Ascent of Volcán Atitlán on 2013-08-29

Climber: Josh Hayward

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Thursday, August 29, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Volcán Atitlán
    Elevation:11604 ft / 3536 m

Ascent Trip Report

See the full report and pictures on my site at

Did a solo from the West side of the mountain.

After many people and websites talking about robberies on Volcan Atitlan and Toliman I got myself some bear spray and a machete and headed up.

I took a boat from San Pedro to Santiago at 9:15am and hopped on a locals pickup truck for a ride to the trail head. I told him I wanted to hike to El Charan, (The saddle) so that I could hike Toliman and then Atitlan for the night. He told me of another trail that went straight up Atitlan and that it took only 3 hours to go all the way up. I took this trail and then hiked Volcan Toliman several days later on a separate trip.

He drove way up the new highway, currently under construction, and then dropped me off on the side of the road pointing to a trail.

I grabbed my backpack and machete and started hiking at 11:00am. It was quite steep as I was already on the mountain and for the first 1.5 hours I ran into workers chopping wood.

I had conversation with 2 of them and both told me that this trail didn't go to the top and that I had to go down and around to the saddle.

Already being up quite a ways I decided to disregard their advice and just follow my compass and the ridge in an upwards direction.

About 30 minutes after talking to the last person I saw the trail disappeared. I kept going and for about 2 hours I forged my own trail having to use my machete on only about 3 occasions as I made my way up the ridge.

I went through an area of bamboo, a large forest with HUGE trees and then a pine forest before emerging at 3:00pm onto the final 300-400meter section of rock and finding a minor trail.

These last couple hundred meters took me 2 hours to ascend as I was exhausted from my hike. I would walk about 10 steps and rest, 10 steps and rest, etc.

It was cloudy most of the hike and sometimes very dense being able to see only 50-100 feet ahead. When I emerged from the forest is was still cloudy but cleared at 3:30pm enough that I could see neighboring Volcan Toliman... atleast a glimpse of it.

At 4:00pm on the dot, in true Guatemalan fashion, it started to rain. The rain lasted 30 minutes and then I reached the summit at 5:00pm.

I spent 30 minutes checking out the cone and the the hot water vapor coming out of the rocks all over the summit before setting up camp for the night.

The was a small 6' by 6' hut at the top that I decided to pitch my one-man tent in as it would provide great shelter from the impending rain. It fit perfectly.

I ate, and was asleep by 6:00pm.

I woke up many times during the night and on two occasions there was some kind of animal snooping around outside the hut. I never got a look at it though.

The dreams I was having were extremely trippy, perhaps because of the oxygen level and the thunder was epically loud. It rained from about 6:30pm-9:00pm and while it was raining I got up and enjoyed a surprisingly clear view of the lake and all the towns around it as their lights were clearly visible.

I went back to bed until 3:50am and then got up for some breakfast and to watch the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. There was a red, yellow, orange, purple and blue sky, with a great view of Acatenango and Fuego who burped a plume of smoke every one in a while.

I stayed on the summit until 7:00am taking pictures and enjoying the view up the coast of Volcan's San Pedro, Santa Maria, and Tajulmuco.

I found my way to the actual trail and headed down along the same route as Michale Buchs' and Rob Woodall's GPS tracks until I reached the saddle, at which point I turned left to head towards Santiago.

I used my compass again for bearing and made my way home. It took 2 hours to descend to the saddle and 2 hours and 20 minutes on a slow decline to make it back to the highway and then on to Santiago.

This was the most challenging and most rewarding climb I have done yet.

Highly recommended.

See the full report and pictures on my site at
Summary Total Data
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Drizzle, Cold, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:6 Hours 0 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:4 Hours 20 Minutes

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