San Pedro Volcano – One More Time

Travellers love to hear other travellers’ stories. And these are often shared late in the day around the common areas of hostels, over beers and home-cooked meals, as the sun sets and the cozy camp fires are lit. Questions arise – where have you been, how long is your trip, what have you done so far in the area?

As it happened, I was asked if I had climbed San Pedro Volcano. I explained that I had, but that the view had been obstructed by cloud, and even after waiting on top for 90 minutes, it seemed that the clouds only became thicker.

Then Kate said, “Well then, you’ll just have to climb it again.” Ah, right.

Within a couple of hours, others showed interest, so I posted a notice that I would act as guide to help others reach the summit the next day. Early the next morning, five of us slipped out of the hostel to make our way to the trailhead.

The road sign at the trailhead.

I admit, it didn’t start off well. Kate and two others took the first available tuk tuk, and then Jill and I spent another five minutes looking for another one. When Jill and I arrived at the trailhead, the other three had not yet arrived. After twenty minutes, they still hadn’t arrived. The guard from the park called the tuk tuk company, but, no, there weren’t any tuk tuks broken down anywhere. He also told us not to worry, since he has never heard of passengers in a tuk tuk being robbed or assaulted.

A half hour later, the three women were seen slowly walking up the steep hill toward the trailhead. It seems the tuk tuk driver didn’t know where the trailhead was, so he took them to the entrance of San Juan, the next town over. Realizing that they weren’t in the right place, Kate directed the driver back to San Pedro, where the driver dropped them off at the entrance to a church, assuring our three friends that this was indeed the entrance to the volcano park. Hesitantly, they paid the driver, but it was only after talking with some locals did they realize they were nowhere near the trailhead. Not to be outdone, our three young adventurers made their way by foot to the trailhead.

The hike to the summit was a lot of fun for me. Sharing the trail with four young travellers, all of whom were revelling in the joy of experiencing new adventures, was truly inspiring.

Lake Atitlan from San Pedro Volcano.

We took our time, stopping frequently to play on a rope swing and to take in the views of the lake and the forest. Compared to my previous climb, where I practically raced to the summit, this was a much more enjoyable experience.

San Pedro Volcano, along with its sisters, Toliman Volcano and Atitlan Volcano, was formed about 80,000 years ago. Its altitude, humidity, temperature, and soil conditions make it ideal for coffee and avocado growing. Broad-leaf forests cover most of the volcano, and some of the trees are over 400 years old, covered with ferns, moss, and orchids, which hold themselves to the trees to access humidity and sunlight.

Toliman Volcano to the left Atitlan Volcano to the right

From the summit, we were blessed with perfect views. There was nary a cloud to be seen. And being the first group to summit for the day, we had our pick of rest spots. After taking our requisite photos, we all found spots to lay or sit in the sun, trying to avoid the chill of the summit wind.

My hostel friends enjoying the sun on the summit.

Soon, we were joined by others, and after a long rest in the sun, we began our descent, having added another traveller, Olga, a photographer from Russia, to our merry little band.

I’m glad I climbed this volcano again. It was a completely different, and more enjoyable, experience climbing with a group. And it turns out that the view from the top really is spectacular.

Hanging out on the summit in my ‘hamrock’, a term coined by my high school friend, Dave.

 

The town of Santiago

 

Lake Atitlan, from the summit.

 

Descent through broad-leaf forest.

 

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