It might be warm in Antigua, but the summit of Acatenango is a cold, cold place. Most climbers spend a night in a tent near the summit, and temperatures plunge as soon as the sun goes down. Make sure you take cold weather gear, but don’t wear it on the sweaty climb.
If you don’t have the right gear, make sure you book a trip with a company that does. This often means going with a slightly more expensive option, which generally provides better equipment. Avoid the bargain basement operators who might have faulty equipment, and make sure you have a decent sleeping bag and tent.
At 3,976 metres (13,044 ft), Acatenango is not to be sniffed at in terms of altitude. It’s not uncommon to experience some symptoms of altitude sickness. Try to spend a couple of days in Antigua, which sits at 1,533 metres (5,029 ft), to help your acclimatization. Take aspirin tablets to relieve the symptoms.
You don’t need to be super fit to conquer Acatenango, but you’ll enjoy the climb more if you make some minimal preparations. Even if all you do is make sure you aren’t hungover on the day you climb, you’ll have more time looking at the scenery rather than your own trudging feet.
Stock up on energy-rich snacks before you go. While some tour groups provide food, it’s not really enough to keep you going. Take nuts and dried fruit for a healthy energy boost when you start to flag.
You might not be traveling with hiking gear, but it pays to get your hands on some decent footwear for this climb. Whether you manage to borrow some, or get a pair second hand from the huge Antigua market, your feet will thank you.
It might seem like a good idea to take a book or an extra t-shirt before you leave, but you’ll soon regret the extra weight when you’re on the trail. Take a long, hard look at your gear before you set off and get rid of anything you don’t absolutely need.
If you’re not much of a hiker, you might not realize how important setting up you gear can be. All of those straps and clips are there for a reason, even if you’ve never used them before. Ask your guide to adjust your pack properly and you will be far more comfortable for the duration of the climb.
After a long climb it might seem like madness to set an alarm for sunrise, but it’s worth it. You’ll need to make another short climb to the summit from the camping area, but the reward is a breathtaking view. If you’re really lucky, the neighbouring Fuego volcano will be erupting and you can watch the lava roll down its sides.
One of the items that is really worth taking is a camera. The views are incredible, and if Fuego is erupting you can get some truly amazing shots. For most people it’s the closest they will have been to an active volcano, so make sure you get some photos for posterity.