Guatemala, acatenango - 25 of may 2002
"Climbing one of the highest volcano in Central America"

Just a perfect view on Guatemala
Acatenango, one of the three main volcanoes that overview Antigua is more than 4000 meters high. It offers an extraordinary panoramic view on its neighborhoods and on Fuego and Agua two other volcanoes. Arrived since couple days in Antigua, we decide to attempt this ascension. Climbing Acatenango is a challenging trek which requires a good body condition. The starting point of this expedition is situated at 2000 meters high in this small town named "La Soledad " where Manuel our local guide is waiting for us. He has been many times climbing Acatenango and knows by hard this volcano. He gives us details about the 4 stages of this expedition, the bivouac in the crater and the return trip of the next day. He insures us that we should be able to reach the top within a 4 or 5 hours time.
> Different points of view of the volcano
Click on the pictures to enlarge

Four stages of hell
The four stages totally different one from another are interesting because of its large variety of hardships and wildlife met. The first stage drives us through fields to a dense tropical forest. The exterior heat, the weight of equipment, the difficulty of the exercise forces us to quit some of our T-shirts and pullover. Already sweating all our water, we arrive exhausted to the first stop, while Manuel looks at us amused. He is used to ascend this volcano in a two hours time. Our body now adapts gently to the exercise. To cross this dense forest planted on an abrupt slope of the volcano we must walk via a path winding between trees, rocks and roots. We quickly get to the third step where we take a quick rest and swallow our sandwiches. The dense vegetation changes to sprinkled forest made of pine trees and high grasses. The previously nonexistent wind pierces more easily through the forest and gives us a little more of the essential air. We already feel the altitude and each step realized pushes us to optimize our breathing. Tired by these three hours of walking in steep fields, we reach with hardships the top of the first mountain. The view on the valley is incredible. The sun sets in an hour and half and obliges us to quickly finish our trek and begin the last stage even harder.

We still cannot see the end
Composed exclusively of volcanic sand, the ground friable and unstable robs itself under our feet. Every three steps, we decline of one step. Tossed by the icy wind, tortured by our bulbs and our cramps, we evolve painfully. Our only motivation to continue is the proximity of the top, , over there, to some couple ten meters. This so hoped reward reveals itself at last in the last meters.
> Some pictures of the climbing
Click on the pictures to enlarge

A succeeded challenge
The sun, so hostile during the first stage will disappear within couple minutes. Still above a cloudy tablecloth that covers the whole valley, it reflects some apocalyptic colors. The neighbor volcanoes, such as the active Fuego, pop out of this cloudy tablecloth and give a surrealist impression of insular isolation and freedom. Few minutes later, it has completely disappeared and leaves places to a fantastic icy full moon. A last effort to share this bottle of Chilean wine, to heat us next to the fire and we collapse, transit by the cold, in our sleeping bags. A few hours of interrupted sleep by gastro disturbances because of the realized effort, energizes us. Raised before the sun, we install ourselves on the edge of the crater, ready to admire the sunrise. In a 2 second time the sun sets free the whole valley of its cloudy tablecloth. Manuel invites us to raise the camp and begin the return trip racing 4 steps by 4. Two hours later, tons of volcanic dust breathed and we arrive to La Soledade, happy to have succeeded this challenge.

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