Sunday, May 13, 2007

Of Acatenango

There are three major volcanos (or four, really) visible from Guatemala City on a clear day: Agua, Pacaya, and Fuego/Acatenango (twin peaks, one active volcano and one dormant volcano, connected by a small saddle). As previously reported, your faithful correspondent has summited the first two of these. The latter was conquered this past weekend.

It was a fairly early start, a steep climb, cold weather, and some nice scenery. The best part was the opportunity to camp at the (almost) top of the mountain, doing the last half hour of climbing at dawn to watch sunrise from the summit of dormant Acatenango. From there, one could look down at the smoldering cone of active Fuego, poking out of the early-morning clouds. Of course, the staff photographer didn't get any shots of it; he brough only the cheap back-up camera due to concerns about robbery of the expensive primary camera, which back-up camera, of course, failed prior to reaching the top.

Given reports of theft on the trail, we hired a capable guide at the tiny town at the bottom of the hill -- as with most climbing expeditions in Guatemala, the primary purpose of the guide is to carry a machete and scare off possible theives. He hiked to the top in his loafers, apparently bringing nothing more than a little white bread and an orange to eat. Each time we pulled out snacks or dinner, we offered him some, which he gratefully accepted, and then as near as we can tell, squirreled away in his pack to give his family when we got back to the bottom, content to mostly just eat white bread. Exactly why we were carrying all this food to the top of the mountain for him didn't quite make sense, but it was probably a better workout that way.

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