Tacana is considered by some to be the hardest climb in Guatemala. It is definitely the most remote of the big volcanoes in Guatemala and, for that reason, is often bypassed by climbers in favor of more accessible peaks. Depending on your starting point, it can take up to ten hours to summit. That combined with the over eight hours to drive to the trail head, makes for a long day! The volcano itself is a massive cone, dominating the San Marcos horizon. The Mexico-Guatemala border crosses the summit, dividing it between the two countries. Most people begin their climb at the village of La Haciendita. The view from the top includes Tajumulco volcano, the Pacific Ocean, and the Mexican and Guatemalan mountain range.
The volcano has beautiful landscapes with very high and alpine vegetation, pine forests, herds of sheep, shepherds, fresh water sources, and open fields. During your climb you will pass small potato and bean farms. Volcanic activity was reported in 1855, 1878, 1903 and 1949, as violent shaking, and fumarole activity towards 3800 and 3870 meters was reported in 1950, on the southwest side.
When we climbed this volcano in May of 2008, we frequently caught the smell of sulfur in the air, especially near the peak.
From the capital, take the road CA-1 from the altiplano to Quetzaltenango, then continue to San Marcos, via San Juan Ostuncalco, Palestine de los Altos, and continuing on a dirt road to Sibinal, Via San Sebastian, lxchiguan and continue to San Jose Ojetenam, Tacana (the town, not the volcano).
There is another route along the southern coast, Escuintla (CA-2), Mazatenango, Coatepeque, to Malacatan, then look for the entrance to the Christmas tree farm and leave your vehicle. This route is little used because it starts at the very bottom of the volcano and is a very long hike.
Because the drive takes so long and the roads are unpredictable, I strongly recommend taking a second class bus (Q45.00) to Xela. From there you can secure a guide for the remainder of the drive (three to four hours).
The best route to the Tacaná summit (4091 m) from the Guatemalan side of the border leaves from a town called Sibinal, in the Department of San Marcos about 7 km ENE of the summit. Sibinal can reached by car along a poorly maintained road from San Marcos, about 65 km away. The trail is known by the residents of Sibinal and leads up to the Sierra de Sibinal to a place called La Haciendita after about 3-4 hrs of hiking. This place is on the slopes of the Tacaná cone at about 2950 m. You continue along a well marked trail to Laguna Seca (see photograph). This is the inside of the old crater and at the base of the volcanic cone. From here the trail moves north the length of Laguna Seca into Mexico and turns right starting the final 30 minute ascent to the peak. A popular tradition among local Guatemalan and Mexican climbers is to have a reunion at Laguna Seca every Semana Santa.
Cold and wet weather gear, lots of water, and snacks.
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