I am not a night owl. Anyone who knows me, knows this. My bedtime is roughly 10- 11pm, depending on how productive I was during the day.
So, to sign up for a hike that *begins* at 11pm might sound a little crazy for me. But I did it anyway.
The full-moon hike up Volcán Santa María outside of Xela only happens once a month (duh), so it was definitely full (40 people all together signed up through Quetzaltrekkers). We met at the Quetzaltrekkers office just below my hotel room at 11 pm to arrange gear and nosh on a delicious vegan stew and bread.
My gear: big backpack, sleeping bag, extra sweatshirt, hat, gloves, three liters of water, my camera, and an egg sandwich (provided by Quetzaltrekkers).
We divided ourselves into the “slower” group and the “faster” group– I put myself in the faster group, following the advice of the guides the day before to be at the back of the second group and last up the mountain. The slower group left about a half hour before the faster group to get a head start, and we stood around chatting for a while.
There were a LOT of medical students. They were… nice. I had met some of them the week before, when I translated a menu for them at a restaurant.
Finally, we all boarded a pickup bound for the base of the volcano. 20 minutes later, we were on the pitch-dark trail.
I quickly found myself at the back of the pack (with a guide carrying a MUCH heavier pack than I), as the (male) med students sprinted on ahead. They were carrying neither sleeping bags nor water. One of them had his iPod on, and said that he’d only use it “IF the trail got hard.”
Proceeding slowly and steadily over the rocks and roots and mud, squinting in the dimming light of my headlamp (batteries running low…), I stuck with the back group for the first half or so of the trail. Then we got into the endless switchbacks.
I pretty much have one speed when hiking. I can’t go faster, and I can’t really go slower. I’ll rest when I want to, I’ll eat when I want to, and that’s that. I can go at that pace for HOURS though. And so, I did. 4.5 hours, in fact.
I passed the group I started with. I passed the tail end of the “slow” group. I caught up to the main bunch of the “slow” group. And then I caught the med students, just below the top of the mountain.
I admit, I did use my iPod. La 5a Estación and Julietta Venegas accompianied me to the top, on the lowest volume setting that I could hear over the swish of my rainpants.
We arrived at the summit at around 4:30 in the morning, with a half-hour before sunrise. I started out huddled in my (gross, sweaty) cotton t-shirt layered with a lightweight longsleeved polypro top, a midweight fleece, another heavier fleece, and my rainjacket (longundies and rainpants on the bottom), plus gloves and hat. Then I got in my sleeping bag. That was not sufficient, and I started jumping up and down, still in my sleeping bag (rated to -5 degrees F, thankyouverymuch). That was not sufficient either, and I found myself shaking uncontrolably.
Sunrise, as (hopefully) evidenced by the previous post, was stunning.
We hung around at the top until about 6:30, and I seriously thought I was going to die of the cold. Thankfully, the guides boiled some water for hot beverages (I mixed some instant coffee with hot chocolate) and that helped a lot.
We set off down the same trail we had hiked up, taking about half the time to descend as we did to climb. We all piled into a chickenbus for the ride back to Xela, and arrived just before 11am.
Rather than go to sleep, I showered and ran out to get some errands done before meeting a friend at 2pm. Adreneline all the way.