Ascent of Montañas Peña Blanca on 2012-12-26

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Edward Earl
Duane Gilliland
Adrian Rayner
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Montañas Peña Blanca
    Elevation:11549 ft / 3520 m

Ascent Trip Report

We climbed this the day after our Cuchumatanes / Cerro Chemal ascent.

Leaving our Huehuetango hotel at 07:30 we are dropped off by our Guatemalan driver at the La Libertad turnoff N15.51508 W91.83205 by 9am. The dirt road from here is steep and fairly rough so we transfer to a pickup, which operates like a bush taxi: we pile in with the locals, making a few stops en route: there are 23 of us in total, standing in the back, holding on to the bars. The road isn't too bad and the scenery is good: steep arid slopes: our summit with its comms masts is visible ahead, a long way above us.

At La Libertad N15.51371 W91.87129 1713m we pay our 10 Quetzales (just over $1) each then transfer to another pickup bound for our La Cruz trailhead. There is a road (fork L, west, at N15.51354 W91.87174) which goes directly there but in the pickup we instead descend and visit a number of villages in the wrong direction. However, questioning the driver, we are assured we are going to La Cruz. The road is rough and in places very steep, needing high clearance and low range. At last we reach the ridge, some 3.5 km north of where we should be (we are the only passengers now), and follow a fine scenic road along the ridge to our destination, a cross-roads at N15.52033 W91.90918, 2750m. This is our trailhead.

We pay our driver, agree a pickup time of 4.30 pm, and at 10.30 start hiking a steep wide dirt track southwest from the road. We're asked if we need a guide. We don't as we have a GPS track from Ken Jones's recent visit, but it's apparently easy to obtain one, e.g. at one of the nearby houses.

The trail climbs steeply to reach a junction N15.51519 W91.91314 where we keep left and descend 20 metres, between fields, with the forested steep slopes of our peak dead ahead, then at N15.51081 W91.91215 go straight ahead. We climb steeply, passing some buildings, then the trail bends R and becomes less steep for a while. Reaching a small levelled area N15.50943 W91.91549 we keep L; at N15.50862 W91.91644 we turn L, climbing through impressive woodland with some very big trees, also plenty of bird life.

At N15.50579 W91.91539 we miss a R turn and continue 200m on the main path which traverses L beneath cliffs, before retracing our steps and finding the junction. The trail reaches the foot of tall limestone cliffs then turns R, staying close to their base before finally passing them. Bending L we are presented with fine rock pinnacles which we pass R of, passing through an impressive arch N15.50471 W91.91990. Beyond, after a while the trail becomes poorly defined and we make another wrong turn, quickly rectified (at N15.50317 W91.91914 go straight up, not R).

We are soon above the last cliff band, following a small trail through scrubby vegetation, making a small descent then the final ascent to the summit with its tall comms masts. The highest point is a limestone outcrop N15.49957 W91.91509, 2523m, just R (south) of the fenced compound. The mast keeper comes over for a chat: Adrian learns that there are two of them, alternating 4-day shifts, climbing from La Cruz just as we did. This would imply about 45 ascents each per year.

The view is good and includes yesterday's Cuchumatanes summit, our next objective Tajumulco and a hill just inside the Mexican border which is 14.5 km away. We arrive at 14:00 and leave after 20 minutes: not long enough but we want to catch our ride down and reach La Libertad before nightfall.

The descent is pleasant and uneventful. A point to note is a fork at N15.50490 W91.91985, soon after the arch, where we keep R. We're back at La Cruz at 16:15, in two hours. Unfortunately there's no sign of our pickup (paying for services only half rendered was apparently a mistake!) We wait for 15 minutes after the agreed time then walk down the direct road, involving 5.5 km and 800m descent. It's steep in its upper part, and blocked at N15.51518 W91.89237 by a makeshift barrier, hence there is no traffic above and very little below. It's a nice walk, and we're in La Libertad about 6 pm, and quickly finding a pickup we're driven swiftly back down the dirt road to our waiting van, arriving at 18:30, after 9.5 hours away.

We are then driven to Xela (Quetzaltenango) where we spend the night prior to our planned Volcán Tajumulco ascent.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3477 ft / 1058 m
    Total Elevation Loss:6125 ft / 1866 m
    Round-Trip Distance:10.4 mi / 16.7 km
    Grade/Class:YDS 1
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3379 ft / 1029 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3281 ft / 1000 m; Extra: 98 ft / 29m
    Loss on way in:98 ft / 29 m
    Distance:3 mi / 4.8 km
    Route:La Cruz, NW ridge
    Start Trailhead:La Cruz  8268 ft / 2520 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:6027 ft / 1837 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 5929 ft / 1808 m; Extra: 98 ft / 29m
    Gain on way out:98 ft / 29 m
    Distance:7.4 mi / 11.9 km
    Route:La Cruz, NW ridge
    End Trailhead:La Cruz  5620 ft / 1712 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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