Guatemala: Climbing Pacaya Volcano
Descending the Cairo Side – a novel of the traveling life
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I don’t have many photos left, in fact only one, of my expedition to climb this live volcano in Guatemala. You access the mountain by bus from Antigua, and then proceed on a gentle hike through cattlelands and scrub for most of a day, until you reach the base of the cinder cone, from which pours hot ash. The very ground here shakes and is hot to the touch.
My three friends and I spent a miserable night in a two-person tent, and despite the warmth coming from below we froze. We obtained very little sleep.
1) The volcanic cone
2) View from the lower slopes
The Guatemalan government had thoughtfully provided memorials to the hikers who made it to the rim of the crater and then, finding the ground crumble under their feet, had fallen into the volcano to their deaths.
3) Here is my Swiss friend Eva at the crater’s rim, a dizzying 3000 ft. from the floor of the valley. She looks like she would rather have chosen a different excursion for the day, one for which she’d been better dressed
Climbing the cinder cone was very difficult, as the ash was too hot to grab to for support and we slid back a foot for every one advanced . The heat penetrated even our shoes. But we were rewarded at the end with a magnificent view of bubbling lava coming from deep within the cone. The air was so thick with sulphur that we found it nearly impossible to breathe.
4) Another Swiss friend dangling near the top of the cone
My understanding is that during the Guatemalan Civil War, foreigners were strongly discouraged from making this climb, as bandits, rebels, and other miscreants resented intrusions into their territory.