Adjusting MY Altitude ft. Acatenango Volcano

LIFE ADVICE: When you get dumped, hike a volcano. It is bound to make the pain  head straight to your calves.

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Remember my previous post Flights or Feelings? well things didn’t work out. “I don’t know what I want” and just like that things took a 180 degree turn. I would love to tell you I was fine and even MORE that it didn’t affect me, but the truth is, it did (like Jess in the first episode of New Girl). In between Jose Cuervo, falling into a ditch, crying over the phone, and watching “How to be Single” I got through my hellish week. So I did what any sane girl does… Next stop: Guatemala City

Here is my guide to Hiking (more like Climbing) Acatenango Volcano

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Tour Guide: GT Adventures Tours & Travel Agency Q350 + Q50 Park Entrance -> $55 

Includes: tent, sleeping bag with pad, 3 meals, tour guide, and a TON of pain

Itinerary: 2 day 1 night backing trip (December 26-27th 2017)

The night before our hike we stayed in Hostel Antigueno in Antigua, Guatemala, a couple blocks from where we booked our tour two days before.  Antigua is a beautiful town surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. I highly recommend you spend a day exploring the old streets and loading up on the delicious food – shoot, I did.

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Although camping things were provided, highly suggest BRING these items… #dontbeeric (just kidding, he was prepared #thanksash) 

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The bus picked us up around 9:30 am and we were off to the trail head. Before beginning the hike, you have a chance to buy anything you might have forgotten (like gloves) or use the restroom. Do yourself a favor and RENT A WALKING STICK (Q5)-> you will forever be grateful.

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The crew’s mood before the big adventure

Acatenango is BRUTAL – nothing about it is a walk in the park. Just the FIRST 20 MINUTES gives you a taste of what you just signed up for. About an hour in we stopped for a lunch break, I didn’t want to eat but I KNEW I needed all the calories/energy I could get.

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About halfway through the hike, we hit the clouds and man was I drenched in sweat. My calves were aching in pain and my pack felt so heavy. Not once did the thought of turning around cross my mind. I told myself, “You did this hike six months ago in worst conditions. I don’t care how fit you are. I don’t care how far behind you are from the group. I don’t care how long it takes you… you are getting to the camp. You are SO strong Ash.” Then the last month of memories hit… and I felt the kryptonite. So many heart warming moments and they all came to an end with SIX SIMPLE WORDS, “I don’t know what I want.” I tried to push the thoughts out of my head but they came in like a tsunami.

I went from having a New Year’s kiss to spending it solo. I changed my plans for this guy. I cancelled my trip to El Salvador and shifted Guatemala so that I could  spend New Years with him. WHO WAS I? And just like that it hit me… In just one month my world became about HIM. I almost said no to a job opportunity with my company in Mexico because I didn’t want to put strain on the relationship, I hesitated to make future travel plans for the upcoming months, I missed out on El Salvador with my best friend so that I could start the New Year with him hoping that if we started together maybe we could end up together… for like EVER (talk about cliches). I wanted to control everything and sacrifice everything so that our relationship would be great, basically 100% untouchable and in the process, I lost myself. Not once did he ask this of me or even suggest it, it ALL came from me. So I dug deeper and truth be told- I realized that I had never seen a happy stable relationship in my 24 years of living. So when I thought I found it, I held on it for dear life I didn’t want to lose what I yearned for so much growing up, but in just one month, I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror.

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But here I was…still walking and pushing through the physical and emotional pain on a freaking volcano.  And then the questions I had been asking myself all week… Was I too easy? Too giving? Should I have played games? Did I love too easily? started disappearing because I no longer cared for the answer. I knew what I wanted and I went for it, but he just wasn’t the right guy and that’s okay. You live and learn. For the first time in sometime, I felt like myself; the ash I grew to love so much this past year (corny I know).

After five and half hours of sweat, pain, and no tears WE MADE IT TO THE BASE CAMP at 11,811 ft !

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My friends and I celebrated our victory, not knowing the challenge we would face the next morning. We drank a victory shot of some crappy whiskey, made fun of each other, laughed, and danced the night away.

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The next morning it’s 4:15 am. The time to summit has arrived. I’ve slept all of maybe 45 minutes and I am congested and exhausted. I want to stay in the tent and just watch the sunrise from the comfort of my sleeping bag but seeing my friends get up, I pushed through. Our guide briefed us and we began our ascent. Ten minutes in and I’ve fallen behind with no one else’s head light in sight. I’m exhausted and for once this whole trip I think about turning around. The guide is breathing down my neck and I can feel his frustration with how slow I am going. I want to take a break but I’m afraid he will tell me we have to turn back. I want to ask how much time is left of the 1.5 hour climb but I know I won’t like the answer. I keep going. Every step I take forward in the gravel, I fall half a step back. I feel my energy draining, with no cheerleader in sight. I wasn’t sure how much longer I would go…

My head began drowning itself with thoughts. “God I wish the guide would just leave me… I know I can physically make it BUT at my pace.” In reality though, I knew safety wise he could not leave me. Then came another realization: I’ve always beaten myself up for not keeping up with others pace.

Flashback: My first semester of college I took 15 credit hours because THAT’S WHAT EVERYONE DID… and I bombed it. I couldn’t keep up with the workload so the next semester I adjusted and took the minimum to be a full-time student (12 hours). At first, I was embarrassed and ashamed. I felt like I wasn’t smart enough and worse, I felt less than my peers. But guess what – it worked. I got a 4.0 that semester and the next. I learned what worked for me and stuck to it. Sure, I graduated a semester later but I still got that engineering degree.

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Just when I was feeling a bit stronger and more confident I saw the damn “Maldita” known as the toughest part of the hike. As I continued pushing forward not knowing if there would be another step, I see a guy fall on all fours trying to grasp for some air. God, I was so afraid. I wanted to turn around but something in me kept pushing forward. I could not give up. I would not let myself give up. Sure, I might take an hour more than the others and yeah, I will probably miss the sunrise but I will make it to that damn summit. Those thirty minutes felt ETERNAL. Every step I took, the gravel and wind would push me back ten. I was taking forever and at this point people were coming down. I felt my heart drop, disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to share this moment with my friends, that I had taken too long, that my pace wasn’t good enough…but those thought bounced out as quickly as they came in. Moments before I reached the summit I didn’t care anymore if I saw my friends, if I got a cool picture for Instagram, if the guy was ever gonna figure out what HE wanted… because I was moments away from accomplishing something that for the last two hours, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to take one more step towards. As I reached the summit, tears filled my eyes, I had done it.ScreenShot2018-01-01at9.14.36PM.jpgAnd to make it EVEN better I hugged all my friends at the summit of 13,045 ft, saw the most beautiful sunrise, and got the cool Instagram picture.

I don’t know what the future has in store for me but I will keep pushing forward. All I know is when I look back on my life I plan to say, “Yeah, I did it all. I owned every second that this world could give regardless if someone was there to hold my hand.”

 Thanks “Aca-te-quedas” Crew

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All Photo Credit: Christian Batch, Thanks ❤

-She lived. She learned. ❤ ash

Disclaimer: I know I won’t be able to go at MY pace on Mt. Rainier and that’s okay! I’ll be working my butt off for the next 9 months. 

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