I craned my neck, tipping my chin to the sky to gaze up at the behemoth in advance of me, the 13,045-foot peak of Acatenango vanishing into the clouds. The program: to hike up and devote the evening near the top of the active volcano. I swallowed. The “active” bit gave me pause, but it hadn’t erupted due to the fact 1972, and what is life devoid of a very little danger now and then?
Surrounding me at the trailhead bus prevent not considerably from the town of Antigua, Guatemala, a small cadre of locals supplied to mortgage decided hikers strolling sticks for the equal of $5. I gladly forked in excess of the dollars and shouldered my daypack, which was a lot far too smaller for the quantity of supplies the guide company experienced outfitted me and my fellow hikers with.
Normally, I wouldn’t have opted for a guided, modest team hike, specially for a path as straightforward—and popular—as Volcán de Acatenango as I have been backpacking considering the fact that I was 10, but this excursion experienced arrive jointly at the previous minute. My good friends had done the the vast majority of the preparing, and we had been all touring light. There was little option but to shell out a number of extra bucks and let someone else give the equipment.
But that gear was less than appealing, primarily for a generally ultralight backpacker. Amongst the stack of provides they gave each and every of us were being an outsized parka from the 1980s or 90s, bulky mittens, two liters of drinking water in a hydration reservoir, and a Tupperware container packed with completely cooked—and extremely heavy—rice and veggies. At least mine, as opposed to the containers for the omnivores in the group, did not incorporate a entire cooked hen breast way too.
I strapped something that would not suit inside of my pack on the outside, not recognizing I’d invest the entire hike attempting (in vain) to retain it all well balanced and end it from bouncing all more than the position.
We hiked for the first hour up a steep slope of wonderful scree that available an exasperatingly equivalent knowledge to trekking in sand, every move an work out in annoyance. My only consolation: I’d been informed that it obtained a lot easier right after the 1st mile or so.
“Suddenly, I found myself mountaineering by means of clouds, wisps of cumulus drifting throughout the trail and via the dwarfed pine trees and barren, limbless trunks of the superior alpine forest.”
It did not. The path continued in an endless climb for the future 4 several hours. The only upside was that the loose scree and fertile farmland sooner or later gave way to much more sound packed earth and thick forest that available include from the warming sunlight as effectively as tantalizing sights of the valley under through tiny breaks in the tropical foliage.
But that didn’t make the likely any less complicated. My gear swung and swayed. I lacked electrical power I hadn’t eaten substantially for breakfast and did not want to eat substantially extra for lunch for concern the exertion would consequence in it coming appropriate back again up. I could have been in improved climbing form, and to prime it all off, the local guideline kept leaving a couple of of us slower hikers so considerably behind we wouldn’t see him for an hour. Then, he would prevent for a split with the rest of the team, wait for us to catch up, and immediately carry on on as the slower contingent huffed and puffed our way after the perfectly-rested team at the entrance. The strain and irritation of staying remaining behind made the hike even extra unbearable.
Until finally we neared the top. Out of the blue, I discovered myself mountaineering through clouds, wisps of cumulus drifting throughout the trail and by the dwarfed pine trees and barren, limbless trunks of the significant alpine forest. The path commenced to stage out and I in a natural way picked up the speed in anticipation of reaching camp.
When I did, I dropped my bag and collapsed on to a log bench with a sigh of relief. Following catching my breath, I joined the rest of the group at a lookout position to view the solar dip powering Volcán Fuego across the valley and paint the sky with impossibly vibrant oranges and yellows.
And as darkness fell, I gasped in delight as lava exploded from Fuego, luminous red-orange trickling down the mountainside. I was amazed at not only the majesty of nature, but also at how it could make the most painful hike of my lifetime completely really worth just about every grueling action.