Saturday, November 22, 2008
This is the view looking east from atop Santa Maria volcano at nearly 3,600 mts. back across many of the volcanoes we have already summitted. You can see in the distance all the way back to the volcanoes of Agua, Acatenango and Fuego in the Antigua valley a well as the peaks that ring Lake Atitlan.
The hike up Pacaya volcano get us with in Marshmallow roasting range of an active flow. This is like no other place on earth! Pacaya is the kind of place that is made famous by programs like National Geographic. After Pacaya we head out the summit the dormant sentinel that looms over Antigua, Guatemala, Agua volcano. Agua, is a long hard hike but the summit offers up amazing views from Guatemala City to the Pacific Coast.
From Antigua we head out for a 3 day 2 night summit bagging trek up the sister volcanoes of Acatenango and Fuego. These are Guate's premier trekking peaks. We load up the gear on porters and head up to the summit of Guate's third largest peak of Acatenango, 3979 mts. After taking in the views from atop this monster we head to our exclusive campsite for a night of lava fireworks from Fuego's active cone. Just because Fuego is active doesn't mean that we are going to shy away. The next day we wake up and head down to the saddle between the two and hed up the knife like ridge on Fuego and get within a few hundred meters below one of Guate's most active cones.
With the volcanoes of the Antigua valley behind us we head out to Lake Atitlan to climb San Pedro. After this hike we take a welcome down day to rest sore legs at the hotel La Casa del Mundo and take a soak in the wood fired hot tub there. Although we would have loved to stay at the lake a bit longer we still have two more volcanoes to summit. Our next objective is Santa Maria volcano with neighboring "old faithful" Santiaguito Volcano.
Santiaguito is Guatemala's youngest and smallest volcano. Don't be fooled as it super active belching out plumes of lava and ash every hour or so. After Santa maria we head out towards the Mexican Border and climb our last mountain and Guatemala's largest Tajumulco 4220 mts. This trip is an amazing way to get to see our amazing country and enjoy trekking in a comfortable, safe and enjoyable way. We set up all the logistics arrange all the porters and do all the cooking so you only have to hike and have a good time.
Get on board and we'll see on top of one of Guate's volcanoes!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Over the past year we have been involved in working with members of the local community of La Soledad at the base of the volcano to try and create a management plan for responsible community based tourism in the area. Our goal is to make the area a safe place for tourist to enjoy while at the same time incorporating the community into the master plan.
We believe that as the locals there at the base of the mountain become more involved and incorporated into the development of the park they then will work to keep the area clean, green, safe and beautiful for the days to come. We have been working hard with the good folks out there to build trail, clean and repair campsites, and implement resource officers.
Because we believe that the community is the key designing and maintaining a successful management plan we are employing them as our resource officers who will accompany each and every Old Town Group on the Volcano. This is not only a plan to inject tourist dollars in to the local economy but while on the mountain we will be working to raise awareness of the Environmental issues associated there.
Proceeds of every tourist we take to the volcano will remain in the community by means of development projects. We have organized several projects in the local school to ensure that as you spend your tourist dollars to enjoy a safe and fun experience on Acatenango or Fuego Volcanoes that you will also be helping to kids of La Soledad have the chance for a good education.
See ya on the trail,
Friday, September 12, 2008
But one quickly realizes as soon as they are smacked down by the climb that the name refers to a certain type of punishment associated with a climb of this nature. The climb is long, relentless, steep, and has no warm up. And,it is most certainly punishing.
So why do it? Are we just gluttons for punishment? Maybe. But for me when the climb is over and you pass through (sneak really) the mysteriously beautiful fences of a remote finca called pillar and realize you are sucking wind looking out over the entire Antigua valley below, it all starts to make sense as to why you've come all the way up here.
The view. That's right...the view. To see the 3 volcanoes (Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango) that once towered over you while just a tourist back in Antigua on the valley floor now seem to be at eye level and not so oppressive.
You were'nt really gonna let me get away with saying its for the view were ya? Its the downhill...yeah the downhill that's so much damned fun. The views nice too, but come on. The trail rolls through fun fast open sections, tight technical rock gardens and you can test your luck on the tight rocky switchbacks at the bottom.
Bring it on....maybe you can tag along on our next morning out!
