact the house of a friendly family and it's with them I did the climb of Acatenango.
My stay with the family and climbing Acatenango Volcano are two highlights of my trip to Guatemala. In the following lines, I tell you the story of my experience in this superb region.
Stay with Ovidio and Rosa's family
When I arrived at the village, I was looking for another place, but by chance I met Ovidio. We started to chat and then I learned that he was the vice-president of the Aprode Guides Association, and also the father of a family of 6 children. He invited me in his house (also the office of the association), and he offered meals and a bed where to sleep before and after my trek on Acatenango.
Through the association, I managed to rent a backpack and warm clothes to be able to stay a night on the volcano. The nights are close to freezing point, good equipment is a must.
In addition to this small garden, the family owns some lands on the nearby hills flank where they grow lots of vegetables. Most of the food I ate with them came from their land.
Here is part of the family. Ovidio, Rosa and one of their sons, Alvin.
Here is my guide, Pablo. I climbed the mountain with my personal guide. Of course, there were other groups, but this allowed me to stop as often as I wanted to take pictures.
Pablo, a 27-year-old young man with one child, is very sympathic, and it was a nice experience to trek with him. The climb took me about 4.5 hours, about average.
There were plenty of flowers all along the trail.
At the camp
From the campsite, there is a direct view on Fuego Volcano which lies less than 3 kilometres away as the crow flies. By chance, at the end of the day, the clouds started to disappear. Fuego was still hidden by some clouds, but it was possible to see the thick smoke emanating after each explosion.
A picture is worth a thousand words, but it's not worth a thousand sounds. Every explosion, one can hear the throbbing of the volcano, and the lava tumbling down the volcano's wall. It sounds like a rock landslide. Unlike Pacaya, Fuego's sounded louder and thus more impressive.
At the end of the afternoon, we went for a small walk to a superb viewpoint and we waited and hoped the clouds would part. A few minutes before sunset, the volcano appears in all its glory.
The sun sets and the darkness slowly invades us. We hear sounds like some thunderclaps. Is it the volcano stirring up? No, in the darkness, we can now see the flashes of lightning below on the mountain flank. Threatening clouds are rising up the volcano, and it seems that a storm is approaching. I put the tripod and camera away, and we start walking back to the camp.
We only have 30 minutes to travel before reaching the campsite, but the clouds are faster than us. The rain starts and we speed up the pace. We ran for a while, and a few minutes before our destination, the rain begin to pour on us. The last five minutes are under strong rains, and we end up quite soaked.
We join another guide from the association with two travellers, and we take our meal together. The guides have lighted a good fire and we can dry ourselves, then we eat a very good meal.
The rain continues for about two hours. It's a bit discouraging. Tired, everybody goes to its tent to sleep. I'm a bit disappointed since I didn't see the volcano in the night. Lying down in the tent, I can hear explosions but I can't really sleep. I want to see the volcano. After a while, the rain stops, and I look outside the tent. What a surprise, there are no clouds in sight.
Stars, illuminated towns, Pacaya and Agua volcanoes far away, Fuego in fire. What a show!
Explosions and lava during the night
There are two reasons that keep people from sleeping on their climb of Acatenango. That is, the people are cold and can't sleep, or they stay awake to get a chance to see Fuego erupts. By looking at the photos, you understand which reason kept me awake.
On the adjacent photo, we see Agua Volcano with some lights. At the summit, there are antennas with some spot lights. On the right, we see the Pacaya Volcano in fire. It's the volcano I visited as described in the previous post.
Then, it's Fuego's turn to offers an extraordinary show. I have not yet completed this trip, but it's surely going to be the best show during this journey.
The nice weather lasted only about two hours. There were four explosions that lasted about a minute. Each photo has an exposure time of around a minute as well. Thus, one must be ready, and you will understand that it's not possible to take dozens of pictures.
It was cold and I caught a cold thereafter. Was it worth getting side? Absolutely!
Summiting at dawn
After the clouds came back, I lied down in the tent. Every hour, I set an alarm to get up and check if the volcano was visible. No luck.
Tired and without having slept, I got up at 3 o’clock, and I got out of the tent. Still very cloudy. At around 3h30, my guide and I started the hike toward the summit of Acatenango. It's a climb of about 90 minutes in loose volcanic rock, and under an icy wind. But as we go up, the weather clears up. Once at the top, the weather is perfectly clear.
I am ready for some pictures. The tripod and the camera are set up, and I am waiting for the next eruption. I am very cold sitting behind the camera. Unfortunately, there are no explosions before the sunrise.
The first eruptions come a bit late. The lava can't be seen anymore, but the smoke emanations are impressive.
At the campsite, in the morning
We are back at the campsite for breakfast. After a short while, Fuego awakens and there are several eruptions one after the other.