Volcan Agua

  • Volcan Agua
  • 3761 m
  • Primary factor 1981 m
  • Guatemala
  • Location: North 14.46537, West 90.74275 (GPS on the summit)
  • Difficulty: YDS class 1
  • Climbed December 15. 2016.


How to get there:
The town of Antigua (UNESCO world heritage) is a good point of departure. From the south side of town, locate the road (well signed) to the town of Santa Maria de Jesus. The drive is about 15 minutes. This town is right at the base of the mountain on its north-east side. Near the main square (and the church), there is a small tourist office, at location N14.49401, W90.70992, elevation about 2070 meter. Locate parking nearby, the climb starts here.
Note: There have been several incidents of armed robbery of hikers in the past. It is unclear if this might still be a problem. One used to get a police escort from the tourist police in Antigua in order to deal with this problem. As of 2016, practice has changed and the tourist office in Santa Maria de Jesus takes care of the issue by supplying a combined police/guide service. They charge 20 quetzal for Guatemala hikers, 40 for other nationalities. To hire a police/guide costs an additional 200 quetzal, hopefully supporting the local community, this is a very low price for additional safety. Contact this office at least one day in advance to make your booking.
Route description:
From the tourist office, walk down the steps shift slightly left to the first street that heads towards Agua, walk 2 blocks, then go right in order to continue towards Agua on the parallel street. This streets ends where the trail begins. The trail is marked with several signs as well as arrows painted on rocks. Initially going straight towards Agua, but then turning into a long sequence of curves as the slope becomes steeper. Mostly, the trail is in a pretty deep trench, it can be used by mules all the way up to the small crater. At elevation 2750 meter, you have a nice view back down. There is a small look-out tower as well. This location is at N14.47642, W90.72690, a fast party should be here in roughly one hour of hiking.
There is another nice place for a short break at location N14.47337, W90.73579, elevation about 3200 meter, From here, the very easy to follow trail, continues to curve uphill, eventually reaching the lower section of the crater rim. There is a hut located just below in the crater, while the trail climbs the final slope among trees, to reach the highest part of the rim. This is all a completely cluttered area with small huts and a maze of antennas. In short, one of the least attractive summit areas I have ever seen. There are some high rocks as you go right when reaching the rim, but also the area far left just below a larger mast, may be the highest point.
Being the last ultra in Guatemala, I asked my hotel in Antigua to organize the climb with assstance from the tourist police. The comcierge was not happy about my proposal, he repeatedly said that they could not recommend hotel guests to do this climb. I had to tell him, in the end, that he was supposed to help organize what I indeed wanted to do. Calls were made and it became clear that the Antigua police now had transferred this business to the local (tourist) office in Santa Maria de Jesus. Overall, I think this is a move in the proper direction, the local community should take responsibility for their mountain and hopefully generate some contribution to the economy. It was all agreed that a combined guide/police would be ready to meet me at 0600 on Thursday morning.
I parked outside the tourist office around 0550 and was immediately greeted by my guide, even before getting out of my car. We quickly settled the account, 40 quetzals for the permit, then 200 more for the guide. He was equipped with a typical police radio in his belt, then carried a huge machete, hopefully this would deter any trouble maker.
We left at 0600, first up the street, then directly onwards along a well used trail. A local dog decided to get a walk and followed along. Higher up, the trail started zig-zaging, in order to keep the slope reasonable. My guide set a pace that was quite fast, I guess he checked to see that I followed without slipping behind. We reached the small look-out tower around 0700, a short rest and some water to drink was welcome. We made a second brief stop near 3200 meter, then continued to the crater, arriving there at 0900.
We continued up the last hill and were on top at 0915. What a complete mess up here! Smaller and larger antennas, small huts and wires strung out to support the various structures. I think this may be the ugliest summit I ever saw. We first explored right, locating first one rock, later a second point, that might me slightly higher. Next we went about 140 meter to the opposite end of this high ridge and located the highest area over there. All pretty similar and with too many constructions obscuring the views across. Our dog was patiently waiting.
The weather was breezy and pretty cold with fog. I got cold hands for the first time in Guatemala. This was also the first time I put on my fleece that had been carried around on all the ultra tops. Leaving at 0950, we headed back down. We met around 6-8 mules coming up the trail, all loaded with cargo. Soon, we were down by the look-out tower where a break was called for. It was again warm and sunny. A good view from here down to Santa Marta de Jesus as well as across further east to Lago de Amatitlán.
We subsequently continued downhill and were back at the tourist office by 1200. Thus, I was back at the hotel well before lunch, a nice way to conlude the ascents of the ultra prominent mountains of Guatemala.