Ascent of Volcán Atitlán on 2017-02-10

Climber: Seán Caulfield

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Friday, February 10, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Volcán Atitlán
    Elevation:11604 ft / 3536 m

Ascent Trip Report

Took a boat from San Pedro la Laguna to Santiago Atitlán - I was told the boats start at 6am & then leave hourly, but I got to the pier (not the main pier in San Pedro, there is a separate pier for Santiago boats) at about 6:50am & there was no-one there & no boat. People started to arrive & the boat eventually left at around 7:20am - it seems the boats leave whenever the boat captain feels like it, not to any particular schedule. Fare is 10Q, you pay just before arriving in Santiago, don't get Gringoed & buy a "ticket" for 25Q if anyone tries to sell you one, FARE IS 10Q!!

Once in Santiago I walked up the hill & to the left to the road out of town towards San Lucas Toliman. I had planned to get one of the pickup trucks that leave all the time between the two towns, but instead I got a chicken bus, the first vehicle that passed heading that way (5Q). This was a bonus, since the chicken bus was going further than San Lucas I took it to a junction out after the town & started my hike from there, saving a few km of hiking.

Just after the junction, before a (dry) creek there is a dirt trail leading towards an antenna, I followed this until its end, then followed a trail in the same direction over a small hill. After a while the trail kind of ended & I just kept walking in roughly the same direction towards Michael Buchs' GPS file. I came across another trail & a friendly local man & his sons & they confirmed that by following the trail I was now on I would join up with the main trail. I intersected the trail near a dry creek bed where I met a few more friendly locals.

I continued on up the trail, passing through coffee plantations & then cornfields. Before the col between the Atitlán & Toliman I took a wrong turn, trying to shortcut Michael Fuchs' trail. My shortcut was initially fine, but then I found myself on a ridge & having to whack through thick brush - stick to the main trail, it loops around from the right.

After rejoining the trail it steepened massively & I followed it straight up to the summit - the last 1,000m of elevation was brutal. Eventually, just under 4hrs after starting out, I reached the summit. There is a small, dirty concrete shelter there (maybe good for 3people) & several campsites. Steam was coming from some cracks in the rocks - this volcano is still a little active. Unfortunately, I summited after 12:30pm so there was no view, the summit was shrouded in clouds & it was quite windy & cold.
I spent just a short while on top, then started my descent - i wanted to make sure I got down in time for the last boat from Santiago Atitlán to San Pedro, which i was told was 4:30pm (not true as it turns out). I would have liked to have tried to somehow get from the col to join a trail i found online from the Santiago side leading up to Toliman, but after my experience trying to take a shortcut earlier I decided against it & instead followed the same path down.

I descended all the way to San Lucas, not taking my shortcut from before. For the last part there was a dirt road (1km) & the surfaced road (3km), it would be possible to get a tuk-tuk in San Lucas & save yourself hiking this part. After arriving in San Lucas I took a pickup to Santiago where I arrived at 4pm found that the next boat for San Pedro wouldn't depart until 5, so I had a meal & a beer in a restaurant near the pier.

Overall, Volcán Atitlán was not my favourite hike,. Unless you are going to do it overnight, giving yourself a view from the summit, it it not really worth it. The trail is sadly littered with thousands of plastic bottles & other rubbish, as is the summit area. I never felt unsafe at any point, all the people I met along the trail working in the fields were very friendly. At least there is no charge for this hike, unlike the rip-off Q100 for Volcán San Pedro.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:6381 ft / 1944 m
    Total Elevation Loss:6355 ft / 1937 m
    Round-Trip Distance:11.9 mi / 19.2 km
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:6381 ft / 1944 m
    Distance:5.1 mi / 8.2 km
    Route:Trail from San Lucas
    Start Trailhead:Junction after San Lucas  5223 ft / 1591 m
    Time:4 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:6355 ft / 1937 m
    Distance:6.8 mi / 11 km
    Route:Trail to San Lucas
    End Trailhead:San Lucas Toliman  5249 ft / 1599 m
    Time:2 Hours 30 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Seán Caulfield
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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