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Shared By: Michael McGuigan on May 3, 2011
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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 will 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. Sunday is the best day to meet local climbers. All are very friendly and willing to have people visit the crag.

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 consdier taking a knowledgeable guide with you as it is very easy to get lost climbing this peak.

Getting There

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.

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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
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
El Arête
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a Sport
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Erik Yde
Salt Lake City, Utah
Erik Yde   Salt Lake City, Utah
Best Ways To Climb Cerro Quemado

Victor is the local legend who set the routes at the crag. He runs tour groups, resoles shoes, and uses the profits to bolt new routes. He can be reached at 5395-8141.

Quetzaltrekkers also offers rock climbing excursions in addition to their treks. If you book a trip with QT a portion of the profit is paid toward the funding of a local orphanage and school.

website: Quetzaltrekkers
phone number: (502) 7765-5895 Sep 16, 2016
Hey I am looking for a partner for Cerro. I will be here the next 3-4 days. My name is nils. Contact me at 541-631-1283 or Dec 22, 2017
Hola, estoy buscando un compañero para Cerro. Estaré aquí los próximos 3-4 días. Mi nombre es nils. Contácteme al 541-631-1283 o nils Dec 22, 2017
I just want to mention to anyone trying to climb here that the mountain projects directions are incorrect. There are no climbs past the soccer field. You need to go into town and up to the rock walls with religious flags everywhere on the top. It's easy to see from the center of town. Some awesome climbs! Dec 24, 2017
I was thinking of heading to Xela to go climb for a few days. Is anyone in the area interested in meeting up? Dec 3, 2018
Warren H
Warren H   Seattle
If you want to get out climbing, definitely give Victor a call/message through WhatsApp(+502 5860 4996). He doesn't speak much English however.

He's got harness, shoes, rope and rack so you don't need to bring anything. He can bring trad gear too if you want to lead on Friends, hexes and an odd master cam.

Rate starts at 300Q for a long half day (about $35) and might be cheaper with a group. As posted above, all that money goes to new bolts and hardware for continued development.

Super fun basalt climbing, lots of variety and awesome to see Victor crushing 5.12/5/13. Dec 14, 2018
Geetay Theron
Washington, District of Col…
Geetay Theron   Washington, District of Col…
Hi everyone we will be climbing at Xela today and tomorrow. Come join us! Call/text at 5726 3670. Jahne Jan 5, 2019 · Temporary Report