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Far up in the Quiche Department of Guatemala, and situated in a natural bowl-shaped recession, Nebaj is the largest town in the Cuchumatanes. When you mix this area’s long history of civil resistance with it’s proud, colorful preservation of Mayan traditions and stunningly beautiful backdrop of mountains and waterfalls – it’s no wonder this off-the-beaten-track town is one of
After a hearty delicious farm breakfast at the Finca (complete with pancakes and homemade fresh cream), we grabbed some of the fresh cheese they produce at the farm and headed out for what would be one of the more challenging hikes. The dirt road out of Acul ends at a tiny village named Xexocom, and it’s an 800 meter climb up switchbacks to the even smaller outpost of Chuantuj – situated on the rim of one of the many high-alpine plateaus in this region. Beautiful panoramic views of the Cuchumatanes are all around us during this day’s hike, and at the end of the day we had climbed over 1000 meters on the day. The only people we saw for the last 4 hours of hiking were two farmers hiking down from the altiplano with their horses!
Coming into Chuantuj on the topside of the ridge we begin to understand why so few people populate the high plateaus of the Cuchamantanes. Weather conditions up here are always unpredictable and fogs roam constantly through the highlands, chilling hikers and creating confusion in what was (only minutes before!) a perfectly lovely sunny day. Cloud forests, moss and fern covered pine forests, and rocky outcroppings cover the rugged topography of these ridges, giving our group time to get lost in mushroom blanketed thickets and strange stone formations. Houses in tiny hamlets like Chauntuj are constructed of local woods and topped with corrugated aluminum brought on horseback from days away. Almost everyone in the highlands is a farmer, raising potatoes, garlic, corn, or whatever else they can successfully raise to trade or sell.
We bedded down for the night in a spare room in Chuantuj used during harvest season for storing potatoes. We opted to seek out a shelter rather than set up our tents because of a good-sized rainstorm which ushered us into the village. As we dried our boots next to the fire, the guides on the trip – Juan and Sean – cooked up a feast for the group and passed around tea and hot chocolate. Situated at over 3100 meters above sea level, Chuantuj can be a chilly place to spend the night. We woke up rested with some sore calves, but happy to be setting off on a beautiful hike up on the high plateau.
Today’s hike took our group on a long windy hike across the top of one of the massive high-alpine plateaus this region is famous for. Landscapes here can best be described as “dreamy” or “fantastical”. Sinkholes, dense pine forests, brightly colored high-alpine flowers, trippy rock gardens and wide, sprawling plains make it a feast for the eyes as we make our way from one edge of this high mesa to the other. We pass by another tiny (sub-100 pax population) village, Chortiz, as we wander towards Pauil Pais – a larger sized village on the plateau by virtue of its road connection to the valley town of Aguacate.
Horses and mules wander outside the villages up in the high country, some of the few farm animals hearty enough to handle the conditions up here. Our
Another reason this area is so fascinating to many hikers is its remoteness and ruggedness – and their apparent effects on the locals here. Many Cuchumatanes residents haven’t ventured farther south than the nearest large city Huehuetenango, situated just outside the mountain range in the valley to the south. Most travelers to
Another day full of dog-assisted hiking past Pauil Pais, our group traversed the gargantuan
Walking down from the high plateaus the final day and descending into the charming town of
Saturday, August 30, 2008
It just doesn't get any better than this! Sunset ride at Lake Atitlan. Here we are working the tight lines above the lake village of Santa Catarina.
The trail starts out about 1000 meters above the lake and works its way down, down, down through, farms, fields and villages to the lake shore.
The drops are steep and technical and the view around every corner is amazing. its just hard to work the trail and take in the views at the same time. This is the last piece of trail before dropping the "staircase" through the village of Santa Cat.
See ya on the trail...Mateo
Thursday, July 10, 2008
After a couple hours of paddling through the lagoons and backwater canals we landed at the sleepy beach town of Monterrico. This small beach community is famous for its sea turtle nestingsite and release project to help boost the number of endangered leatherback sea turtles that make the Guatemalan Pacific coast their home.
After a big sea food lunch we jumped back in the kayaks to explore more of the Hawaii-Monterrico reserve. From la Laguna de los volcanoes you can look back into the highlands and be staring no less than 4 monster volcanoes from sea level to 13,000 ft.!
The return trip took us through beautiful mangrove forests that seemed to be floating in the canals and lagoons. We managed to find time for a nice long float in the shade and listen to the sound of the birds overhead. If you think about it; a day spent sea kayaking on the Pacific coast, sponsoring a sea turtle for release, body surfing monster waves and an ice cold Gallo over some sea food with friends is a pretty good way to kill a Wednesday. You should try it sometime....give me a call I'll show ya the way.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Nearly 1700 mts. of vertical ascent across the course did not hold back Francisco "Pancho" Gaitan our hotshot young gunner who not only won his division, but nearly took 1st place overall. This determined 17 year old cruised around the 60 kms. course in only 2:47 minutes. To put this in perspective the Elite US pro rider who won overall finished in 2:42 minutes. Pancho will for sure be a face to watch in the future. Keep an eye on the Old Town Outfitters team to see him crush the competition.
