SAN PEDRO - 9908'
ATITLAN VOLCANO - 11604'
ACATENANGO VOLCANO - 13041'
TAJUMULCO VOLCANO - 13845'
I am happy to be back into action after a relatively inactive 2022 year for climbing and travelling. Due to a work trip I needed to take in Guatemala from January 5-12th, I decided to take a week over new years with Bri to explore Guatemala and hike some of the volcanoes. After a fairly quick flight to Guatemala City from Bozeman we met with our pre-arranged private driver who too us all the way to San Pedro on the southwest side of Lake Atitlan where we would stay at Refugio del Volcan for the next week. We arrived late at 9pm and quickly went to sleep as we wanted to hike up the San Pedro Volcano the following morning.
Our host, who was am American who started the entire AirBB which included small cabins and a beautiful terraced plat of land with excellent lake views was very helpful and gave us a tip that we can avoid the San Pedro enterance fee at the standard trailhead for San Pedro at the 1800 meter contour on road SQL-4 (the bad road leading towards Santiago de Atitlan) if we start walking up from a small dead end road off of Calle Finca (the road that leads east from town along the lake towards Refugio del Volcan). I marked this location on the map below (our route in red is approximate). A small series of farmers trails head south up the slopes, weaving through old coffee and banana fields before eventually meeting up with a larger trail that ascends up and leftward. A bit of bushwhacking was needed to reach this larger trail, but when you reach it, we turned right and descended a hundred feet or so and met the main trail that leads to the summit of San Pedro at a dry stream bed where a sign indicates the main trail heads climbers right. We ascended about 1200 feet from the Calle Finca road before meeting the main trail. This allowed us to bypass the enterance booth, but did add an additional 600 feet of elevation gain as most people will just take a Tuk Tuk up the road to the main trailhead.
Bri and I then continued hiking up the steep trail at a brisk pace, passing numerous parties on the trail. There was a sweet tire swing a ways further up that we stopped at for some fun. It did not take us long to reach the summit where a beautiful view of the Atitlan Volcano, and the town of Santiago de Atitlan way below us came into view. We ran the entire way down the trail and blazed past the enterance booth out to the road where we were able to pick up snacks and more water/juice at a small tienda along the road. Not wanting to walk the paved road back to town we hopped in a Tuk Tuk to get back to the center of townfor lunch and we met with my longtime friend Kelly who was making the trip with Lorin in their campervan driving down from the US through Central America and eventually all the way to Patagonia. It was just by chance they were also in the Lake Atitlan area the same time we were there. Kelly took a boat across from Panajachel to San Pedro and we explored the town a bit and went swiming in the lake. We then made plans to meet in Santiago de Atitlan early the next morning to hike the Atitlan Volcano. Bri and I felt sore that evening since that was the first fast and steep hike either of us had done in a few months. The photos below show some of the views we had from our AirBB and the hike up and back from San Pedro. This volcano actually rises directly above the town of San Pedro and is an extinct volcano where the top is still largely covered in jungle. The summit elevation of 9908 feet is not high enough to breach treeline but there are a few spots with rocky perches that offer great views.
Our initial route up to avoid the fee
Our first sunrise from Refugio del Volcan
Lake Atitlan Sunrise
Refugio del Volcan (entirely on solar)
Hot tub and hangout field at Refugio del Volcan
Refugio del Volcan cabins
Our homestay for the next week
First rays of sun
San Pedro Volcano looming above
Starting up thru the fields
View north across the lake
Atitlan Volcano (right) and Toliman (left)
View of Santiago and Atitlan Volcano from the top
Heading back down the trail
Boat dock in San Pedro
The following morning we took the very first boat over to Santiago de Atitlan, a 15 minute ride along the south side of the lake. As twilight was starting, we saw a plume of ash emmitted from Volcan Fuego far behind Toliman against the blood red sky which got our excitement going for the Acatenango hike we were planning a few days later. Once we got to Santiago, we waited for Kelly to make it over from Panajachel and started to ask around about getting a Tuk Tuk out to the trailhead for Atitlan Volcano. Our intended route was to follow the trail up the west side that led directly to the summit. After asking a few different drivers, one finally understood where we were trying to go and agreed to take all 3 of us there for 50Q each. This was a bit expensive but we didn't want to wait around any longer as it was nearing 8am. Once we got dropped off at the beginning of the trail at 1820 meters elevation, the driver informed us the last bus back to town comes by at 3pm so we quickly began hiking. Bri and I were very sore from the previous days hike but eventually got into a groove and continued up the sustained steep trail through beautiful forest in the shaded aspect of the mountain. This allowed us to keep cool. About a third of the way up to the summit Bri stopped for some headstands and we had a nice snack break on a small flat bench.
As we continued, we eventually got to treeline at 3200 meters as the clouds off to the south were well below us. We did notice they were slowly rising however so Bri and I pushed the pace up the final 1000 feet on volcanic rock up to the summit plateau. The top had a small shelter and a few fumeroles that were emitting gas. Off in the distance we saw Acatenango and Fuego. Another plume of smoke was rising from Fuego as we relaxed on the sunny summit. We ate the remainder of our food and began Hiking down. Kelly stopped about 600 feet below the summit where we met up with her again on the way down. Along the long descent we hiked into and then through the clouds in an eerie cloud forest atmosphere. We made it back to the road at about 2:30pm and a passing pickup truck with about a dozen people already inside picked us up and we rode back into the center of town holding on for dear life in the bed. We made our way back to the boat dock and returned to San Pedro. Throughout the evening we were both very sore and had trouble walking up and down the stairs to our AirBB!
Our route up Atitlan Volcano
Twilight on Lake Atitlan
Ash plume from Fuego
Twilight on San Pedro Volcano
Toliman and Atitlan from the boat
San Pedro Volcano from the boat
View from the boat
Starting up the trail
San Pedro Volcano
Acatenango and Fuego from Atitlan
Exploring the summit area
Plume from Fuego
Starting the descent above the clouds
Stay tuned for the second part of this trip report for our photos and accounts of hiking and camping on top of Acatenango volcano watching the glowing lava erupt from Volcan Fuego up close, and hiking the highest mountain in all of Central America; Tajumulco Volcano.
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