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Guatemala

     Volcano Expeditions to Fuego, Pacaya & Sta. Maria

Of the 37 volcanos in Guatemala at present we learned about 3 currently active ones and we climbed all of them. At the same time Guatemala offers the possibillity to drive up to or climb many more perfectly shaped and incredibly beautiful volcanos that offer spectacular views of the environment around them such as volcan Atitlan, Agua, Acatenango and many more.

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Basecamp at Lake Atitlan "Banyo la Red"  in Front of Volcan Toliman and Volcan Atitlan, Views towards Volcan Acatenango and Volcan Fuego,

Franziska and I visited Guatemala in March-April 2003, which is the end of the here called "summer" in Guatemala. During this time visibility on the volcanoes is best during the night and the early mornings. After 9-10am visibility was mostly getting bad with clouds moving in. For that reason we climbed the volcanos with a very early start (3-5 am) to get to the summit before sunrise, or as with Fuego.. - the day before. These conditions get rather worse if You visit Guatemala during the wet season from late April until the end of September. 

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Sunrise views volcan "Pacaya", Volcan Sta. Maria and Eruption at Fuego seen from Volcan Acatenango

For different reasons we strongly recommend that You take a guide to climb Guatemala's volcanos. The most obvious reason is theft and robbery which hardly ever occurs when having a local guide. Climbing the active volcanos without a guide additionally harbours the danger of losing a lot of time - or even getting lost - on the many unmarked trails or when bad weather moves in. Additionally You will most probably stay safe as the guide knows where exactly and how close to an active vent/crater You can get without being in instant live danger. Even though we have marked the whole trails to Sta. Maria, Pacaya and Fuego on our GPS and would know the way for another expedition I would definitely still prefer to have a local guide. Doing overnight trips involves carrying a lot of gear and we always had them carrying parts of our gear too. Apart from that it is great fun too, to hear their stories, learn about local traditions, history and of course: support them with the little money they earn doing this job as a guide which still pays better than the hard work in the fields.

Franziska and I carry two additional backpacks for the guide(s) as they mostly cannot affort equipment like this. If You're travelling with Your own vehicle we recommend to have at least one additional backback handy for this case.

Which volcanos are nice to climb in Guatemala? Franziska and I primarily concentrated on the active ones as we are amazed to see their eruptions, smell their smokes, hear their sound and of course like the inherent adventure of standing at the edge... All of the currently active volcanos offer safe access and spectacular views of their eruptions.

There is more than 37 volcanos for You to choose. Click here to learn a little more and get some links to learn about the many currently dormant ones which also offer spectacular views.

Volcano Expedition to Fuego

Fuego was our most spectacular Expedition in Guatemala as Fuego currently erupts every couple of minutes spewing rocks sometimes as far as 300 meters high and up to 400 Meters around its crater mouth. At night this gives spectaculer fireworks, which at clear nights can be seen from Antigua and surrounding villages from far away. Currently the eruptions of Fuego are strongest close to or at fullmoon or new moon.

This interesting Phenomen was described by Martin and Rose 1981, as follows:

Since 1800, 48% (23 of 48) of Fuego's eruptions occurred within 2 days of the fortnightly maximum amplitude of vertical tidal gravity acceleration. The probability of 23 successes out of 48 events being random is 0.1%.

Most eruptions have occurred within 3.5 days of the time of the full moon (or new moon) and the moon at perigee, which is when the stronger fortnightly tides occur. We conclude that there is a correlation between the times of eruptions at Fuego and the fortnightly lunar tidal maxima.

Also, the hours of the beginning and duration of many recent eruptions of Fuego have been compiled. The results of the comparison of the beginning of many eruptions since 1957 to the nearest calculated semi-diurnal minimum (of vertical tidal gravity acceleration) show that 9 out of 16 events occurred within 2 hours of the minimum. This correlation also showed up well during the several stages of the 1974 eruption. The probability of 9 successes out of 16 events by chance is 2.0%. The eruptions are thus significantly clustered around the semi-diurnal minimum.

