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Shared By: Michael McGuigan on May 3, 2011 · Updates

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Cerro Quemado has the best developed climbing in Guatemala. This is also some of the coolest climbing in the country as the crag is located above 9000 ft. The routes start at 5.8 and go to 5.12, though the locals probably inflate some of these ratings. Most of the routes are bolted but there are lots of opportunities to use your gear.

One very interesting thing about this area is that the Maya and evangelicals consider the area sacred and use it as a place for worship, so you'll hear gospel singing, chanting, and preaching echo off the walls as you climb. This is not a problem for climbers or worshipers so long as you respect presence.

*****Very important information******
As of 2020 there has been increasing disagreement in the local climbing community here about foreigners having free access to the crag. In 2020 there are 57 routes established here, 50 of which have been developed and installed more or less by the effort and funds of one local legend Miguel Arango. 40 years ago Miguel began developing this area and has recently become disenfranchised by foreign travelers coming to climb (with or without locals, or the guide service Quetzaltrekkers) and there not being an avenue for the local effort to be assisted financially. The local climbing scene here is small. Locals say there are less than ten outdoor climbers local to Xela (Quetzaltenango) which means Miguel is bearing the financial brunt of all this awesome sport climbing. It's complicated, there's personal dynamics at play, sport hangers cost 4 times as much here.

So, if you want to have access to this sweet spot while you are here in Xela, you can support the community in a couple of ways. If you are in the area for a short time and just want to see the spot once or twice or whatever you can hire Miguel as a guide for a flat fee about $40 USD for a day including all the gear and access to the trad only routes. It's awesome and a bargain to say the least. Or regardless of how you feel about it, you can make a donation of $40 per person as a flat fee for the duration of your stay. Without support, it's quite possible that the climbing scene here will get shut down.

How you can get in contact with Miguel and support the local effort?

Download WhatsApp, which you'll need some sort of phone number to use. Add his number (add a plus sign in front if the phone number associated with your account is not a Guatemalan number) then his number 502-5860-4996. Or if you have problems making that work you can google the coffee shop "Cafe Museo La luna", or the pub in it's basement "Bajo La Luna". He lives literally beside (to the left) of "Bajo La Luna" and you can knock on the metal gate/door. His address is 4 calle D3-67 zona 1. His  parents live with him and they nor he speak english so you could leave a note for him or something. You may also be interested in the indoor wall at Complejo Desportivo which is open from 5 to 8pm at 4 calle entre 25 y 27 avenida de la zona 3. He also resoles shoes for less $15 a pair including the toe! Another bargain!

For real, if you are going to climb here with or without locals (other than Miguel) support the crag. And if you wanna be a real sweetie, bring him some "Fixe" sport hangers. That might save you some or all of the fee. They're near impossible to get here and he wants to maintain the crag and add new routes.

Geological Information

Cerro Quemado (whose name means Burned Peak), is an active volcano that in all likelihood will erupt again. It located immediately south of Guatemala's second largest city, Quezaltenango (Xela). About 1200 years ago, part of Cerro Quemado's dome collapsed, producing a debris avalanche and an associated lateral explosion that swept across the valley to the west as far as the flanks of Siete Orejas volcano. The latest eruption in 1818 produced a blocky 2.5-km-long lava flow. Hot springs are located on the northern and eastern flanks of Cerro Quemado, and the Zuníl geothermal field, the site of a geothermal exploration project, lies on the SE flank of Cerro Quemado.

Mountain Climbing

In addition to having some of the best rock climbing in the country, Cerro Quemado also offers an opportunity to do some alpine climbing. At 3197m, the peak has a little altitude as well as some serious attitude. It is not at all uncommon to find the entire area wrapped in a blanket of fog. Because this area is the product of a massive volcanic explosion, the climb to the "peak" is over very rugged terrain. In fact, hiking over this area feels like a trip across Mordor. You should seriously consider taking a knowledgeable guide with you as it is very easy to get lost climbing this peak.

Getting There Suggest change

From Guatemala City take a taxi to the Transportes Galgo bus station on 7a. Avenida 19-44 in zone 1 (tel. 253-4869). For about Q60.00 you can purchase a one-way ticket to Quetzaltenango(Xela). The trip will take between 3.5 to 5 hours depending on weather, road conditions, traffic, and how many people the bus stops for along the way. If you check in gear, make sure you keep track of your luggage ticket. After you arrive in Xela, take a taxi to the Parke Central, about Q25.00 where you can catch a good meal and enjoy downtown Xela.

At this point, you can either stay in Xela for the evening or go on to the village at the base of Cerro Quemado. If you stay at Xela, I suggest you stay at Hostal Don Diego (7a. Calle 15-20, tel. 7761-6497). The place has clean rooms and sunny courtyard with a large eating area. The dorms feature single beds instead of bunks, but are a bit cramped. Private rooms are more spacious and all have comfortable beds piled with plenty of blankets for chilly nights. There are three shared bathrooms for the hostel, so we sometimes had to wait to use them. All were clean and had hot water. This hostel is very popular with foreign students coming to Xela to study Spanish. Costs run Q50.00 for a private room and Q40.00 for a bunk. From Xela you are about a 15 minute drive from the base of Cerro Quemado. The taxi ride to the trail head costs about Q70.00.

The alternative is to stay at the Hospedaje Elim (5379-0523) in the village of Canton Chicua. The advantage of staying here is that you are at the base of the volcano and can get an early start. This place costs about Q20.00. It has large rooms with four or five beds in each room. The beds are only box springs with no mattress or sheets. You do get some blankets and a small pillow. There is one shared bathroom with no water pressure and a rather sketchy shower.

Once you are in the village, Canton Chicua, ask anyone where the trail is to the rocks.

Alternatively take a bus from Xela towards Almolonga. In either case, you will be on this highway only for about one Kilometer. Then get off the highway and take a road to the right which heads toward the Cerros and also the thermal baths marked on the highway as “Baños Los Vahos” (a fairly well known spot, and a good landmark for this hike). The baths are created from geothermal energy from the still active Volcano and are a good stop on the return from a long hike. After heading up the road for about 200 meters, turn at the sign “Baños los Vahos.” The baths are to the right, the Volcano to the left. Walk up the paved road for about 30 minutes and you will arrive at a community called Chicuá. Directly before the village, and at the sign talking about unauthorized entrance into the village take a right off the road onto an obvious trail paved with stones. 15 minutes up this trail will bring you to a soccer field, and from there several obvious paths lead up to the mulit-summit Volcán Cerro Quemado.

26 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Cerro Quemado

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a
El Arête
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
Nenas Del Desierto
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
El Arête
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a Sport
Nenas Del Desierto
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Sport
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