Daytripper is XelaWho’s regular monthly series on day trips within easy reach of Xela. This month’s article is called: Climbing Into the Vapors
by Bryan Friedrichs
The coffeemaker rumbles into life in the Quetzaltrekkers office as eight people huddle over plates of pancakes in nervous anticipation. For most, today will mark the first experience climbing on natural rock. They’ ll do so in the sun, shade and wind of the vast volcanic field perched above the village of Chicua. After a long hiatus, Xela’s only non-profit trekking organization is once again taking new and experienced climbers onto the cliffs around Xela. Two short rides up bumpy roads and the group is standing among the houses and comedores of Chicua. Above loom the boulder fields and rock walls home to one of Guatemala´s largest concentrations of bolted climbs, as well as large numbers of evangelical Christians that come to this remarkable place to sing and pray. The entire city of Xela and the Almolonga valley open up in a brilliant panorama as the group begins approaching the most prominent cliff face. One of our volunteers leads the way through a maze of small paths forming a T-angled weave in the volcanic rubble. After explaining basic climbing technique and safety, our guides begin strapping people into ropes and harnesses, helmets and shoes, and sending them up the wall. Everyone steps onto the rock, working their way upwards, figuring out the unusual movements that climbing requires. The morning quickly fades into afternoon. After a lunch of sandwiches and salads on this barren lava field it’ s back to the rocks to attempt a longer and more adventurous route. By the time 3pm arrives, everyone is feeling the efforts of the day. After dismantling the anchors and packing up the equipment we begin the short scramble down to Chicua, where a pickup is waiting to transport tired bodies to the local steam saunas commonly known as Los Vahos. The saunas are naturally heated to unbelievable temperatures by the same volcanic processes that formed the rocks climbed earlier in the day. Forty-five minutes of jumping from hot saunas to cold showers later and everyone is feeling refreshed and relaxed. As the sun begins to descend into the horizon, the group walks down through fields of wild-flowers that empty into the heart of Xela. And here the trip ends where it began, in the Quetzaltrekkers office in Casa Argentina, with the smiles of a day well spent plastered on the faces of all.
Bryan Friedrichs is full time volunteer for Quetzaltrekkers, Xela´s only all volunteer non-profit trekking company, located in Casa Argentina, Diagonal 12, 8-37