Saying that the hike to the top of Nicaragua’s Telica Volcano was the most difficult hike of my life would be an understatement.
Prior to making the hike up the volcano, I had never attempted to climb up an entire volcano (or even a mountain) at any point in my life and I was completely unaware of the challenges that would lie ahead of me.
Three days prior to finding myself straddling the edge of an active volcano, my friend Shavaun and I found ourselves sitting in the office of Quetzal Trekkers, a local adventure travel company in downtown Leon, Nicaragua trying to decide where we were going to do for New Year’s Eve.
Quetzal Trekkers informed us that they had a New Years Eve hike to the top of Telica Volcano. We were told that the hike would begin on New Year’s Eve and it would take approximately six hours to reach the top. At the end of the hike, we were told that we would spend the night near the mouth of the volcano bringing the New Year in before we would descend on New Years Day.
Shavaun and I thought that being on a volcano at the end of one year and at the beginning of another would be a very interesting way to bring in the New Year, and without hesitation, we decided to book the trip.
A few days later, with 6 liters of water, a tent, a sleeping bag, clothes, and eating utensils strapped to our backs, Shavaun, myself, and the other hikers made our way through the streets of Leon to the Terminal de Buses to catch a chicken bus which would drop us off in the vicinity of Telica.
When we arrived at the drop-off point, my tour group hopped out of the back door of the chicken bus and our backpacks were thrown down to us from the top of the bus. We quickly strapped our backpacks onto our backs and made our way through a large field.
For the thirty or so minutes that we walked through the field, I remember thinking that this was going to be an easy hike. Although I was sweating profusely from carrying my large backpack in the 90-degree weather, it was quite nice looking out at all of the beauty around me.
And then the ascent began.
I struggled to keep up with the members of my group and I told them to go ahead of me and that I would eventually catch up to them. My bag was weighing me down; my slight case of asthma was making it hard to breathe and I contemplated turning around but decided to stick with it.
One of the newest members of the Quetzal Trekkers staff that had completed the hike a few times hung out in the back of the group with me and told me that she understood my pain. I was so appreciative of the fact that she remained with me and gave me support and encouragement; the greatest being when she strapped my bag to her chest balancing herself with two bags: hers and mine.
For about six hours my tour group and I climbed higher and higher. Somehow in my Toms-esque shoes I managed not to slip off the side of the mountain and break my neck. While ascending, I clung on to branches for dear life to steady myself and regain strength as I chugged down liter after liter of water.
Just before sunset, we arrived at the base of the volcano. It was absolutely magnificent and I sighed a breath of relief, knowing that we had made it to the end. Before settling in and eating dinner, my group pitched our tents around the base of the volcano and chatted about the hike up.
Around dusk, my group and I made the first climb from the base camp to see the volcano. We laid down around the edge of the volcano and peered the mouth of the beast. The volcano rumbled and churned as we watched the lava flowing a couple hundred feet below us. Although it was not the red flowing lava river that I had imagined it was going to be, it was very much alive, active and loud.
My group and I descended back down to base camp and waited for the clock to strike midnight. As the New Year began, our group celebrated by the bonfire and we hugged each other and talked about how we were glad that we had made it into another year. We made one final hike back up to the volcano before falling asleep.
The next morning just before daybreak, everyone in the group woke up to view the sunrise from higher ground. Unfortunately, the bulb on my headlight died so I was unable to make the climb with the other hikers. Once daybreak broke, I decided to head back to the mouth of the volcano so that I could look out at the beauty surrounding Telica from a higher vantage point.
After watching the sunrise, I returned to the camp to eat a typical Nicaraguan breakfast called gallo pinto, which is a dish made of red beans and rice accompanied by a scrambled egg and fried sweet plantains.
The descent down Telica was not nearly as arduous as the climb up. Although I nearly ended up sliding down the entire side of the mountain on my way down due to a lack of traction in my shoes, it was certainly not as strenuous on my body physically as the climb up had been.
Practical Tips for Climbing Telica Volcano:
Although I was not adequately prepared to hike Telica, I definitely learned some valuable tips in case I ever decide to climb up Telica again:
- Stay Hydrated – Make sure that you have plenty of water with you when you are climbing the volcano because it can get very hot and you do not want to pass out from a heat stroke
- Wear Comfortable Shoes – Make sure you wear shoes that are comfortable and have good traction. Wearing flip flops, flats, or heels are not the way to go when climbing a volcano; consider investing in a good pair of hiking boots.
- Pack Smart – Make sure your bag is balanced so that you do not topple off of the mountain from the weight of your bag.
- Prepare to Get Dirty – Wear practical clothing that you do not mind getting dirty.