A further aspect of the influence of the Earth tides involves changes in the length of the day, as measured by an atomic clock (Melchior, 1966). Challinor (1971) reported semi-annual variations in the length of the day which are though to be caused by variation in the angular momentum of the atmosphere and by Earth tides. The maximum amplitude of the variation occurs in mid-January, mid-April, and mid-October. The mid-April and mid-October variation maxima occur at the times of maximum braking effect due to the bodily tide torque. Hamilton (1973) noted a correlation of increased volcanic activity near these dates. The influence of the rainy season, which occurs from May to October (plus a likely time lag) does not seem to be an adequate alternative explanation. No correlations with longer tidal cycles are evident, because components of the longer cycles cannot be easily separated from the fortnightly tidal maxima.

(Martin and Rose, 1981)


Climbing Preparations in La Soledad, south of Antigua, 13th April 2003

Climbing up towards volcan Acatenango through dschungle trails...

Break, close to the summit of volcan Acatenango... 

The last 100 Meters to the summit of Acatenango... (3957 Meters)


At the summit of volcan Acatenango...

 Let's enjoy the day - and have some fun!!  :)

 Eruption view Volcan Fuego (from Acatenango)
 Night eruption at Volcan Fuego


Getting back to Soledad...
 Welcome back in Soledad...

 

Volcano "Fuego" - Expedition: 13.-15. April 2003

We started our Expedition at a small place called Soledad east of the volcano Acatenango, where we encountered great guides who offered to get us up to Volcan Fuego by first climbing Volcan Acatenango (3957 meters), descend at its southern slopes to the base of Volcan Fuego to set up Base camp and from there finally climb Fuego. Plan was to climb Fuego once at night as well early next morning before sunrise. 

It was a great route and a perfect plan.The guides were very helpful, extremely kind and forthcoming, well organised and knew the area extremely well too. Their kids, with their interest and their smile was an adventure for itself, before the whole thing even started...

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After some 5 hours of climbing starting at 4.30am we arrived at the summit of Acatenango which offers amazing views all over the aerea. The hike to the summit of Acatenango is moterately strenuous as there is a new quite well maintained trail (built in the year 2001, going through the jungle from 2600 Meters hight to about 3700 Meters.

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After leaving the vegetation zone at about 3700 Meters the last ascent to the top is like entering "moon-zone"... - as on most other volcanos too.

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Passing its summit and heading south You soon get a stunning view of Volcan Fuego ant it's constant eruptions that currently happen every 10 to 30 minutes.

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The descent on the southern slope of Acatenango was great fun and offered kind of  "skiing-possibilities" sliding down lose ash and small bits of pumice. :)

Later on we set up basecamp in the valley that lies between Acatenango and Fuego.. - the perfect place for a good break and some sleep...

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And finally after a great hot meal we started for the first excursion to fuego to get some good views of its eruptions. We should get awarded - the night eruptions were gigantic: 

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After some 3 hours of sleep we got up at 3 o'clock the next morning to climb fuego again - this time for sunrise and some more eruptions. Sunrise was

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amazing but shortly after we we found stormlike winds and stormlike weather conditions with our fingers and legs starting to get frozen off. With a visual of only a little 

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more than 20 meters we were happy to have experienced guides who were able to finally get us down the slopes to basecamp safely again.

After a hot coffee and an hour break with a nice warm up at the fire we finally started our way back to soledad. Here's some more Pics from our way back taking a great different route north around Acatenango and then down steep slopes through the dschungle back to Soledad.
 
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It was a great adventure and later on I will post the coordinates of Leo & Catarino, two really great guides from Soledad which we can definitely recommend. 

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For a two day trip with each of them carrying heaps our our weight we paid them 300 Quetzales each and finally gave them a tip atop of this. A tour operator from Antigua will probably take more than 3 times this amout of money and I am sure the guides will not be as competent as Joe&Caterino.

 

 

 

Volcan Pacaya...

At the crater of Volcan Pacaya - what great pictures.....!

...more to come, promised!

Volcano "Pacaya" - Expedition:

Click on pictures to get a closeup.... (German: Fuer Grossbild klicke aufs Bild)

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At the aktive crater of volcano "Pacaya", Amatitlan, Guatemala

A more detailled report with more pictures will be posted soon...

 

Volcano "Sta. Maria" - Expedition:
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A more detailled report with more pictures will be posted soon...

 

 

 
Volcano Expeditions / Vulkan Expeditionen / Hints & Tips / Trails to active volcanoes 
Copyright 2003 Marius Staerkle "volcano expeditions around the pacific (ring of fire)"
Date: 18th May 2004