Volcán Tajumulco, reaching to the height of 4220 meters (~13,900 feet), is the highest point in Central America. We climbed it this past weekend! David has climbed several mountains this high or higher in the U.S., but this was the highest mountain for Krista and the highest that we’ve climbed together!
We left Xela early Saturday morning with the adventure company Quetzaltrekkers. After traveling for a few hours on a couple of different chicken buses, we arrived in Tuhichan to begin our hike. Our group consisted of 14 people: 11 participants and 3 guides. The majority of the group was American, though Spain, Australia, Canada, and Germany were also represented. An unusually high number of the group were (or are) guides of some sort. We had a spelunking guide from Canada, a NOLS sailing and backpacking instructor working in the Caribbean and Wyoming, an Australian hiking guide, and of course David was a rafting guide. We journeyed through farmland, open meadows, and sparsely wooded forests. Some dark clouds threatened from the sky, but we were blessed with the occasional glimpse of sun and it never actually rained (or snowed!).
In the afternoon after hiking for a few hours, we set up camp at the saddle between two peaks of the volcano. The area was sheltered from the wind with a number of pine trees and the campsite even had three toilets.
Later that evening, we hiked up to the smaller peak – Serra Concepcion – for sunset. The setting sun brilliantly illuminated the clouds in the sky.
The night was cold and we woke up to a covering of frost on the ground. It was around 5am when we began the ascent to the highest peak of Tajumulco. We viewed the sunrise from partway up the final climb.
At the top, we enjoyed views that (on a clear day) would extend as far as Mexico (north), the Pacific Ocean (west), and more volcanoes in Guatemala (to the east and south). An enchanting thick blanket of clouds filled the valleys below the volcano, making it barely possible to see to Mexico and impossible to see the ocean. The alternating pattern of clouds and smaller mountain peaks was beautiful. The crater of the volcano was also impressive. We hiked around the entire rim.
After returning to our campsite from the sunrise ascent to the peak, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of oatmeal, packed up camp, and headed back down the mountain. It was a gorgeous trek with wonderfully interesting people.
Of note, the organization we chose to hike with - Quetzaltrekkers - is a neat group formed several years ago with all volunteer guides and from which all profit from the treks (they lead several in the area) are used to support a couple of nonprofits that rescue and support former “street kids” of Xela (www.quetzaltrekkers.com).