The day starts at 4:30am, Andy cheerfully announces that is time to get up, I grown. Half an hour later we are at the pick up point to leave for the base of Santa Maria. After a short car ride we start the assent up the volcano in the dark.
Not long ago we had climbed volcano Pacaya which overall all I had found quite easy going, I realised that this one was twice as far but I didn't know the half of it...
The base of the volcano is at an altitude of about 2500m which is about the same as the altitude at the top of volcano Pacaya (for comparison the top of Snowdon in Wales is 1085m). This affects you more that you would imagine. So what followed must be the hardest piece of physical exercise I have ever done. The main reason for this, is that the altitude, just walking up a short way would cause me to have to breath heavily and my heart rate to go very high, though if we stopped for just a minute it would return very quickly to normal.
Once we reached the top, at a attitude of 3772m, some three and half hours later we were greeted with a view down onto another volcano, Santiaguito, and a view down onto the clouds. However the view was slightly disappointing because the reason we had set off so early was to avoid the mist that comes at about midday, however the view was quite misty from first light so we couldn't see as far. Though after a short while Santiaguito started to erupt at first we could just hear it and then we could clearly see the smoke rising through the mass of clouds.
The descent wasn't hard physically but was tricky as my feet would often slip on sand and mud, I would then have to catch my balance or grab onto some thing such as a tree root, branch or a particularly strong plant.
When we arrived at the bottom we were so tired all we could really do for the rest of day was sleep and eat.Update See my brother´s account of the same day