climbing Volcán Tajumulco, Guatemala

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

The best hike in the country. One of the best in central America. In fact, this is the highest point in central America at 4,220m (13,850 ft).

Click PLAY or watch a promo video on YouTube.

I was up at 3:30am to check out of my hostel in Xela and walk over to Quetzaltrekkers through dark streets.

4:45am rendezvous. Our group of 10 included two guides, hikers from Canada, the States, England, Switzerland and Germany.

IMG_1144

At 5:15am we climbed into a pick-up to get to the hectic Minerva bus depot. We were first to get seats on the chicken bus.

IMG_1154

Arriving about 7:30am, we ate a good breakfast at a San Marcos bus station comedor.

IMG_1156

Next was an even more crowded bus to Tuichan. By around 10:00am we started up.

IMG_1165

Quetzaltrekkers have no employees. Everyone is a volunteer.

Volunteer guide, Jordan, from Canada.

Volunteer guide, Jordan, from Canada.

Volunteer guide, Rachael, from the USA.

Volunteer guide, Rachael, from the USA.

All proceeds go to a children’s charity.

Being a volcano, I feared it would be an unrelenting slog at the same angle. Happily there is a fair bit of variation in the trail – though it is unrelentingly UP.

IMG_1180

A highlight are the Hartweg’s pine, a very high altitude species

IMG_1186

IMG_1189

Spooky in the clouds.

IMG_1185

Finally arriving at “base camp” after 4-5 hours, we enjoyed a healthy lunch of local fare.

IMG_1190

That was 1000m elevation gain over 4km. Sleeping at about 4000m (13100ft), there’s a real risk of altitude sickness.

Everyone slept in provided 4 person tents aside from Jordan (who slept in a hammock) and myself who brought my own gear.

IMG_1192

We all crashed for siesta, knowing we wouldn’t get much sleep tonight.

We’d planned to climb up to Tajumulco’s second summit, Cerro Concepcion, for sunset. But afternoon rains had come. We stayed in our tents.

By 6:30pm the rain had stopped. We had dinner and hot drinks, hoping the morning would be clear. This was the second trip for one girl – her first summit clouded over.

IMG_1194

IMG_1199

A brazen mouse ran around the cook area.

___ My alarm went off at 3:30am. I’d not slept particularly well.

Though we had clear skies and near a full moon, it was dark. My borrowed headlamp died quickly. I followed the lead guide closely to take advantage of her lamp.

The final 200m is a scramble. Gloves are useful for grabbing stone in the dark.

DSCN1344

It went well. All 10 of us at the top before dawn. We huddled in our sleeping bags.

Dawn at 5:30am was gorgeous.

IMG_1216

IMG_1223

Everyone – at this point – was super happy they had joined the trip.

IMG_1229

We stayed on top as long as we could handle the cold wind.

IMG_1240

Rick the highest man in Central America

Rick the highest man in Central America

There are views to Mexico. And many other volcanos.

IMG_1244

This is volcano shadow.

IMG_1243

We descended by a different route, first circumambulating the crater.

IMG_1245

IMG_1248

Quickly into grassland, we started to get hungry.

IMG_1249

IMG_1250

The water was boiling for breakfast by the time we got back to camp.

IMG_1253

This very popular hike is – sadly – quite littered and vandalized. Instead of leaving my Summit Stone at the summit, I left it in one of the excellent climbing trees at camp. 🙂

IMG_1256

No rush. We dried the tents, the sun already very hot at 8am.

IMG_1258

I was impressed with the toilets provided. Happily there are very few insects this high up.

IMG_1259

The descent was relaxed. Our climb already a success.

It’s slippery, however. We had numerous falls on the way down. This could be treacherous in the rain.

One highlight was seeing the eruption of another volcano – Santiaguito. It’s a near daily occurrence. In fact I’d climbed up another volcano, Santa María, to see that eruption on another hike, 10 years earlier.

IMG_1269

IMG_1267

The National flower of Guatemala, Lycaste skinneri, are everywhere. Another highlight.

IMG_1173

About Noon we got back to the road. The peak was already clouding up. No doubt it would rain again late afternoon.

IMG_1279

We were hungry again for a big lunch at this village restaurant. Most had the fried chicken. And Gallo beer.

IMG_1284

IMG_1285

We reversed our route. First a bus back to San Marcos. Our driver parked close to our next so they could throw our packs roof-to-roof. (I’d never seen this before.)

IMG_1288

In Xela we again climbed into a pick-up truck to return to Quetzaltrekkers by about 4:30pm

IMG_1292

A shower. Some rest. To celebrate some of us got together for street tacos and cheap beer at the Plaza Central.

tacos

Tajumulco is highly recommended, so long as you have clear skies in the morning. You can do it on your own, but finding all right buses may be a hassle.

We’ve added this adventure to our list of best hikes in North America.

quetzaltrekkers-logo-black-1140x530

quetzaltrekkers.com

See all my full resolution photos on flickr.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “climbing Volcán Tajumulco, Guatemala

  1. Pingback: climbing Volcán Tajumulco, Guatemala – John Williams

  2. Hello, everyone,
    I am a tour guide from Guatemala, the hiking activitie is my favorite and i recommend to hike these volcanoes in Guatemala!
    1. Acatenago Volcano
    2. Atitlán volcano (lake Atitlán)
    3.Tajumulco Volcano
    4.San Pedro Volcano (Lake Atitlán)
    5.Santa Maria Volcano
    6.Pacaya Volcano
    7. Volcán de Fuego
    8. Volcán Tolimán
    9. Volcán Santiaguito
    10.Volcán Tacana
    etc.

    I offer to do the most popular trek from Xela to Lake Atitlan!

    The sunrise on the top of the atitlán volcano, indian nose and san pedro volcano are amazing!
    I am a tour guide from Gutaemala and i offer tours and activities everywhere in Guatemala!
    If you want to hike one of these volcanoes and are looking a tour guide, please, let me know.
    Email: tourguide.gt@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s