View from the top of Old Man of Coniston hike in Lake District National Park, England.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Preston, Lancashire, England.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Wyke, West Yorkshire, England on May 29th!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Quetzaltrekkers Santa Maria Volcano (part 1)

We originally came to this area to do a six day excursion offered by the popular "hiking for charity" organization here in We figured we had a few extra days and that we should use them up by doing a warm-up hike!

It wasn't long before we figured that maybe we bit off more than we could chew...

How many different emotions can you wrap into a 24 hour period? This was a very emotional hike. And, a VERY tough hike. Definitely the toughest we've ever done.

We're going to begin this story at around 9:00am Saturday morning, and it started with anticipation. We were going to hike to the top of the dormant Santa Maria volcano. The summit offers spectacular views, and more importantly, amazing views of the smaller, but very active Santiaguito volcano which is the 10th most active volcano in the world!

We met at 9:00am at the Quetzaltrekkers office in the Casa Argentina hostel where we're staying here in Xela. We found a circle of chairs, and with each chair was a selection of gear.

Even the little blue car got to sit in on the meeting!

Everyone was told to take a seat, and that you would be carrying the group gear that was associated with that seat. Three meals were included in the 300 quetzales ($40.50) each price. So of course, everybody had to carry a share of the food and the gear.

Turns out that there were eighteen hikers and three Quetzaltrekker guides. This was a large group, and we were asked if we could bring our own tent. No problem, in fact we preferred our own tent.

By just after 10:00am, we were pretty much ready to go!

Our regular readers know that we do quite a bit of hiking. But it's always been day hikes and this was our first overnight hike where we had to carry our own gear. That gear weighs a lot!!!

There was a large box truck waiting outside where we all got into the box with our gear and we were taken to the trailhead, about a half hour away. By this time, it was almost 11:00am.

Notice the sky...not looking very good!

At 12:20pm, we stopped for a lunch break. It was pretty hard going, and Ruth and I were the last ones to arrive, along with Ollie, our Quetzaltrekker guide who was in charge of the slow pokes on this trip! Turns out we would spend quite a lot of time with Ollie!

By the way, lunch was GREAT! Lots of food for everybody and it was very enjoyable.

After lunch break, the trail became steeper, wetter, more slippery, and more foggy. There wasn't much opportunity for photos, it was more a matter of concentrating on one foot in front of the other. We were now getting nervous that we weren't going to make it! We were tired, and one other girl with us, Katarina, was having a tough go of it as well. A point would come where we would have to make a decision as to whether or not we would carry on, or turn back.

I should mention that we were the oldest ones on the hike. Everybody else was the 20's and 30's crowd. It turns out that we couldn't keep up with them!

Ollie told us that there was a rest stop coming up and that we could then make a decision. Ruth and Katarina had pretty much made the decision to turn around, when down the trail came a couple of the girls who were ahead of us, telling us that it was only another minute to the rest stop. Somehow, this reinvigorated us and we were now inspired to carry on.

Ollie, Katarina, and Ruth at 3:40pm.

I wasn't ready to go back, but I was pretty much exhausted. Couple that with the terrible weather and the fact that we didn't have a view of anything but the soggy trail in front of us, and I have to admit I was not enjoying myself. At all.

Getting close to the top at 4:30pm. But no view. And drizzly, cold weather.

Ruth managed a smile for the picture. But trust me, she was drained. So was I. I have no idea how we made it. But even though we made it to the top, things didn't look like they were going to improve.

When we got to the top, it was 5:15pm. The others already had tents set up, and I helped the others set up our little orange tent in the foreground.

It was cold, wet, and VERY windy. All I could feel was frustration. In order to get warm, we crawled into our sleeping bags with a bunch of clothes already on and tried to warm up. Not fun. The wind was blowing things so badly, and it was so cold. We figure the temperature was around 0C (32F) and the wind on top of that. It wasn't really raining, but the dew from being in the clouds made everything wet.

Kevin. Is that a smile? Nope, not really!

Stay tuned for part two tomorrow morning. Can you say exhilarating???


  1. Congrats on getting to the top!! Way to stick with it - yet another great memory for you guys!

    1. Thanks, Janis! Definitely a great memory for us and one we won't repeat.

  2. Knowing you two and all the emotions involved - you didn't give up and you made it! Hey, even the photos with fog have a beauty of their own!
    Love ya!!!

    1. I (Ruth) came so close to giving up! Sure glad that we didn't and that we dug in there and continued on.

  3. It will only make you tougher for your climb to Kilamanjaro. BTW, how are you getting wifi?

    1. We were actually talking about that on the hike back down yesterday, that if we want to climb Kilamanjaro we are going to have to do it soon as we aren't getting younger.

      The hostel we are staying at provides wifi. Unfortunately our room is too far from the source so we go down to the common kitchen/dining area to use it.

  4. What grit! Way to tough it out!

  5. Atta boy's are definitely in order my friends. Good luck. Holler if I can help

  6. particularly why I despise organized affairs since you are not free to do as you like unless you depart from the group...

    1. We don't normally do organized things either as you know but this particular hike they have had some problems on the trail with robberies so it is better to do it with a group. The guides are really good and don't rush you, you can do it at your own pace. They supply 3 guides, one at the front, one in the middle and one at the back. At anytime if you can't continue the one at the back will turn around and take you back out. The problem with this hike is that once you get past a certain point there is no turning around as it would be to late in the day to safely hike out, this is why at the last rest stop we had the choice of continuing on or turning back. They don't pressure you either the choice is yours! There was me (Ruth) and two other girls that weren't sure if we could continue on and I think if any one of us said the word we would all have turned around and walked out but none of us wanted to say the word. Instead we got lots of encouragement from the others to continue on and just take our time, we all had lights that if we were too slow and it was dark we could still safely get up the very last section.

    2. well if I had known they promised you an eruption I would definitely go on the organized trip...

  7. Hats off.
    (But you should definitely keep yours on.)
    Was the oxygen at that altitude a factor as well? Methinks if you're approaching 10,000 feet it must be getting a bit thinner. Yes?

    1. Yep, the altitude was above 12,000ft I believe, so yes oxygen was a little on the thin side.

  8. Definitely not on our agenda, we are out to enjoy not endure but good on your for giving it a go.

    1. Sometimes we have to endure to enjoy. This is something we would never have seen if we didn't do it.


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