Watch out boys, when you see Luisa "Wicha" Zea screaming up behind ya on a downhill, you'd better get out of her way. Don't feel bad though as she drops you on the climbs...your not the only guy shes cruised by. She stepped it up on Sunday to show the field what she's got under the hood. Wicha not only crushed the womens open field to come in 3rd, but brought most of the men on the course to their knees as well. Wicha will be the workhorse of the Old Town team and a true national contender. Racing with her prior Pro Road teammate Gaby Molina and good friend and Mirador Basin Saviour Josie Thompson, these 3 gals swept up 1st, 3rd and 6th place are a force to be taken seriously in whatever category they race in.
The "punto a punto" was our first race together as a shop team, but certainly not the last. To see so many Old Town Outfitters jerseys on the podium definitely turned more than a few heads amongst the big teams. We're taking applications for more riders if you think you got what it takes to stare down either Wicha or Pancho on the course....I say bring it on!
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Leaving the Atitlan basin behind we pushed high up into the altiplano to an area locally known as Alaska. This cold, windswept, high mesa is named after its northern neighbor because of its climate. Much of this walk traverses the ridges at more than 10,000ft that seperate the lake from the rest of the western highlands.
"Las Siete Cruces" or the ridge of the 7 crosses is the backbone of this ridge system and offers up enormous views off each side. Legend has it that these crosses honor fallen Guerrilleros from Guatemala's long infamous civil war. The ridge passes through rare intact stands of virgin Pinabete forests which is a type of Pine endemic to Guatemala and in danger of extinction.
The views from the Las Siete Cruces campsite to the West has you staring down the dormant sentinel giant of Santa Maria volcano with its active neighbor which can often be seen letting out a puff of smoke after and eruption.
To the East the views from our campsite is of the Lake Atitlan Basin and the Volcanoes all the way back to Antigua. On a clear night with a little luch you can see fuego volcano giving off one of its signature lava shows.
On the third day of the trek we dropped down off the ridge skirting Zunil Volcano on our way to Fuentes Georginas Hotsprings. The trail down is pretty tough as it drops quite steeply from nearly 11,000ft., through lush bamboo forest down to the pools. The sounds of the fiesta coming from the hotsprings and knowing a long hot soak was going to heal sore muscles kept us going.
A cold beer and soak was the perfect way to end this trip.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
No matter what your relationship with the Old Town Outfitters Crew we're hoping to share our adventures with you, and hoping you will enjoy the trail tidbits. As outdoor specialists we pride ourselves on the time we spend exploring the hills and honing our skills. This relatively new blog is a small way we can share that enthusiasm with our extended family.
I think we've already got a fair sampling of our favorite activities. Kayaking, hiking, climbing, biking are all included in existing blog posts. Follow the link and check out our photos and video too! Don't be afraid to jump to some older posts too. There are some good bike videos from a couple months back.
Thanks all for keeping up with us and we'll see you, hopefully on the trail, again.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Matt left the Helmet Cam in my hands so I rallied the boys the last couple weeks and managed to get some trail footage. David, star of the "Punto a Punto" video, and his wife, had a beautiful baby boy, Roderigo! Congratulations David, for making it out on one last ride before the baby arrived that is. Oh yeah, and congratulations on the birth too. We're thrilled and can't wait for Welber's new one to pop out either. That's right we're going baby crazy here too.
Anyway, this trail is a nice single-track extension of the Punto-a-Punto or Point to Point trail that we use when we ride from the Shop in Antigua to Parramos and the Las Tierras Altas route. In this ride we skip the farmlands and head straight into the motorcycle rutted trails off a high-point nearby. This is one fun ride that is probably already turning to a river with the onset of the rainy season.
Punto A Punto
On another happy occassion recently I managed to drag our mechanic Erick away from the bike stand and his studies to get in a spin. I'd never ridden with Erick and had a feeling he was a pretty solid rider. He smoked me on the climb that day and only had to help me out of one giant hole from a washout. I dove right in. I cut that part from the video though. Maybe in a later bloopers vid.
This particular ride is one of the lower variations available in what we refer to as the Cielo Grande area. There's a ton of trail up there and it is all stellar. Check it out!
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
That's right, we packed up the ole truck and headed north for some riding fun of our own. After a busy season in Guatemala we decided we needed a little time out for ourselves. First stop on the tour was Charlotte, NC. home to say hey to the parental units and to load up the 25 some odd boxes of gear and bikes that littered my folks livingroom. While there we greased the local single track of the national whitewater center just outside of town. and then in a mad dash we pushed west from NC and re-grouped in the West Texas hotspot of Austin.
After a few rounds of disc golf in Austin to stretch teh legs we pushed off to test the northern Texas hidden trails of the "Capstone Canyon National park."
