Last year I was only on the lake for about a week before heading to Semuc so I didn’t really get a chance to hike much. Lake Atitlan is surrounded by peaks anywhere you turn. The most prominent being Indian Nose and Volcan San Pedro. At least as far as you hear about. San Pedro seemed more of a walk requiring a “guide” and my Internet research led me to figure I could scale any of the Indian Nose trails myself. So a few weeks back I set out to summit Nariz de Indio.
I’d read this blog and used it as a base to climb the mountain on my own. However, a few things are off or at least misleading as far as the trail from San Juan as of now. (March 2015)
Now, you’re going to face a lot of confusing fees trying to hike this fairly unassuming peak. Two towns claim the mountain as their own so they both try to charge to enter the “park”. On top of that, it’s hard to tell is actually employed as caretakers and who’s just a bandito. Some of the fees may be legit, most I feel are just people trying to scam you.
There it is from the town of San Juan.
If you want to hike the full face of Indian Nose from San Juan, my favorite way, then you enter the trail next to the medical center and across from the abandoned gas station on the north side of the village. The sign is for the “Rostro Maya”. It’s a 30q fee ($3.75us). There’s a bathroom and sink and benches at this entrance. If you get here before 5am, maybe 6am some days, the dude is not there so keep climbing and save some bucks. Tho you’ll need head torches for a bit til the sun catches over the ridges.
So according to the very accurate sign, you’ve got about 700m to Cerro la Cruz. These first steps are across man made steps and sand and stone. Not too bad, especially in the small hours. Tho if you go beyond 11am, you’ll have the sun full on you for most of the way up the entire mountain besides where you can scramble shade under a coffee tree or within the trenched walls the Mayans have dug. I hope you brought at least 2L of water.
At this point, you should have reached the hump. It’s a gorgeous view looking over the villages of San Juan, San pedro to the right and San Pablo and San Marcos to the left. The single track leads to a cross and defaced Santa Maria statue. Dusty at this time of year.
Keep in mind this is really only supposed to be a mountain path connecting to Santa Clara. You’ll probably run into Mayans ferrying goods on the trail. These two women were carrying bundles of firewood on their heads.
Ah, Santa Clara, the actual owners of Indian Nose. Or so they say, as San Juan disputes. Or San Juan is just smart.
See the lake facing side of the nose has San Juan at its base. So logically for anyone traveling here, it’s the obvious base camp. Except that the summit is only maybe 20min from Santa Clara on the opposite side of the nose so governmentally it’s their land. Or they say. It’s not much of a hike from Santa Clara, mostly just walking thru farmland. Then a quick ascent up to the summit tower. To get from San Pedro to the Santa Clara entrance of their trail to the summit is an hour chicken bus ride. I can walk from San Pedro to San Juan in 25min. Up to you which way you wanna go.
Confusing as all that was, let’s assume you are still acending from San Juan. From La Cruz, you’ve got about 35-45min to the final covered mirador. This trail is a real fucking stair master slog. Switchback after switchback climbing boulders that wouldn’t be out of place in Pennsylvania. About 5-10min after that mirador, you’ll reach a fork. There is a big boulder in front of you with a white painted arrow aiming left. Other arrows on other rocks proclaiming the same. I walked about 200m down their path and it started to head down so I turned back. It did not feel right. I think this may be a trick on San Juan’s part. They don’t want you to head right. I did.
Sometimes there is an old Mayan dude up here stripping fronds. He charges 15q($1.85) to hang out. He also talks shit on the summit which is like 50m up the hill blocked by (easily circumvented) barbed wire. It’s crazy how the two towns fight over this place. He heads down with the sunset. I usually wake up around 4-5am and toss my bag thru the fence and then cringe thru the barbs before walking up the old trail. See if you read old descriptions of hiking Indian Nose, you find that they say, hike thru once you reach Rostro Maya. But now(as of March 2015) there is a barbed wire gate across the path up to the true summit. Further evidence of the battle between Santa Clara and San Juan. I’ve modified the gate a bit so it’s easy enough to wiggle thru if
you are so inclined. Watch the barbs. Watch for the old timer. Watch the sunrise.
Last Thursday night was the smallest full moon of 2015. Also known as the worm moon. It was still pretty sweet sleeping under it in my hammock. Here it is just about to pass below the mountains above Santa Clara.
If you head to the right at the Rostro Maya sign and continue down into the Santa Clara lands, you’ll have to be lucky to catch the straight path the tours use up to their tower. It’s a ways thru farm and cattle fields and not marked. They charge 50q($6) to enter the park. Some days no one is there. Other days you can try to talk your way out of paying. But if they are there, you could easily walk away and down the forward face of the summit and into the Mayan lands. Other times there will be big groups of kids/tourists/whatever who are part of a tour and they’re burning big fires and ruining any chance of nice photos. Local gold toothed “students” will claim they work for the park and you owe them 50q to guide you down. I got into it with a kid who accosted me for another 50q and claimed he’d call the police on his walkie if I didn’t pay. I told him to call em and told him I’d be down the trail and walked away. Never heard.
So there you have it. Some stories, some directions and some awesome views from the mountain named Nariz de Indio.