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Ascent of Cerro Las Minas on 2014-12-04

Climber: Denise Mclellan

Others in Party:Richard Mclellan -- Trip Report or GPS Track
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Thursday, December 4, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Taxicab
Peak:Cerro Las Minas
    Location:Honduras
    Elevation:9347 ft / 2848 m

Ascent Trip Report


Overview:

We did this walk as a two day backpack with no guide. It is a straightforward walk in Celaque National Park (cloud forest) in Western Honduras with paths and some signs. It could possibly be done in one day by a fast party who start at first light but the upper sections ( above Don Tomas) could be hard to do in the dark due to route-finding difficulties in the lush vegetation and days are only 12 hours long. There is quite a bit of extra elevation.

We started at a town called Gracias. We arrived at the bus station from Santa Rosa de Copan, then walked to the ‘parque central’ ( central square) and then went to Hotel Guancascos, 400m SW ( three blocks west and one block south of the SW corner of the square) . Hotel Guancascos is on the slopes of the hill of the same name and has lovely terraced gardens, nice views, good food, hot showers (rare in Honduras) fast wifi and friendly staff . The owner is Dutch and speaks good English; other staff speak Spanish.
See: http://www.guancascos.com/
On the Hotel website is a town map and a sketch map of the ascent of the mountain which they call ‘Montana de Celaque.’

Contrary to some information, it is not necessary to hire a guide, but you can if you want- this supports the local economy and we heard good reports about their ability to identify birds.

The is the High Point of Honduras and a world ultra. Richard will upload his GPS track on his page.

Reaching the trailhead:

We get a tuk tuk from the hotel to the National Park gates via a dirt road which passes the village of Villa Verde- c 8km/ 25 minutes (L250) from Gracias and plan to walk back down the following day- though in fact we hitch a lift part way down. The Park gate is not very welcoming with a locked metal bar gate and ‘no vehicles’ sign and little indication that it is a 40 minute walk on a rough 4WD forest track uphill to the Visitor Centre.

We reach the Visitor Centre, still under construction, at 11:20 (1400m); The centre is completely empty apart from a park warden who charges L150pp entrance fee for foreigners plus L100 pp to camp the night in the park. He shows us a noticeboard with a sketch map of the route (which we photographed) and some obvious common sense rules such as no alcohol, collection of wood or fires. There is no further gate etc to go through. It looks like they are building some additional visitor facilities here, but there is nothing open.You could wild- camp here.

Detailed trail description:

We depart the visitor centre at 11:30. There are mosquitos and we use repellent to protect against possible Dengue fever. The forest path is well signposted and variously marked with signs, tape, slashes and even some red and white paint. It is not muddy underfoot due to leathery leaves. It initially follows the river, passing a disused concrete dam/? former HEP station and crosses two rotting bridges, one over Rio Arcgual immediately after the Visitor Centre and then over the large tributary, Rio Mecatal.

The path then climbs steeply, zig zagging up to a small ridge. At 12.15 we reach a rest place at 1580m, 1 km from the VC and at 12:43 we reach a second at 1721m, with wooden benches. We eat lunch here , noting that there are more tree ferns here. We ignore the signs to the Bromeliad and Waterfall trails at 1800m and continue left up the more direct route, now traversing up and down the left hand side of the ridge, over multiple steep sided small streams. These streams are easy to step over, with no bridges. (Collect water here if you plan to camp at Don Tomas).

We reach the lower campsite , Campo Don Tomas at 14:20, at a sign saying 2.81k ( at 1940m). In the small clearing is a pit toilet, fire pit ( with no cut wood) covered by a metal sheet and large concrete based, wooden sided, tin roofed, three sided- shelter open to a second fire pit (though fires are not allowed?).(It is a further 15 minutes walk along the track to a waterfall/ water supply, if you did not collect water earlier.)

We continue past the waterfall and several more streams before finally starting to gain some height, the path zig- zagging up. At 14:55 we round a small shoulder with tiny flat area and sign saying ‘Dios omni presence’ ( God is everywhere) and then at 15:00 reach a signed junction to an alternative descent route- Sendero el gallo ( path of the rooster) . We ignore this and ascend steeply, carefully following the tape- marked path through very lush trees and undergrowth. We presume we are now in ‘cloud forest’- there are many ferns and plants we would recognise as houseplants; epiphytes adorn the branches, also covered with moss and lichen and everything is growing profusely or rotting rapidly.

At 1630 we reach the upper campsite- El Naranjo ( sign said 2560m, 4.55k). There is a similar large three -sided wooden floored bivi shelter, fire pit with no wood and pit toilets. About 30m beyond is a large, flat, leaf- covered area, with no apparent rotting branches above and 30 m from a steep sided stream, further along the path. This was where we camped. Water drips continuously and it is dark by 1730 and a cool 10 degrees centigrade. The wind blows the branches above. The canopy floor is alive with insects, but they do not appear interested in us.

We set off the following morning at first light at 06:30 in drizzle, leaving the tent up- we were the only ones there. We go about 30 m down to and across the stream, then traverse on a tape- marked path through thick forest with some fallen trees before ascending in swirling mist. The path goes up and down over knolls and cols a surprising amount. We pass a junction signposted ‘El Naranjito’ (village) – which had seemed an attractive traversing option, but the only information we had was that this route was very hard to follow , which we could believe, given the lush, fast growing vegetation.

We reach the summit at 08:16- There is a sign: Las Minas, Honduran Highpoint 2849m 7.43k( 2872m per our GPS), wooden bench, small (20mx3m) clearing and flag but no apparent bench mark of any type. The sun came out and, peering through a break in the trees, we could see we were above the white cloud and various, lower, tree -topped ridges. In the distance we think we can see the twin peaks of San Vincente.

We start our descent at 08:45 and retrace our steps to the tent, enjoying warming beams of sunlight through the trees. We pass the El Naranjito turning at 09:05 and reach our tent at 10:12. We leave at 10:37, without cagoules, the sun and breeze having a surprising drying effect despite the tree cover. We retrace our steps down the steep path through the beautiful lush green succulent ‘cloud forest’ and reach a sunny, mosquito, infested junction at 11.45, making a quick decision to take the alternative el Gallo path down, despite the additional ascent.

This path goes down to the river then ascends steeply through even thicker undergrowth. It is apparently less well used but we were still able to follow it without difficulty. At 13:00 we reach the top of the ridge and have lunch, then continue along the ridge with some good views of forest as far as the eye could see. Spiky green ‘yukka’ plants scratch our legs. It is then a pleasant descent in more open vegetation, until we reach the junction with the Liquidambar path at 15:10. Here we turn left (shorter) to join the main path at 15:10 ( sign for ascent is very small) and follow our ascent route back to the Visitor Centre ( 15:25) over the bridge . We descend the 4WD track back to the bar gate/ park boundary (15:46) and start to walk down the road, trying to identify the birds and avoid the school buses. At 16:20 a passing jeep offers us a lift and by 16:30 we are dropped off at Gracias Bus station. We stay the night at the pleasant Guancasco hotel and try to dry things a bit. An excellent two day trip.

Summary Total Data
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Stream Ford
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Drizzle, Pleasant, Calm, Partly Cloudy
humid, cool, occasional sun
Ascent Statistics
    Time:8 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:7 Hours 



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