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Volcan Santa Maria

a/k/a The Big Climb

all seasons in one day
View Central American Adventure - Summer 2010 on oangel99's travel map.

As I mentioned when in my first post, on my first weekend in Xela (elevation 7,733 feet) I somehow got myself talked into climbing 12,000 foot Volcan Santa Maria. Even better, I agreed to it despite the fact that I would have to be ready for the bus to said volcano by 4:30 AM.

We began our ascent at about 5:00 AM in the hopes of reaching the summit before the clouds rolled in (midday) and obstructed our view of the city below.
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I was suprisily chipper, considering the hour...
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Of course, I had no idea what I was in for.

The "trail" was spotted (frequently) with horse droppings, which compounded the treacherousness of the rocky, muddy path we followed.
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(Locals harvest leña or firewood from the forests around the volcano).
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Before we had hiked for even 10 minutes, one of our group decided there was no way she was going to make it so she had one of the guides drive her back to the city. However, beliving the assurances of my friends about how "doable" this hike was, I forged ahead. (I so wasn't going to be that lady...) Of course, with little time to acclimate to the elevation, I quickly fell to the back of the group, huffing and puffing as I slowly made my way to the first rest stop. Sadly, being the last of the group means that you also get the shortest rest breaks so after only 5 minutes we were back on the trail.

The view was beautiful. I was too tired to lift my arms and take many photos of my hike (and besides, my camera could never do it justice), but it was amazing to be that high above the city.
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We climbed...

and we climbed...

and we climbed some more.

All the while, local men, women and children of all ages kept passing me by, patting my arm reassuringly and reminding me "poco a poco." I smiled in between wheezes and struggled on. Eventually Martine, the guide that had taken the first deserter home, caught up with our group (that is to say, caught up with me). While the other guide kept assuring us that the top was only about 30 minutes further, even at my "pace", Martine provided the more realistic figure of another 2,000 feet to the top. Mind you, as with all roads in Guatemala, the trail was a series of U-turns, rather than a straight line, which would eventually reach the top.

This was the moment of truth... continue on with my friends or begin an early descent.

With tingling in my fingers (surely an early sign of hypoxia), legs of lead and a bladder that needed deflating, I decided not dragging myself to the top sounded like the safer, slightly less painful option.

Erica, one of the girls that had convinced me to go on the climb in the first place, volunteered to head down with me (no doubt, partly out of guilt ;) ).
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After a snack of bread and Trader Joes Dried Mango Slices, a desperately needed bathroom break (thank you Charmine Basic Rolls To-Go!) and about 15 minutes of sitting on my butt, I was ready to make my way down.
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Of course, the aspects of the trail that made it treacherous to climb, were just as dangerous on the descent. And then, surpirse, surpise, it started to rain. By the time I reached the bottom, I looked like this:
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To be honest, the trip down, wasn't all bad. Now that I could breathe again, I was able to take more pictures...
Triump at the Top-ish
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Above the clouds, anway...
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Xela is down there somewhere...
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Erica and I with the Ent
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Burro
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Who knows, maybe I'll have to make another date with Maria before I leave...

Posted by oangel99 15:45 Archived in Guatemala

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