Today is the day I tackle Volcan Concepcion, the bigger of the two volcanos on the island of Ometepe, Nicaragua
I met the rest of the group at the tour office and we got the local bus to the start of the hike. To start with, the pace was steady and consistent, the grade slightly up but nothing too strenuous. This part of the hike was through the jungle and we saw howler and white faced monkeys playing in the trees.
After 90 minutes or so, some of group stayed back with one guide, while the rest of us (going to the summit) went off with another guide. Suddenly the pace picked up A LOT. The terrain became more difficult to negotiate and the incline increased. Still in the jungle, there were lots of twists and turns, tree roots trying to trip us up, low hanging trees and tunnels made from vines. This was super fun but intense. At the 1000 meter mark we arrived at a view point. Because of the thick cloud cover, we had no view other than clouds. After sweating up a storm through the jungle, we were now exposed. Being in the clouds, and with some rain, we began to feel cold.
We greeted the second group coming up behind us before continuing on to ascent the final 600 meters. 600 meters doesn’t sound like a long way. But in this situation, it was. It was the longest 600 meters of my life!
The ground was now mainly volcanic rock. It was slippery, uneven and would fall away if you stepped a certain way. On top of that it was steep. It was the steepest climb/hike I have ever done. Any steeper, a ladder would have been an absolute necessity. My calves were burning!
The terrain changed again to larger rocks with fine volcanic soil between. The rocks were warm and some areas exuding gases. And still very steep!
I don’t know how long we had been walking (scrambling, climbing) since the viewpoint, but we eventually got to the summit, passing two groups on the way. The summit was completely shrouded in cloud and we couldn’t see a thing. It was very windy and the air was wet. While trying to dry my phone, a big gust of wind came through and stole my towel and threw it over the edge. Yet another item lost!
It was pretty hostile up on the summit so we didn’t linger too long. The wind was strong and being on the crater edge was quite unnerving. No doubt on a cloud-free day the views would be spectacular.
The descent was extremely challenging but in a different way to the way up. My fear of heights revealed itself and suddenly looking down was not a good idea. Every step I took I doubted myself. Every step I was scared I would slip and fall. A thousand bad thoughts passed through my mind. These mainly involved me cracking my head, breaking a bone or plummeting to my death. My imagination can be quite dramatic at times!
I really didn’t enjoy section too much. I definitely prefer going up than down! One of the guys in front of me slipped on some rocks, fell and started to slide down. He was fine but it made me very nervous!
What seemed like an age, we made it to the view point at 1000 meters. After some food and water, we got moving again as everyone was keen to get to the bottom.
The worst of it was over. Although still very steep, slippery and obstructed, the next section was sheltered by jungle which gave us plenty of extra things to hang on to.
We finished the hike in about 7 hours, which was pretty good considering most do it in 8-10 hours.
I felt completely spent. I was physically and mentally tired, hot, sweaty and smelly. But extremely accomplished!