Conquering Mount Pacaya

Who wouldn't "lava" hike up an active Guatemalan volcano?

Guatemalan LandscapeJohn Stegenga
The Guatemalan landscape.

Last year, my wife Annette and I decided to visit our friends in Guazacapán, Guatemala. They operate a mission called “Power At Work,” which aids and supports the people in the area. We would assist them by delivering tables and bunk beds, made in the workshop on the base, to needy families, as well as help deliver food for their feeding program.

Our hosts asked us what we would like to do on a “day away” for sightseeing. After some discussion, we decided to climb the Pacaya volcano, which is over 2,552 metres above sea level.

Pacaya, once dormant, began erupting in 1961 and has had several lava flows since. The latest eruption occurred in 2021, when the volcano sent lava and ash over corn fields and cow pastures, while also burning a small village in its path. The Pacaya volcano is near Escuintla and around 50 kilometers from Antigua.

Pacaya Volcano HikersCourtesy John Stegenga
John, Annette and friends at the trail’s base.

We headed up to register and pay for our assigned guide, whom we were very grateful to have with us. Our group of nine assembled for the adventure, outfitted with good walking shoes, extra water and lunch.

Pacaya Ashy SurfaceJohn Stegenga
The volcano’s rough terrain and ashy surface.

We started the arduous climb through loose stones and lava dust. We refused the horseback option, as we were determined to hike on our own strength. We took many rest stops along the way to catch our breath, drink some water and take pictures, before reaching a plateau. From there, we made our way across the most recent lava flow, on a path to our end destination.

Group Selfie With Mount Pacaya GuidesCourtesy John Stegenga
A group selfie with the guides.

We found a suitable place to sit, enjoy our lunch and have some much-needed rest after the two-hour climb. During our lunch break, the fog rolled in and obstructed the views we saw earlier. Our guide supplied us with sticks and marshmallows to roast in some of the hot spots in the craggy rocks.

Group Hike Mount PacayaJohn Stegenga

With our upward adventure completed, we descended slowly and carefully but we slid and slipped down Pacaya’s uneven and steep trails. Exhausted but exhilarated, I could now check this volcano experience off my bucket list, an item I had added that morning.

If you’ve just added Mount Pacaya to your own bucket list, you’ll love our roundup of the world’s greatest hikes.

Originally Published in Our Canada