Dear Karl, Nancy, and Family and Scouts,
It is 09:46 Monday, December 30, 2002 and I’m sitting in our office in Guatemala City typing this message to you. My legs are somewhat tired yet today, but otherwise Hermana (Sister) Bondy and I are fine – not worse for wear, but rather better for the wear and tear of climbing a volcano. We started off from a native (Mayan) village called ‘Santa Maria de Jesus’ this past Friday morning at 1030 and headed up the trail toward El Volcan de Agua (The Volcano of Water). It sits at approx 14 ° N Lat. and rises to a height of 3766m above sea level. As we discovered Friday night, what the locals were telling us as to how cold it can get “ariba”(above) was true. I didn’t bring my portable weather station with us on our mission, so I did not have a means of measuring wind, temperature, or altitude; but it was “bastante frio”(quite cold).
The trek from the village to the top of “Agua” is approx 5.5 miles with an altitude gain of 5500’. The locals who work on the volcano seemingly make the trek without effort; carrying very heavy loads upon their backs. The men use a device called a “mecapal” which bears weight using the forehead. As we were making our climb, a young fellow came up out of the jungle with a very large load of wood on his back. After stopping and talking to him for a time, I asked him if he would allow me to try and lift the load he was carrying. He was very obliging but I was not able to budge the weight off of the ground!! He got a chuckle out of my attempt to do so.
They also use small horses and mules to transport cargo up and down the volcanos. I have attached a few photos for you to see of Volcan de Agua, Guatemala, Centro America; Volcan de Agua, with sugar-cane field and El Volcan de Fuego (Fire) in the background. Volcan de Agua is dormant – Volcan de Fuego is active.
Friday night we ran into difficulty, climbing higher and higher into an area that was exposed. The winds were very strong. Combined with the clouds that enshrouded the top, we were losing heat quickly. I quickly looked for a sheltered spot; found one; and got our little tent up right away. We had sufficient food and water to keep the boilers going during the long, cold night. I had the opportunity to teach survival skills to our company: Hermana Bondy, Hermana Telma Chacón, Hermano (Brother) Juan Carlos Green, and myself. I am very grateful for the outdoor experiences gained since my youth which enabled me to do what had to be done in our souring situation that night on the volcano. I have since likened our adventure to my life’s journey in that, I pray when all is said and done, that the experience I have gained through living the Gospel, to the best of my ability, will enable me to have helped my company (my friends and family) to survive the challenges of life and return safely home again to Our Father in Heaven.
Here's an after-shot; that is, after a cold, wet night on top of 'Agua'.