Volcán Santa María, GuatemalaApril 4, 2017 in Guatemala
After a night (or half a night in my case, due to a severe case of my indigestion catching up after weeks of painkillers and antibiotics) in the Xela McDonald's car park we drove down a dusty dirt road until it turned into a rough track. Knowing we couldn't cheat and gain any more altitude we pulled into a farmers front yard. That left us with over 1,300m to climb, and we know from experience that 1,000m is a tough day in the saddle.
Despite much differing advice we decided to go without a guide, mainly as this was the one volcano with a Google Map route and we weren't overly concerned about the vague reports of robberies. The trail started easily enough and wound upwards reasonably gently through some impressive farmlands etched into the lower slopes.
After a couple of hours of reasonably hard slog we reached the shoulder, where the nice old man on a horse waited for us to make sure we took the right route, although it was hard to miss the massive conical peak towering above us. The trail soon got even steeper & dustier, and I was glad of my newly acquired hiking poles (which I was hoping would help me avoid my back issues) . We really felt the thin air as we slowly ascended, and needed to stop to catch our breath at almost every switchback turn.
After 4 really tough hours we finally reached the summit at over 3,700m, and found it covered with flowers and indigenous shrines. It was a truly stunning 360 degree view, with a thick layer of clouds several hundred metres below us. We were expecting cold & windy but it was a glorious day and we spent a good while up there enjoying the view and tucking into lunch.
Coming down was a breeze as the thin air didn't matter and we were down in about half the time. I was pretty amazed I made it considering how rough a night I'd had, but my back was in good shape, although the rest of me was pretty beat. Unfortunately there was no hot shower to sooth away the ashes and pains, and we had to make do with an authentic farmers shower from the plastic tubs in their outdoor sink.
Cleaned and fed we collapsed into a blissful sleep, proud of having summited on one of the harder hikes we've done. Fortunately you tend to remember the amazing views rather than the slog it was to get them.Read more