Bucket List Moment : Hiking Acatenango

On December 1st, eight years to the day after I moved to Antigua, I finally summited Volcan Acatenango. 13 thousand+ feet and worth every, single step. It was a small group of six of us, guided by local favorites Oldtown Outfitters, geared up and dropped off at the base of Acatenango on a cold but clear Wednesday morning. I had mentally prepared myself for the moment, but didn't anticipate the sheer joy that I would feel as I took my time absorbing the expansive views, seasonal wildflowers, and deep conversations with friends as we hiked six hours up, up, and up.

A somewhat leisurely stop for a picnic lunch complete with piping hot chai tea and a short nap in the shade, recharged us all to push on for another few hours until we reached base camp. We rested again for bit, then, with smaller packs, made the last, grueling one and half hours summit to the top of Acatenango.

The summit climb felt entirely vertical, scrambling through ash rock and sand, bouldering over big rocks in the freezing cold but with the warmth of the sun at eye level. By then, I was wearing 3 thick layers, a beanie, and gloves, switching between trekking poles and my hands to reach the final peak.

I will never forget the rush and feeling of being so alive and literally on top of the world as I crested the top of the volcano crater, the sun hovering just before us in an explosion of warm, pastel colors, Volcan Fuego erupting in plumes of smoke and lava to my left. Hands so cold we scooped hot volcanic rocks into our palms to keep them warm. A feeling of complete accomplishment, joy and gratitude as I stood on my own two feet that had carried me so far, next to my husband who accompanied me the whole way.

As soon as the sun dipped behind the horizon, we slid down the mountain with headlamps on only to be relieved and greeted by hot chocolate and a big pasta dinner. Sleeping in tents by a campfire, cheering at an erupting Volcan de Fuego, and waking up to fresh coffee and a rising sun made it all the more an adventure that I’m so truly grateful for.

Nestled high above our little Antigua house, I gazed down onto the incredible valley that I have called home for many years with such warmth knowing that by the time I was back in town, I would never look up at these volcanos the same way again. To many, many more peaks like this.