Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"Sleeping" atop a volcano

Sitting in the lobby of the expedition group we had hired for our overnight adventure atop a volcano, Phil spotted a t-shirts they were selling with the saying, "Pacaya is for pussies" splashed across the front.

Phil shot me a look of disappointment and grumbled, "oh great". 

How quick a 40 year old man with a shattered ankle is to forget he's no longer an invincible 20-something, leading backpacking trips up the sides of glaciers. 

I assured Phil, yet again, that I had done proper research and that our overnight adventure on the Pacaya volcano was going to be perfect.

Our van showed up and we drove an hour and a half to the base of the volcano where we started our ascent. Stopping along the way for needed breaks and moments of education about the area, we finally made it to camp about 2 hours later.

While one guide was to get our camp set up and begin cooking dinner the other offered to take us to roast marshmallows over volcano hot spots. What we hadn't realized, was that the hike to roast marshmallows was going to take 40 minutes each way and that we'd be returning in the dark. Only changing a few top layers we took off with Carlos to roast marshmallows.

Midway between our hike to the hot spot Emma had asked me, " At what temperature does someone get hypothermia? " I said I didn't know, but assured her she was far from hypothermia.

On the way to finding our hot spots we stopped to watch the sunset that was botched by the amount of clouds starting to fill the sky. As soon as the sun did set, the temperature began to drop, the wind began to howl and the clouds were moving in all around us. Soon we were surrounded by a deep fog.

Once we reached the hot spot, Carlos showed us his marshmallow roasting techniques. After 20 minutes of eating marshmallows and cookies it was time to hike back for dinner....in the dark, minus a few headlamps.

Back at base camp, we put on most of our clothing and quickly ate dinner so we could return to the tent and escape the blistering wind. It wasn't but 8pm and we were all tucked into our sleeping bags for the night.

Emma wakes up and needs to go potty. As she opens the tent an Arctic blast pushes through the door and the wind is whipping the sides of the tent. After going potty, she returns to her sleeping bag and tries to sleep.

9:05pm "Mom, I'm shivering and can't stop" I reached over and rubbed her back to get her warm. "Are you cold?" I asked. "No, just can't stop shaking"

9:11pm "I have to go pee again, I guess I have a small bladder" She leaves the tent again, back out into the frigid air and then returns.

9:18pm "I'm shaking all over my body and it won't stop. I think I have to use the restroom again." I put my legs over her to warm her up and could feel her shaking.

After a minute, I turned over to Phil and informed him, that Emma couldn't stop going to the bathroom and was shaking. Previous years of having been both an E.M.T. and Wilderness E.M.T. we're about to pay off.

"She's hypothermic! Get her down to one layer and move her into my sleeping bag with me."

Emma couldn't get her body warm on her own and needed to contract heat from someone else.

9:30pm While stuffed in Phil's sleeping bag, "I have to pee again". Opening up the tent door with the cold air screaming through the tent, Phil took Emma potty.

Sensing Emma would soon be dehydrated from the constant potty breaks, he made her drink water. A symptom of hypothermia is cold diuresis..basically, her kidneys were working to keep her blood pressure low and reduce the volume her body was trying to keep warm, hence the constant urination.

9:45pm " I have to pee........again". Phil took Emma out of the tent......again.

Coming back into the tent, Phil asked that Emma do her best to resist the urge to pee. Back and forth into the Artic blast wasn't helping her condition.

10:05pm "My skin is hurting......feels like its burning".

Success! Emma was getting warm. Unfortunately as your body warms after hypothermia, it hurts. After another 2 hours, Phil crawled out of the sleeping bag allowing Emma to stay warm and snug. Within 10 minutes she was sleeping. We placed Emma between us, taking turns, keeping a watchful eye on her in between watching the tent attempt to collapse on itself with the 40 mile an hour gusts.

6am We were woken up by an explosion and felt the ground rumble! Miles away volcano Fuego was erupting.

Oh yeah...during the entire hypothermia ordeal, there was another couple in our 6 person tent! I can only imagine how much they were hating us during the whole experience. I passed on offering them a boat card with our blog address, I'm sure they had seen enough of the four of us!

 During breakfast the wind still blew and the clouds did their best to clear...with no real success. While hiking around for a few good photos we could see smoke coming out of Fuego from the early eruption. After an hour or so we packed it up and went home.

All said and done we had a good time and we're happy to have done the trip, even Emma.

Some of Pacaya's hot spots.

Carlos and his toasted marshmallow

Waking up all smiles

Good morning!
Pacaya volcano

Cold Morning

Volcano Fuego blowing black smoke in the distance.
Ready to hike down and get warm.

Close up of volcano Fuego driving home


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