Kazakhstan mountains as seen from Almaty's Botanical Gardens.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Bangkok, Thailand.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Not sure!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Santa Maria Volcano Hike (part 2)

If you haven't already, you REALLY need to read part 1 of this report before continuing on with part 2


Okay when we left you last it was only 6:20pm. We had not had any dinner, preferring instead to try and stay relatively warm and dry inside our sleeping bags in the tent.

Our guides David, Ben, and Ollie meanwhile, had been trying to get supper ready for 21 people. Out in the dark, wind and cold, this could not have been an easy thing to do. We refused to come out of the tent when it was ready, and they actually took the time to bring us some food to eat! We really did appreciate the room service guys...that was definitely going above and beyond the call of duty! Thanks!

In the meantime, there was nothing to do but stay warm. The wind was blowing the tent around so much that we thought we might blow away! And there was also a lot of dust and dirt being blown into the tent. It was never raining, but it was so moist from essentially being inside a cloud that eventually drops of water began falling on us INSIDE the tent! The guides said this was the worst night they had ever encountered on top of the volcano. We were at 12,600 feet altitude.

David set his watch for 5:30am and said he would get up and see what the sky was like at that hour. If it was still zero visibility he would just let us sleep. Otherwise, he would let us know.

Well 5:30am was still about ten hours away. We dozed on and off a couple of times, but essentially got no sleep. We only had these skinny little sleeping pads and it was hard to get comfortable. That, coupled with the wind made for a very long and tortuous night.

Then we heard a voice.

"Hey guys...the sky is clear!"

Wow. This was exactly what everybody wanted to hear!

This was what we saw when we crawled out of the tent!

Remember, we had seen NOTHING of the view on the way up or when we reached the top the night before. It was spectacular! Still cold (there was frost on the ground) and windy, but clear as a bell. There were some clouds around, but they were BELOW us!

The Santa Maria volcano had a major eruption in 1902. In fact, it was one of the top five most powerful eruptions of the past 300 years. Since then, there have been several smaller eruptions but now the activity comes from a dome that is lower down from the rim of the original crater where we were sitting. The current volcano, called Satiaguito, is one of the ten most active volcanoes in the world. You couldn't see the dome from our campsite, so we had to hike down 10 minutes or so to the viewpoint.

Sorry for the terrible photo. I didn't have a tripod and it was cold and windy! Hard to keep still. But, you can see the red lava near the bottom right corner. That was a pretty neat thing to see!

Did manage one decent photo before the sun came up.

What a view!

All of a sudden, there was some commotion. Remember I said that Santiaguito was a very active volcano? Well, it seemed that the volcano gods were going to put on a special show for us to make up for our long arduous journey to the top...

This is not something you get to see every day! What a feeling! Strangely enough, there was no noise associated that we could hear from this eruption.

The photo above was taken at 6:11am, before sunrise. It was only going to get better. Despite the fact that we were still cold, and even with gloves on we could hardly feel our fingers, we no longer cared. At 6:27am, the sun finally made it's appearance!

Everybody has seen a lot of sunrises. But this one definitely stands above them all! 

Here's our group enjoying the views.

Frost on the ground. 

Here's where we had been camped! Look how filthy our little tent is!

The shadow of our volcano...we are standing on the top!!! 

Our guide, Ben!


After the sun came up we slowly warmed up. By 7:15am we had gone back up to the tents to have breakfast and get the tents packed up. We couldn't see the dome from our camp, but others started pointing and shouting again!

Another eruption at 7:27am! Wow!

What a spot to enjoy your breakfast!

Another view.

At 7:47, only twenty minutes later...yet another eruption!

We were treated to three eruptions of the volcano. Absolutely amazing! There really are no words to describe it. Definitely not something very many people get to see, and we weren't expecting to either.

This gal had hiked up with us, and came back down with us that morning.

Guess who??


Kevin. The graffiti people apparently hike up here too!

Everybody was soooo happy that it was a clear sky!

Here's our group.

And finally, a view of the city of Quetzaltenango.

But then, it was time to start heading down. This in itself is a three hour hike and we were pretty stiff and sore from hiking up the day before. But, it had to be done, we didn't have any choice! At least we were now lucky with the weather...it was a beautiful day. We set off down at around 9:20am.

Heading back down. 

Getting close to the bottom at 12:07pm.

We did pretty good keeping up with the group on the way down. We still lagged behind, but we made it! My left knee was pretty sore and my legs overall were done. Going down was also a little easier because you weren't carrying very much in the way of food or water. Going up we had each been carrying 4 litres (just over a gallon) of water in our packs as well as our gear!

