Ascent of Volcán Tajumulco on 2012-12-27

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Edward Earl
Duane Gilliland
Adrian Rayner
Date:Thursday, December 27, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Volcán Tajumulco
    Elevation:13845 ft / 4219 m

Ascent Trip Report

We climbed this the day after our Montañas Peña Blanca ascent. We had spent the night in Quetzaltenango (aka Xela) and reached the trailhead late, starting hiking at 10:30, from the highpoint of the main highway (N15.07379 W91.87031, 3035m).

We follow a cobbled road (initially west) which starts opposite a collection of buildings including a cafeteria and a post office. The road winds uphill, passes a few houses, turns to dirt and descends a little. As it climbs towards the mountain it becomes rough - 4x4 territory really, although a full sized bus (they have high clearance) has made it to a parking area at N15.05970 W91.87709. The road ends 300m farther on, at N15.05719 W91.87850, 3386m, with a parking space filled with about 10 4x4 vehicles (all Toyotas, we notice).

From the parking area a foot trail continues upwards through grassy pinewood. It climbs steeply then there is a choice of routes: at N15.05605 W91.87989 the GPS trails provided by Ken Jones and Richard Mclellan both bend right then cut back left. This avoids some slightly rougher steeper ground. However, we take the more direct, more obvious and apparently more popular route, straight uphill. Above a short steep section the path levels out then bends left, passing a small shack which on closer inspection turns out to be a toilet, possibly not in use N15.05288 W91.88586.

Edward is suffering a heavy cold and moving very slowly so we agree to split up: he is confident he can follow the trail and road back down, relying on his keen night vision likely assisted by a nearly full moon.

In time the trail crosses a side slope with the east ridge to our left (the ridges join at N15.04759 W91.89264: Adrian ascended via the E ridge on his previous ascent), reaches a saddle, passes left of a small rugged top then climbs a steep dirt ridge through graceful pine trees. Our ridge meets the base of the main summit at a small bouldery crater (concrete column remnants of some structure) used for camping (although apparently the main campsite is further L, SW). The trail keeps R here (N15.04424 W91.89992) following the right hand edge of this crater then traverses R (west), becoming steep and rocky (YDS 2+), bending L and ascending a wide rocky gully to reach a saddle. We head straight up L to the summit, following a shortcut path, although the main route goes to the saddle then climbs L to reach the crater rim, keeping L to reach the summit via a couple other minor bumps. The highest point appears to be a boulder at N15.04303 W91.90367 (4222m), although a scruffy outcrop just to the north (N15.04339 W91.90391) looks almost as high. The views are pretty good but a fair bit of cloud is building - it would have been better an hour ago.

There is a Guatemalan family at the summit; we have seen well over a hundred people during our ascent, mostly on their way down having camped near the summit - as is the normal custom although it's a very doable day hike. Accordingly, on our way down we see many people coming up. We don't see any other gringos, though.

We summit at 14:20 and spend half an hour on top. Then Duane heads down while Adrian and I make a clockwise circuit (YDS 2+) of the crater rim, passing the south rim top (N15.04201 W91.90491, 4169m, rock outcrop, about P10m) continue to the far north top (N15.04369 W91.90454, 4215m, cairn) then at 15:15 follow Duane down, finally catching him about halfway down. Duane had got the impression we had got past him, so we were all chasing each other and accordingly got down pretty fast: 1hr 35 in the case of Adrian and I.

We're down just before 5pm. Edward arrives quite a bit later. We hadn't seen him on our way down which was puzzling: turned out he'd taken a different route near the summit hence we hadn't met him. Meanwhile our driver has found a nice restaurant hidden away up a driveway approx 200m south of the road pass (W side of road), and the three of us get a meal here while waiting for Edward.

We spend a second night in Xela. We'll take a day out before the biggest ascent of the trip: Volcán Atitlán.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4052 ft / 1234 m
    Extra Gain:66 ft / 20 m
    Round-Trip Distance:8.5 mi / 13.6 km
    Route:Northeast ridge
    Trailhead:9925 ft / 3025 m
    Grade/Class:YDS 2+
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 50 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 35 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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