On the edge of fire: Fuego and Acatenango Volcanoes, Guatemala
Trekking doesn’t come much more memorable than this. Fuego’s lava eruptions had been providing a fireworks display visible from Antigua for three weeks and culminated in its largest eruption in three years. Meanwhile, I patiently waited for successive illnesses to pass. After reporting on the huge eruption for ABC Australia, I was itching to hike to the top of the adjoining mountain of Acatenango and get up close to Fuego’s raw power.
We set out on a cloudy day and began the gruelling six hour hike to base camp. It was an unrelenting steep uphill trek and at least an hour was through scree – volcanic rock and ash that was more akin to hiking a sand dune. It was as much a psychological challenge as a physical one.
Throughout the first day we could hear the eruptions but not see Fuego while hiking on the opposite side of Acatenango, much of it through a stunning cloud forest.
Above the clouds we hiked in the sun to base camp where we had a direct view of Fuego’s summit and almost immediately we were greeted with an eruption.
During the night Fuego delivered some of its most stunning l
ava eruptions and we woke frequently to the ‘boom’ explosions and watched through our tent door as Fuego showed us its fireworks display.
At 4am we began the final two hour ascent and were greeted with the toughest section yet with an hour of deep scree making it difficult to take a step without sliding down half a step. Some of our group chose to stay at base camp.
We reached Acatenango’s 3976m summit for sunrise and looked down on Fuego’s peak to see three spectacular eruptions over the next hour.
I would recommend asking your guide to leave at 2:30am in order to capture eruptions in the dark when the lava is visible.
For a less strenuous volcano experience, a three hour tour is offered to Volcán de Pacaya which currently is not active, but visitors are roasting marshmellows on the heat vents and were previously cooking Lasagna, as in the case of Australia’s Hamish and Andy.
Tour operators: Palasan, Old Town Outfitters or O.X Expeditions, Q650-900 for Acatenango. It is cheapest to book through Terrace Hostel.