Climb 37 Volcanoes — for the Good of Guatemala

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 Old Town Outfitters

Guatemala has one of the world's highest densities of volcanic peaks, and four guys plan to kick off 2015 by climbing 37 of them in 27 days to benefit four charities in the Central American country. For a $100 donation, you too can join them. 

Volcanoes first brought Nico Marceca from New York to Guatemala in 2008, and he enjoyed climbing them so much that he returned to work as a guide for Old Town Outfitters in Antigua. In 2013, through a project with Old Town, he climbed a different volcano in Guatemala every month for six months, raising more than $100,000 for a charity that provides clean water to rural Guatemalans.

37in27 grew from that success. This time, Marceca will be raising money for Ninos de Guatemala, which supports education for children in the country's Panchoy Valley and is bringing along a team of climbers with their own charities. Chicagoan Steve Cook, who left Morgan Stanley in 2011 to work at an orphanage in the Guatemalan jungle, will collect funds for Habitat for Humanity. Native Guatemalan Luis Galindo, a skilled guide and avid promoter of mountaineering in the country, will donate funds to Asociacion Q'ukumatz. German-Guatemalan Reinhard Miquel Arriaza will be supporting the Integral Heart Foundation, an NGO he works for that helps kids gain access to education.

The four will set off on December 31, 2014, spending the night on the slopes of 13,000-foot Acatenango to ring in the New Year watching fireworks from nearby towns and, possibly, neighboring Vulcan Fuego before summiting the following day. Fuego and Acatenango loom over the Antigua valley. "One of my favorite things to do is camp out on Acatenango's south ridge and watch Fuego's massive eruptions from a couple miles away," says Marceca. "That volcano has been erupting ever since the Spanish began recording it, and it had a world-scale eruption in 2012."

The group mapped out a route that hits 11 peaks higher than 10,000 feet, bagging multiple mountains on some days, and takes three strategically-placed rest days. In addition to Fuego, active volcanoes on the list include Pacaya and Santiaguito. The adventure ends with a celebration atop 8,373-foot Pacaya on January 25. Anyone is welcome to join the team on Acatenango, Pacaya, or Chicabal, a relatively easy climb up a sacred peak with a lake in its crater. A minimum donation of $100 will cover transport, entrance fees, food and, for the overnight on Acatenango, camping gear. Any excess funds will be donated to the charities and logged on the website.

These peaks are steep — a 45 percent slope is typical — and there are next to no flat areas. Given that and the high elevations, would-be climbers should plan on regular exercise between now and then to condition. "In all my experience guiding on the volcanoes, everyone is capable of reaching the summit," says Marceca. "It's really more of a mental exercise, accepting the challenge, understanding the terrain, and just enjoying the ride."

More Info: Marceca can put together customized packages for the climbs from $500 per person including the hike, hotel, and a sightseeing tour. He also can create week-long package; email him at Nico@AdventureGuatemala.com to work out details.