Hiking Santiaguito: Traveling to Guatemala to see a volcano that is exploding

Climbing Mount Santiagit
Sierra, Guatemala
The active volcano in Guatemala, Santiago, erupts hot ash and rocks every few hours. Therefore, of course, we decided to climb up the crater on foot and camp nearby.
First of all, let me tell you something about this volcano. The San Diego crater is a very active lava dome and part of the larger Santa Maria volcanic system.
Mount Santa Maria is 12375 feet high. In 1902, a violent explosion blew up the south of the mountain, causing one of the largest volcanic eruptions in the 20th century, and killing more than 10000 people.
The ash of this massive eruption was detected in San Francisco, 2500 miles away.
In my photo of Santa Maria below, you can see the result of the huge explosion in 1902. Half of the peaks have disappeared.
The lava dome of Santiago was created in the aftermath of the explosion. Since then, it has erupted regularly every few hours in the past 80 years.
Santa Maria Volcano
Mount Santa Maria
Santa Maria Mirador
Mirador of Mount Santa Maria
Climbing Mount Santiaquito
I really want to climb this volcano and get as close to its action as possible. But it is not easy and may be very dangerous.
With a 40-pound backpack, I struggled for 8 hours to camp in an old inactive crater, just beside the active crater.
This is not a normal tourism activity.
Most of the tourists in the region just climbed up the nearby Mount Santa Maria and looked down from a safe distance at the San Diego volcano — which exploded a mile away.
Only crazy people will try to hike and camp on the actual volcano.
But through a little magic of sofa surfing, I successfully summoned 6 crazy people to join me. A hiking company is willing to take people to the active part of the volcano itself.
However, it took them several hours to find the only experienced guide who knew the route because it was a particularly difficult and dangerous hiking trip.
Our guide’s name is: crazy Charlie. Perfect! “。
Santiaguito Lava Dome
Not on the earth. Santiago Lava Dome
Volcanic Plants
Steam vents and exotic plants
Not walking in the park
In order to complete our task of climbing to the top of San Diego volcano, we have to hike, climb, scrub, and directly climb (sometimes vertical!) the “path” part of most of the journey.
All of this is carrying a full backpack. Everyone has 6 liters of water and other things we need to stay on the barren volcano for two days.
After preparing for the trip, the team set out and boarded Mount Santa Maria 2 hours before the hiking trip.
On the way to the half of Mount Santa Maria, we stopped to rest in Santiago Mirador, which is full of tourists, and looked down at the erupting lava dome in the distance below.
Now is the time to go through the dense jungle, slide down from the steep lava trough covered by volcanic ash, and come to the “beach” – a huge landslide quarry between Santa Maria and Santiago.
The journey lasted about five hours, and we were all exhausted. In order to lighten our burden, we hid the surplus water and the unnecessary machetes together and began to climb to the lava dome itself.
The Volcano Lava Dome
Can you find the crazy Charlie?
Volcano Ash Heaps
What is the feeling of the moon
Welcome to the moon!
It feels like we have left the earth and are now hiking on the surface of the moon. Everything was covered by a thick layer of ash, making the whole landscape colorless.
Steam is rising from the ground vent. Clouds and fog move around us, sometimes making us unable to see more than 10 feet ahead.
However, the dome is not completely lifeless. There are some strange plants, with huge leaves and green and yellow moss, mysteriously growing from the ashes.
Finally, we encountered the last obstacle before reaching the top. Only 30 feet of vertical rock climbing.
With our heavy backpacks and no ropes.
Oh, and the stone you think you grabbed? It is actually just a solid ash pile. When you put any weight on it, it will scatter. interesting! “。
But under the guidance of the laser, we focused our attention, carefully tested the handrail, and made a strong communication. All of us reached the top of the mountain safely.
In the past eight hours, our group of completely strangers have become a great team – everyone is taking care of each other.
Is it worth climbing the volcano?
Well, after a hard day of technical climbing, we saw an incredible beauty.
Volcano Santiaguito Eruption 2010
Santaguito volcano erupted around us
The San Diego volcano began to scream like a jet engine because it released its power. Ashes were thrown into the air 200 meters high, and avalanche-like rocks rolled from one side to the abyss below.
This is crazy! The whole eruption process lasted about 5-10 minutes.
After dealing with the incredible display of primitive power of nature, we made a fire on the moon with pieces of wood tied to our backpacks.
It is getting dark. It will be a long, cold and interesting night in the future.
When the sun disappears, we can hear bats creaking in the air above us.
When we sat around the fire and drank whisky to relieve our aching muscles, the earth broke out again. It’s too dark to see clearly this time — but now there’s a new surprise
Our Campsite
Camping on the volcano
The volcanic explosion continues
About 15 minutes after the eruption, the ash began to snow around us. It was a volcanic ash storm! The wind direction changed and we were covered by a thin layer of gray volcanic ash.
It floated down like snowflakes, reflecting the beam of our flashlight.
However, our fatigue and whisky soon began to play a role, and seven of us were crowded in a five-person tent. We have been afraid for a reason. Sleepless all night.
It was cold, wet and crowded, and our next-door neighbor broke out loud two or three times in the evening.
It is difficult to sleep next to the roaring jet engine.
Santiaguito Crater
Hiking on the Huohuo Mountain Pass
Santiaguito Crater Summit
View the scenery from the top of the mountain
Should we really do this?
But the adventure is not over! At 5:00 the next morning, we went to an activity. At 5:00 the next morning, we climbed over the edge of the camp and went down the mountain to meet our neighbors.
We scrambled to go down on the steep rocks. When the loose boulders rolled past, we called to each other. We came to a small valley near the active crater.
From there, we came to the very active San Diego crater.
It may erupt at any time, and we are standing on it.
Although we are not actually on the side that is often hit by rock landslides, our nerves are still tense.
After all, volcanoes are notoriously unpredictable.
At the top, at the extreme edge of the Huohuo Mountain Pass, a large amount of sulfur smoke enveloped us. We put a scarf or T-shirt on our face to help eliminate the strong smell.
Sunrise over Guatemala
Sunrise on the volcano
Prepare for the worst
Unfortunately, the morning fog and clouds surrounded us, so we can only see a fleeting glimpse of the crater itself.
Crazy Charlie told us that if the volcano erupts when we are on the volcano, we should lie on the far side of the crater to avoid any projective rocks from the inside (they will only fly over us).
Fortunately, we did not experience this emergency personally
Finally, it is time to pack up everything and start an 8-hour hard journey back to civilized society. And remove all the volcanic ash from our clothes.
Massive 2016 Eruption
Large-scale volcanic eruption in 2016
San Diego Volcano Update
Hi, hello! It has been 9 years since I first hiked and camped near the San Diego crater in Guatemala in 2010. Since I first embarked on that crazy adventure, many things have changed.
The volcano experienced a large-scale eruption on June 17, 2016. If we were there, it would be easy to be killed.
Due to the increased activity on the volcano, the local government no longer allows people to travel on foot so close to the volcano.

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