The remote Capstone Canyon is historically famous for saving the Southern Plains Buffalo from near extinction and is now becoming famous for its great trails and mountain biking.
After exploring the canyons of Texas we headed up and through the badlands of New Mexico to ride the mountains around Taos. Big climbs took us through Aspen forest to the top of the ridges. The climbs were tough but the downhill off the other side was well worth the trip.
We once again loaded up the ole Subbie and continued north to Durango, Co. to ride the Colorado trail. We pushed up the C.T. through the Pines to the Aspens and up to the snow line and that was the end of the line. But from 10,000 ft. it was ear to ear grin stuff, all the way back down to the parking lot.
Seeing as how the West's Mtn. Bike mecca was only 3 hours away, we once again packed up and headed further the line. We landed in Moab just in time for last callat the brew pub and to make camp at the trailhead. After a glorious night camping under a full moon we hit the slickrock trail for some classic moab fun.
If you havent ever ridden Slickrock, you definiteily need to get out there and give it a go.
25 hours straight through and we're all of a sudden back in Austin, Tx. getting ready for the trip back to guate.
Hope you have a road trip soon,
Friday, April 25, 2008
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
We just rolled back in from one of our newest trips, a 4 day walk across the Sierra de las Minas. This is a full on off the beaten track kind of trip. Not many travelers make it this far back into the Guatemalan wilds. The Sierra de Las Minas is Guatemala's most progressively protected national park. Administered by the Defensores de la naturaleza the park is Central America's crown jewel celebrating the largest intact track of pristine cloud forest in the area.
After just a few minutes on the trail leaving civilization behind you enter into a lush green world full of amazing bird and wildlife biodiversity. The walking is pretty hard going but the pay off is well worth the effort. The Sierra de Las Minas is a nature lovers ground zero.
There is no where else in Guatemala that you can walk for days on end and not see or hear another human being. We chased Tapir trails and jaguar tracks through rivers and across the lush sierra. While on the top of the ridge in the Core area or "zona nucleo" we saw 5 quetzales, and I'm not talking about the local currency. I'm talking about the elusive bird that everyone comes to Guatemala to see but never does.
This is the real deal. Come check it out. Places this amazing dont stay hidden forever. Get here and see it before the word gets out.
Get in touch with us so we can get you on the next trip.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Acatenango is the countries 3rd largest volcano and let me tell ya, it definitely ain't for the under achievers of the world or the weak hearted. This is a full on kick ya in the arse kind of walk. Now having said that it is very worth doing. It shares a saddle with Fuego Volcano that with a bit of luck will make you shake in your britches. Its only a km or so away but it feels as if its just right there. That was the view right at sunset before all the action started.
Its about a 5 hour walk up to the top of the volcano, but luckily for us our porters carried our gear
and headed down to the "double secret" campsite nesteld in the pines. After an amazing dinner by the Old Town Crew, we settled in to watch Fuego do its thing. If you've never had the chance to see an active volcano blow its top, this should be high on that life list of thigs to do. Give us a bell at the shop or drop us a line and we'll get you out on the next Acatenango fuego doubel header.
See ya on the trail
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
For our second day of the trip we visited the Lanquin caves. In the morning Juan and I gave the rest of the group a lesson in Rappelling. This group requested the fullest caving adventure possible so we broke out the rope and harnesses. After our lesson we headed off to the Lanquin caves. The outer caverns are well traveled and well lit so we cruised past the crowded part and headed into the dark where we set up our rappelling anchors and proceeded to drop into the darkness well away from the disturbing sounds and lights of the surface world.
In the inner caves we did a fair bit of exploration and saw some things Juan had never seen before. His new extra bright light was eye opening, so to speak. After 5 hours in the dark depths we finally surfaced and made our way down to the Lanquin river to rinse off and float back to El Retiro. Natalie and Juan revisited childhood with a game of ring toss with inner-tubes in the parking lot. The local kids loved it! It was a little late, thanks to our long hours in the cave, but we floated up to El Retiro just in time to grab a warm shower before dinner and then settle in to a chair with a beer in hand.
For the third day we headed to Semuc Champey. Pretty amazing is all I have to say. One river flowing under the other seems simply uncanny, much less, to swim in one and look down at the other raging river disappearing underneath. Following our Swim we headed to the water caves called Can’ Ba. Juan calls it the Goonies Cave, because there’s a natural water slide and lots of cool features. My wife and Lauren even collected a bunch of clay to make pottery with. We’ll be seeing the results in a week or two. No photos of this cave though because we used a disposable in the water cave and didn’t get digital versions. It was however a stellar topper to the trip and we all enjoyed every minute of it. The only regret I have was getting in the car for the long ride home. I think I could spend a week or two just relaxing and floating rivers in the Lanquin area.