I´m a guide: Tajumulco

A peek into leading a Quetzaltrekker trip up Volcán Tajumulco

Friday morning: Check the enrollment forms to see how many people have signed up for each hike.  Play the always-entertaining guessing game of estimating the number of clients who will show up during the day and go buy the appropriate amount of beans, fruit, veggies, bread and nachos.

Friday afternoon: Start chopping vegetables and cooking food for all of the treks – lunch salads and homemade pasta sauce.  Prepare medical kits, stoves, fuel bottles, tents, spice kits, shit kits and gather dry food.  Answer questions and sign up clients as they come through the office.

Friday 4:45 p.m: Divide up group gear into piles for each person and prepare for pre-trek meeting.

Friday 5:00  p.m: Meeting time. Greet trekkers, collect money and introduce Quetzaltrekkers. Explain the itinerary of the hike and what equipment everyone needs to pack.  Invite everyone to borrow any gear that they might need.  Repeatedly instruct everyone to remember their water, plate, cup and spoon until you think it´s impossible to forget.

Friday night: Notify both comedores that you´ll be bringing a group of hikers to come eat, just like each of the last 52 weeks.  Divide and label each trek´s lunch salads and pasta sauce.  Play tetris with the plastic containers to stuff the tiny QT fridge to capacity.

Saturday 3:45 a.m: Roll out of bed and walk to the office.  Finish packing your bag with guide gear.  Make fresh guacamole (delicious!) and set out remaining food for clients to pack.

Sat. 4:45 a.m: Welcome the first clients and thank them for arriving on time.

5:00 a.m: Cram people and packs in the back of Víctor´s pick-up and head to the Minerva Terminal.  Bask in the early morning garbage fires.

5:45 a.m: Bus leaves for San Marcos.

7:15 a.m: Greet the always happy Lérida and give her the breakfast order at the fantastic San Marcos comedor.  Sip the infamous Guatemalan coffee-tea, a sugary concoction that always inspires debate as to its true ingredients.

9:00 a.m: Arrive in Tuichan (3000m) and try to avoid Esteban.  Should you fail you´ll have to pay an entrance fee and sign his amazingly unofficial logbook.  I still have no clue as to where the money is sent but I can guarantee he´ll creepily stroke your arm (if you´re lucky) while writing receipts in broken Spanish.  Shake his hand and start hiking ASAP!

11:00 a.m: Enjoy a scenic trail mix break and give some background on the region.  Be sure to give an exhausting explanation as to the proper use of the shit kit. The shovel should not touch the shit!

12:30 p.m: Lunch time! Whip out the Guac, salads, PB&J and picamás! You know your presentation is solid when clients start taking photos of the spread.

3:30 p.m: Arrive at the campsite (4007m) and throw down your pack with a glorious sigh.  Set up tents and grab your book.

5:30 p.m: Gather everyone together and head up Cerro Concepción for sunset.  If you´re lucky you´ll be looking down on a sea of pink/red/orange clouds.  If you´re unlucky, you´ll be back at camp and feebly attempting to escape the rain under the cook tarp.

7:00 p.m: Fight the falling mercury with a hot cup of tea – it´ll whet your whistle before a fantastic dinner of backcountry pasta with homemade sauce.

9:00 p.m: Roll out the sleeping pad and read a few pages of Guatemalan Journey before bed.

Sun 4:00 a.m: ¡Buenos Días! Give out a wakeup call and jam your sleeping bag and mat into your pack.  Switch on the headlamp and start the final climb to summit.

5:30 a.m: High-fives all around for climbing the highest point in Central America!  Crawl into your down bag and await a magnificent sunrise over Guatemala´s volcanic horizon.  Watch for the smoky eruptions of Fuego and Santiaguito.  Reward everybody with homemade cookies from the kids of the Hogar.

7:00 a.m: Thoroughly awed, circle Tajumulco´s crater and descend back to camp.

8:00 a.m: Sip a well-deserved mocha and slurp some mosh with all the fixin´s!

Sunrise at 4220 meters

9:00 a.m: Massage your knees before heading down TJ´s stunning ridgeline.

12:00 p.m. Lunch with the fantastic Mirna.  If, for some unfortunately unforeseen circumstances, a surprise snowstorm froze your bones for the last 24 hours you should beeline it for the kitchen and thaw your hands over the tortillas.

1:30 p.m. Wedge yourself into the overstuffed Tuichan-San Marcos chickenbus.  Only 6 adults in your row? 20 people in the aisle? The driver will pick up that family and his truty ayudante will find room, ¨Péganse por favor, hay lugares.¨

4:30 p.m: Home sweet home! Arrive back at Casa Argentina, give a killer farewell talk and thank the clients for being such a pleasure. Collect gear and say adiós.

5:30 p.m: Finish cleaning and sink into the couch with a long-overdue mate.

9:00 p.m: Grab some ponche (mixta, con ron – naturally) at the park and reminisce the trek at Pool & Beer.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kelly on 8 January, 2011 at 7:39 am

    Do you still provide guide services for Tajumulco? I am arranging something in the next 4-8 weeks. If you still do this please email me as I would like to discuss further. Thanks!


    • Posted by snordq on 13 January, 2011 at 8:42 pm

      Hi Kelly, I’m no longer guiding at Quetzaltrekkers. However, they still have a wonderful staff of volunteer guides that lead Tajumulco every weekend. Please check out their website and send them an e-mail if you have any questions. This is the perfect time of year for beautifully clear alpine sunrise!


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