It is 3:00am and bitterly cold, yet perspiration drips from my forehead. I sit up, pull the sleeping bag hood loose and tear my hat off. We are only at 4,000 meters but my head is splitting with an altitude headache. Breathing is also slightly difficult. I knew that we were climbing too quickly. I continue to gasp for air and question my reason for being on the volcano in the first place. However, my mind is not thinking clearly and I am slightly shivering. The sleeping bag I had borrowed is not warm enough.
Bracing for the bitter cold, I get out of the tent. Outside is magical yet so inhospitable. A full moon and a sky dotted with countless stars, shining and flickering in total silence. I collect some firewood to keep me warm for the next two hours until our 5:00 summit ascent.
It took 90 minutes to reach 4,222 meters – the highest point in Central America – where I watched the sun rise over Guatemala, Mexico, and Honduras. It is like seeing the world being recreated as a new day reveals itself bit by bit. The clouds, rock formations, volcanoes, and mountains changing shade and color as the sun shifts its position. A sense of joy and an awesome feeling of total presence makes´ me forget the headache, the cold, and the labored breathing.