Haines scales two volcanoes in aid of CCMI

| 10/07/2017
CNS Local Life

(L-R) Lizzy Haines, Derek Haines and Gaby Amado on the rim of Acatenango

(CNS Local Life): Cayman’s marathon man and champion fundraiser Derek Haines is well into his next effort – raising $50,000 for the Central Caribbean Marine Institute’s (CCMI) reef research project by climbing two volcanoes and running three marathons this year. After finishing a marathon 30 April in Guatemala, he returned to that country last month to meet his two climbing partners for the volcano challenge.

Haines’ daughter, Lizzy Haines, and long-term friend and colleague in charity work, Guatemalan Gaby Amado, tackled the volcanoes with him, braving bad weather and mudslides to complete this challenging leg of the fundraising effort.

Despite the difficulties, Haines was keen to help CCMI. “Back in 2008 when I was the president of the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman, I supported them and got to know about the programmes,” he said.

“We had a talk from them some months ago where the Reef Research programme was explained and I thought it most worthwhile. It is educational and will benefit local students with the bonus of promoting tourism and helping to preserve our reefs and fish stocks.

“I have been visiting Guatemala on a literacy project with Rotary for 10 years but never had the chance to climb the volcanoes so this gave me the excuse to do so. A fantastic experience made even more enjoyable as my daughter Lizzy joined me from Australia together with local friend Gaby Amado.”

They were forced to change their initial plan to climb Agua then Acatenango due to the disruption of heavy rains and earthquakes, which had led to major landslides closing the trails up Agua, Haines explained.

Advised by their guide, Rodrigo, the three tackled the 13,045 ft Acatenango at dawn on 30 June whilst the weather was clear. As they started out they could hear distant booms from neighbouring active volcano Fuego. The steep track took the climbers through farmlands into dense rainforest and then pine forest. Lean-to shelters provided a chance to break for water and snacks, he said.

From about 10,000 feet the pines disappeared and remaining vegetation fell away, leaving unstable scree that caused the hikers to slide back with every footstep.

The wind became stronger and the temperature dropped but they were well equipped for all eventualities, armed with the knowledge that two people had fallen to their deaths and four others died of hypothermia in January this year.

After about 4 1/2 hours, they could see the rim of the volcano and reached it shortly afterwards. Haines described being at the top: “The fantastic views took in surrounding volcanic peaks that rose out of the clouds that lay far below,” he said, adding they waved their Cayman Islands flag from the rim.

With the temperature dropping, they started their descent, “almost skiing back down the scree”. Sore knees and tired legs made conditions underfoot even more treacherous, resulting in people unintentionally sliding on their bottoms, Haines said. It took 10 hours all together for the climb and descent.

Replacing Agua for their Sunday, 2 July, climb was Pacaya, an active volcano in the same range as Acatenango. Not as gruelling or as high, Pacaya had erupted only six weeks earlier, which added its own thrill to the challenge, Haines said.

Their guide, Paulina, was a local resident who was able to give personal accounts of the strong eruption in 2010 that forced her and nearby villages to evacuate due to the lava flow. Eruptions and gasses above 7,000 ft make climbing to the rim too dangerous and it is forbidden.

The group saw lava flows from recent eruptions stretching down the sides of the volcano sides and into the farmlands below, Haines recalled. At about 6,000 ft there was a shack, the “Lava Store”, where enterprising artisans sell jewellery made from lava.

Continuing to climb, the party approached the ridge but was thwarted from further ascent by a thunderstorm, which made additional progress too dangerous, he explained. The path quickly turned into rivers of mud on the way back down, but the group eventually returned to Antigua for a warm and dry celebratory dinner.

“This was a most enjoyable and rewarding weekend,” Haines said. “Lizzy and Gaby were super company and stuck to the task in hand with fortitude and good humour. Our guides were excellent, informative and Rodrigo says he is going to donate to the cause.

“I have always been met with friendship and hospitality in Guatemala and this was no exception. May I thank those who have already donated to the ‘Volcanoes and Marathons’ appeal. We are about halfway to target.”

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Category: Donations, Environment, Marine Environment

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