On September 9 I got up painfully early for a guided hike up Vulcan Pacaya, an active volcano near Antigua. The reason for going early is to avoid the clouds that usually move in during the afternoon. Other than the time it was a pretty easy tour; leave Antigua at 6:00 a.m., get to the trail head at 8:00, reach the top at 10:00, and back in Antigua around 1:00 in the afternoon. It was the best volcano I have seen; I got to stand on top of the cinder cone, look into the crater and inhale lots of sulfur gas. The only thing missing was hot lava, I'm still looking for that volcano experience.
Here is the approach to the cindercone and me. In examining how I look with a beard, I am struck by the fact that the bottom half of my head does a better job of growing hair than the top half. Not that that is a problem, it just seems a little strange:
More shots of the cindercone, which is much larger than it looks in the above picture. Also some of the graffiti on recent flow fields.
The next few pictures are an attempt at giving a sense of scale of the cindercone. The little dots where the edge of the cindercone meets the sky are people. It was a moderately strenuous hike. Fortunately it was high enough so the climate was cool:
Hiking up the cindercone:
The view from the top of Pacaya; the trail leading up and the edge of the crater:
Looking into the crater. The yellow surfaces are covered with sulfur, I didn't go in there to learn what the other colors were:
Two guys showing off. They were nuts. The sulfur gas was intense and dangerous; we sometimes had to hustle a short distance down the cindercone to get out of its way when the wind shifted. Had they lost their footing or consciousness and fallen into the vent I don't think they would have come out alive:
A Kodak moment from the top of Pacaya:
Climbing up the cindercone we followed a trail packed down by many previous hikers. The trail did some switchbacks so it wasn't brutally steep. On the way down we just went straight down, plodding through loose lava rock and sinking in to the ankles. Not bad with a good pair of boots but I would not recommend doing this in sandles. Finally, a parting shot of the Pacaya:
I returned to Antigua for a couple of days, then on September 12 headed for Panajachel on Lake Atitlan: