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Abandon All Hope

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On Volcan Pacaya

Abandon all hope – A misty hike – Moods of a Volcano – Toasted Marshmallows. (Map this!)

“Lasciate ogni esperanza, voi ch’intrate” (Dante, L’Inferno, Canto 3), I said to Neena, as we left the safety of the ridge and stepped onto the crunchy lava. The newly formed earth was brittle and ceramic in nature and covered an underlying layer of molten rock. In sections there were rivers of lava flowing, as if thick red molasses had formed rock upon contact with air.. Working our way towards one of the rivers, we stepped over white-hot stones that melted the baskets on my ski poles and partially de-laminated our hiking boots.

Moods of a Volcano

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Late night


It had been a hike through a misty and rainy alpine forest up the side of Volcan Pacaya in Guatemala. As we neared the top we heard thunderclaps and a light rain started to fall, so we prepared for a good drenching and no views of the mountain. It appeared that our bad luck in weather was following us and had infected our small party of five – four clients and one guide.

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Lava Flow up Close

As is natural with Guatemala this endeavor was tinged with an undercurrent of danger – robberies can occur on Pacaya but according to our guide the probability was low. After setting up camp on the ridge overlooking the lava fields we turned on our headlamps to head onto the troubled land. Our guide from O.X. Expeditions, Kevin, located a suitably close area of flowing lava and we descended a steep trail towards it…

And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing…
Kubla Khan

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by the lava

Matt melting
his shoes

Kevin roasting


The heat was a palpable thing, like being next to a brick oven, next to a Comal, next to a Tandoor. One in our party, Matt, decided to toast marshmallows on the lava and came back scampering when the heat melted his tennies. During his hasty exit all the marshmallows slid off his stick and onto various articles of his clothing and the surrounding barren landscape! It was up to Kevin the guide to save the day! Using a backup supply of marshmallows he gingerly made his way to an appropriate spot and returned with them perfectly toasted. Yum!

5 Responses to “Abandon All Hope”

  1. madhuri says:

    Fantastic nighttime lava pictures!

  2. Shreesh says:

    Thanks Madhuri! I almost melted the tripod taking it! The Ultrapod got a little hot but held together and seems none the worse for wear.

  3. suhasini taskar says:

    Shreesh and Neena
    The picture of the lava tells it all. It seems pretty dangerous to be so close to the overflowing lava. As the saying goes “No gain without the pain” fits this circumstances. Not too many folks are able to go through this adventure. Did you have to buy new shoes due to the damage caused by the heat? How is everything else going?

  4. Shreesh says:


    We took the shoes to the cobbler and he was able to fix them, but the lava chewed them up pretty good. Hopefully they will last the rest of the trip but we will have to replace them after getting back to the US.

    Right now, so far so good. It is mighty hot here in Honduras – almost as if we were next to the lava again!! :(

  5. shanta auntie and anant uncle says:

    Truely MAGNIFICIENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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