Guatemala, Santa Maria - Santiaguito

Martin Rietze, Richard Roscoe (8. -20. December 2005)

in deutsch

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At first we decided an expanded trip to the Santiaguito volcano in the Northern part of Guatemala. For an optimal start we decided to begin at the city Quezaltenango. The best way to observe the volcano is to climb on the constitutive higher  (ca. 3600m) Sta. Maria. The rest of the old volcano collapsed 100 years ago into the direction of the Santiaguito completely. From there you have an excellent view on the 1000m lower active an glowing dome of the Santiaguito. The follower of the big st. Maria is fomous of its durable and continious activities since years.  Every hours an eruption with ashclouds could be observed.

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For security reasons it is useful to take an local guide. Of course we wanted to see the glowing lava in the night, and for this we planned one night on the summit with the tent. Unfortunately in the night time the summit was wrapped in clouds, and so we had to wait till the break of dawn to get some good images of the eruptions

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Further we wanted to get the classic view from the south of the Sta. Maria to observe the pyroclastic flows and rockfalls. The most problem to get there are the hedged and good watched Fincas.

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After a long retrival with the help of the locals it was possible to rent a 4WD car plus local driver. After the negotiation for a permit it was possible to pass the Finca El Faro to reach a small hill near by the Santiaguito to get the best view. The middle strong activities did show every 4 hours some ashclouds, but it was not possible to observe a good  pyroclastic flow. But it was a breathtaking sight when the ashcolumns did rise high into the blue sky.

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In the forenoon we could motivate our drivers to go near the base where the young flows came down. The volcano was completely in clouds. On the next day during our stay time in Quezaltenango we heard from a french group, that they tried the bold ascent for several days to reach the old dome of the Santiaguito to get a view into the crater. This bargain was olso offered to us, but we disclaimed because for a one way guidance without proviant the price of more than 300 US $ was much to high.

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So we decided to let us show the entrance way to the dome for a few dollars by a local guide. With the essential goods (no camping equipment but cameras and tripods ;-)) we wanted to stay only for one night at the dome. Althought the old dome welcomed us with clouds and rain (zero sight!), this ascent should be a success. During the dawn the clouds turned away, and the extremely active volcano showed us every hour strombolian eruptions with following ashclouds more than hundreds of meters. Without interruptions, rockfall could be observed and mainly heard.

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 ©  photos by Martin Rietze (mr) ,Richard Roscoe (rr) Translation and Webmaster Th. Böckel, last modification 5.3.2006