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guatemala & menstruation

February 25, 2024

Climbing the Acatenango Volcano When Menstruating

Nothing like the splendid views of the active volcano ‘De Fuego’ to remind us that beneath our feet lies a fascinating geological process that has the power to alter landscapes. The rumbling of the ground, columns of ashes and rivers of lava will leave no one indifferent. But to enjoy the jaw-dropping show, you will need to hike up Acatenango – the dormant volcano facing De Fuego and its 3962-meter high summit; an arduous ascent and a painful affair for the menstruating climber if not well prepared!

Guides

This 2-day hike can be done solo but I recommend going with a guide. They know exactly how to navigate their way on the volcano in the dark, are very experienced in altitude climbs, and offer adequate equipment for the weather conditions – it can be rainy and it’s always freezing at the top! We chose Soy Tour which offers excellent meals and comfortable tents.

Physical Conditions

This is a demanding hike, you will be walking for around 6 hours up a steep trail with an elevation gain of 1500m. Make sure you have good hiking shoes, enough water and a decent stamina!

You will need to carry a 12kg backpack so if you suffer from back pain like I do when menstruating, this can be physically straining. You can opt instead for a porter to carry your bag for a fee.

There is a risk of altitude sickness, so don’t hesitate to let your guide know if at any moment you experience symptoms of dizziness, fatigue or nausea!

First Day to Base Camp

The agency’s office is your first chance to use the toilets if needed. There, the guides will give you the necessary equipment and drive you to the beginning of the trail, and around 9am you will start the ascent through farmlands. You can find clean toilets for a fee in the Finca during the first coffee break.

After another 2h climb, you will reach a tropical cloud forest where you will stop to enjoy the delicious lunch provided by the guides. You will reach base camp in the high alpine forest a few hours later. Here, you finally get to rest your legs and enjoy the show! While you relax near a campfire with hot cocoa and wait for dinner, De Fuego will release continuous lava flows and ash explosions.

Now, the toilet situation is what you would expect from a base-camp; wooden pit-latrine at best and a simple hole in the ground at worst. Make sure you have spare toilet paper, water and soap to clean your hands, and if you are changing pads or tampons, a disposal bin at hand.

At night, you can sleep to recuperate from the long hike, or… you can admire the volcano’s spitting lava all night, your choice.

The Acatenango Volcano spitting lava

Second Day Summit

At 4am, you will bring your sore muscles and tired legs through a difficult, but beautiful volcanic terrain up to Acatenango’s summit. I would recommend waking up slightly ahead of the time to use the loo and eat a snack before starting what was truly one of the most difficult ascents I have ever done.

I promise, it will be all worth it.

A silhouette of 40 people ascending a mountain ridge at sunrise

Descent

Once kissed by the first rays of sunshine, head above clouds, it is time to go back to base camp and enjoy a copious breakfast. The full descent took us about 3h and there was no proper break. You can use the toilets back at the Finca, or wait to be back at the agency.

This unforgettable adventure will be set to become part of your top 3 menstruation destinations if you have these practical steps in mind. For natural explorations to become more accessible to menstruating hikers, let’s share our reviews with The M Scale app.

Laura Sieg

Laura is a full time traveller, writing and recording exciting stories around the world - when not climbing or surfing, you will find her holding a mic capturing sounds in natural and cultural spaces.

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