Chicabal Volcano
Central America, Photography, Travel

Chicaballin’ Our Way Up to a Volcanic Lake – Guatemala

Chicabal Volcano

After being called “hop-a-long” for almost a week after our experience at Santa Maria, it is a wonder that Shaun and I somehow decided that we wanted to go on another hike – up Lake Chicabal.

Instead of the 4am wake up call to the previous volcano, we leisurely rolled out of bed at 7am on a very warm and sunny Sunday afternoon. This was going to be a good day.

We had been left so far behind by the leader of the school last time that it was a bit disheartening to know that we were so out of shape – so much so that I think we have crossed off the Inca Trail altogether. This time around Shaun jokingly told him that we refused to go unless he wore weights.

Flower on Lake ChicabalAnd he did. Actually, he thought it was a fantastic idea. I think we just rolled our eyes.

We had convinced a few other people to chip in an extra few bucks for a colectivo/minibus to take us all the way to the trailhead at the volcano’s base (lazy +1).

The colectivo guy had absolutely no clue WTF he was getting into.

As we weaved in and out of the curvy mountain roads, he started to grumble a wee bit when he realized how far we asked him to take us. We even had to pull over at a gas station to add more water to the radiator.

As we turned into the Lake Chicabal turnoff, things really took an interesting turn.

Imagine an equivalent of a 1990s Ford Windstar running on diesel, with 17 people wearing loaded backpacks and a dog, climbing 45 degree hills.

We slowly started up the first of many hills to get to over the first mountain to take us to the trailhead.

Slow and steady goes the turtle right?

Yeah, apparently not when you’re hauling the load we were.


CLICK! (goes the transmission)

The minivan started rolling backwards down the hill towards a bridge with a 10 foot drop.


The driver somehow gets it into gear.

We reverse slowly towards the bridge.

He kicks it into first gear and floors it… CON GANAS THIS TIME!


Slowly but surely, we somehow make it up the first hill in one piece. It is then we realize there are another 15 hills or so to get the top, equally as steep.

As the driver comes to a stop to get ready for the next climb, we open the door and 15 people rush out of the car.

Burning clutch smell fills the country air around us.

Oh, and as it turns out, when you get to the top of the first mountain, there is an “off roading course” to get to the base of the volcano. There is no way we could have made it.

Oh, and another heads up, if you feel like being lazy, there is a guy at the top of the first mountain that will take you to the base of the volcano for 5Q (lazy +2). In lazy fashion (and not to end up like 2 weeks prior), some of us gladly accepted. I wonder if they make it easy like this for people climbing volcanoes in Greece on their Greek holidays.

While I could have tried to conquer this volcano from start to finish, I knew my limits. Even though we did take the truck down to the trailhead and started our way up, our school leader did catch up to us before we made it to the lake at the top of the volcano – with weights, and about a mile behind on the off road track.


Well, at least we had company at the top.

Lake Chicabal
View of Volcan Santaguito while making the hike.
Chicabal Volcano
Pretty flowers on the way up.

Chicabal Volcano

Chicabal Volcano
Lake Chicabal
Lake Chicabal
Lake Chicabal in Erica-vision 😛
500 stairs down to the lake.

13 thoughts on “Chicaballin’ Our Way Up to a Volcanic Lake – Guatemala”

  1. oh my god! I would’ve had a nervous breakdown in that van. I swear one of my worst fears is being in a car that just rolls backwards. I’m glad you are safe!

    1. @Sheryll: HAHA! I wasn’t too worried since we wouldn’t have gone very far (and would have made for an even more interesting blog post) – but it was also interesting when Shaun was giving a play by play on how the transmission was going. 😛

  2. Wow getting up at 7am for a hike? It’s like me getting up at 6am to go to Pompeii. Anything for a experience. lol I’m never a morning person. Great photos.

  3. OMG… no way I would have been flipping….lol!!! Wow… thats just crazy, but am so glad yall are safe! I had a similar experience once while in Teran… we went up a mountain on a huge van… and on the way back it was pouring down rain which made the ride back very dangerous and a few times it did roll back but the van seemed to manage. Ahhh I miss hikes, and nature… I’ll need to do something soon outside.

    1. @Jaime: lol! I am now officially hearing the Jaime screams that would come out of your mouth as we slid backward. You know that you do have the opportunity for hikes. Europe is full of awesome nature-y goodness!

  4. I obviously knew you guys were safe since you posted this, but my heart nearly skipped a beat when I read about the van going backward! Another day, another adventure, right?! O:-)

    1. @Heather: Well, at least I know my writing skills are okay if you got that reaction! It scared us a wee bit – but our driver wasn’t half bad. 😛

    1. @Adam: You know, we ask ourselves that every time something like that happens. Most of the people do their own repairs. Nothing is bought new, they actually rebuild everything – a completely different culture when it comes to vehicles.

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