Where There are No Rocks…We Climb Volcanoes


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Our son, Cory, is an experienced rock climber. He works in Yosemite National Park as an interpretive naturalist. So, when he says that climbing Vulcan Concepcion is not for the inexperienced, the timid, or those who are not in shape….BELIEVE HIM. In his words, “From my experience, that volcano is not to be taken lightly. It is dangerous.”

On Sunday, a young twenty year old British hiker fell to his death. We are aware of two other deaths on Vulcan Concepcion, and two deaths on Vulcan Maderas. Seven years ago, when we managed the Hospedaje Central on Ometepe Island, a young Salvadorian hiker lost his life on Vulcan Concepcion. He had attempted to climb the volcano in the rainy season without a guide and was ill prepared for the dangerous trek. Those foolish enough to scale the 1610 meter slippery slopes without assistance are usually seriously wounded or lost in the clouds.

Even with a guide, as in the case of Sunday’s death, it is still dangerous. The guides are not certified and generally have no first aid training.  Although the guides are all young, strong, and knowledgeable about the flora and fauna, it is still Nicaragua, where the hikers climb the volcanoes at their own risk.

When we managed the Hospedaje Central, I wondered how many times the guides had to rescue thoughtless kids from the volcano and if anyone had died. Berman, the lead guide who also spoke some English told us, “Once a man died with a brain bubble, and we had to carry his body from the peak.” “Oh,” I replied, “You mean a brain aneurism.” “Of course,” he responded.

“Berman, do the hikers have to sign a waiver of release in case of an accident?”  He had never heard of such a thing.  “Are you held liable for any accidents?”  “No, of course not.” he told me.  “It is they who choose to climb the volcano.”  He couldn’t fathom the possibility of being held responsible for the carelessness of his trekkers.  Words such as lawsuit, waiver, and liability were beyond his comprehension.  I was afraid to ask, but I knew the answer before he spoke, “Do many people get hurt climbing the volcano?”  “Of course,” he said matter-of-factually.

In order to avoid another tragic accident, please take heed when climbing our volcanoes. Always take a guide, be prepared with sturdy hiking shoes, water,food,a light jacket, and a first aid kit. The rainy season is not the ideal time to climb the volcanoes. The trails are wet, slippery, and obscured with overgrown vegetation and a web of roots. If you do make it to the top, chances are you will be shrouded in clouds.

When Cory and his friends hiked Concepcion, it was in the dry season. Even then, when they reached the peak, they were blanketed by clouds. When a light breeze parted the clouds, they were astounded, yet horrified.The view was spectacular; however, they were standing on a narrow ledge of loose rock, with steep ravines on either side of them. One misstep and they would have been a goner!

Yep, Nicaragua is full of surprises. Some spectacular, some tragic. Cory’s expression after the grueling eight hour climb, says it all. I knew I raised a risk-taker, but I’m so grateful he’s cautious, careful, and experienced.