What an exhausting hike. We found out that this is the toughest hike that Quetzaltrekkers offers and really, we should have done this hike AFTER our six day excursion that starts tomorrow, instead of before.

Are we glad we did it? Of course. Some of the most spectacular scenery we've ever seen, and the views of the volcano erupting are something we'll probably never see again. But it was also the toughest thing we've ever done and we'll probably never take on something like that again. Apparently we're not 25 years old any more!

Loading our gear on the bus for the ride back to the hostel.

Today will be a day of rest! It has to be because tomorrow we're headed out on a six day excursion. The first day and the last day are travel days, but on the four days in between we will be hiking 60 kms (37 miles). None of it will be as tough as what we just did, and the altitude won't be as high, and we won't be sleeping in tents. We're pretty stiff and sore today, so hopefully we will be recovered enough by Wednesday morning to start hiking again!


  1. You are both so amazing, to have reached the summit was a major feat, but to do it in those conditions!!!! You certainly did deserve to see the volcano erupt. Enjoy your day of rest.

    1. It was definitely a very hard hike and the night time conditions were certainly not fun so, yes we did deserve too see that volcano erupt. It pretty much made the hike worth it.

  2. Great to read the 2 posts, the pictures were awesome in the real sense :)

  3. OK, you just answered my question about the elevation. So now the whole exhaustion thing makes even more sense.
    Wasn't there something about "being somewhere sunny and warm"? Just wondering.
    Awesome climb though. Glad you took pictures. Now I have to go back and look more closely.

    1. You are correct Bob about the "being somewhere sunny and warm" guess we got sidetracked briefly. Sometimes you just have to do some of these things despite the weather.

  4. You've now become my daily read guys - crazy journey up, but incredible what you experienced. I'm sure in a few days/weeks, the WOW will be what remains.

  5. Gotta hand it to you guys, you're pretty tough. Good job and most of all great pics. So if this was a tough one, the next six days should be a piece of cake. Have fun, we're at the airport in Mty waiting for our flight to New York.

    1. Not so sure we should have used this hike as a warm up hike for our 6 day trip. We were still stiff on Tuesday morning and the next hike was pretty tough as well.

  6. What a wonderful trek! It great to be young enough to do it. We're 65, it won't happen. Great views.

    1. Everyone is different. We know people that are younger than us that couldn't have done this hike. Funny though, because there was a 70 year old guy that did the 2 day hike to the other volcano in the area that is even higher than this one but is a slightly easier climb and he made the complete trek.

  7. We're speechless - we kept reading and looking at your pictures - clicking to make them bigger - that was one fantastic trip - thanks for taking us all along - we are PROUD of you!!!
    Connie & Barry in PA

    1. Thank you Connie and Barry we were happy to take you along with us through our blog.

  8. I'm so thrilled that the sky cleared up for you to see such amazing views and the volcano erupt like that! You totally deserved it! Way to go!
    Grace (in Tucson)

  9. Coolest thing I read today!

  10. Fantastic job guys! Loved reading about it cuz I will never do it!! Looking forward to more stories on the next hike - take care of each other!!

    1. Well we did it and I am sure we won't be doing it again, so we are glad that you enjoyed it. We are sure you will enjoy the next one just as much if not more.

  11. Never posted yet, but just had to tell you that you guys are totally inspiring! Would do that in a heartbeat!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment Esther. We love to inspire our readers and we enjoy the feedback.

  12. Excellent hike , sure glad it was you guys and not us, but really do appreciate all the pictures you shared.

  13. Wow you guys amaze us old folks. Good luck on the six day ... we will look forward to hearing about it. Love your pictures. BTW Congratulations on the job offer. I don't want to be anonymous but I am unable to figure out how not to be. Regards from Huatulco. Joyce.

    1. Thanks Joyce! If you sign up for a gmail account you don't have to go under anonymous.

  14. Great post, great pics, thanks for sharing the experience, can't wait for the "Six Day" adventure. Take care and good luck.

  15. what a great trip this must have been! :) right now I am super jealous ;) climbing an active volcano is pretty high on my bucket list. I can´t wait to climb Vesuv next week! yaay :)
    Best of luck on your next travel adventures!

    1. Thanks Nika! It was definitely a very hard hike for us, especially me as we weren't used to carry big packs like that but we are so glad that we made it and watching Santiaguito erupting below us the next morning was a totally amazing sight and made all the pain from the day before disappear.

      I arm sure you are going to enjoy your climb next week and we look forward to reading about it and then it will be our turn to be jealous. Have fun!


There are more comments on our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TravelwithKevinAndRuth

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.