Haines conquers volcano despite rain, mudslides

Heavy rain, mudslides and the threat of hot lava did not stop Cayman athlete Derek Haines from fulfilling his promise to climb two volcanoes in Guatemala for charity.

Mr. Haines took on the “Volcanoes and Marathons” challenge this year with the mission of climbing the volcanoes and running three marathons to raise $50,000 for the Central Caribbean Marine Institute. He is now halfway toward his fundraising effort to support CCMI’s interactive classroom initiative, “Reefs-Go-Live.”

Derek Haines poses with the Cayman Islands flag atop Guatemala’s Acatenango volcano with daughter Lizzy Haines and friend Gaby Amado. The active Fuego volcano is seen in the background. – Photo: Courtesy of Derek Haines

Inclement weather greeted him on his arrival to Guatemala on June 29 and forced him to revise his initial plan to first climb Agua volcano, then Acatenango. Mudslides shut down Agua’s trails, so Mr. Haines took on the 13,000-foot ascent of Acatenango. In an email to the Cayman Compass, he said distant booms from neighboring active volcano Fuego could be heard as he and his guide made their way through farmland, dense rainforest and piney woods.

“From about 10,000 feet, the pines disappeared and then the scant remaining vegetation fell away to leave unstable scree that caused the hiker to frustratingly slide back down with every footstep. The wind became stronger and the temperature dropped, but the climbers were well equipped for all eventualities,” Mr. Haines said.

Four-and-a-half-hours’ work finally led the group to a view of volcanic peaks and plumes of smoke rising above the clouds.

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Despite sore knees and legs, Mr. Haines next climbed the active Pacaya volcano, replacing rain-swept Agua on the itinerary. Pacaya erupted as recently as this year. In 2010, it forced evacuations because of lava flow.

Derek Haines, daughter Lizzy Haines and friend Gaby Amado stop in a lava field in Guatemala. – Photo: Courtesy of Derek Haines

“It is considered too dangerous because of eruptions and gasses to climb to the rim, and climbing higher than about 7,000 feet is forbidden. The lava flows from the recent eruptions were clearly seen stretching down the volcano sides and into the farmlands below,” Mr. Haines said.

On the edge of the mountain, Mr. Haines took a break to roast marshmallows over a hot vent with fellow hikers. A strong thunderstorm then forced the party to retreat to Antigua city.

“Our guides were excellent, informative and [one] 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,” Mr. Haines said.

The Reefs-Go-Live program will enable scientists to broadcast live from Little Cayman’s ocean floor to classrooms across the islands. CCMI Director Carrie Manfrino said the initiative will enable the institute to better connect with children in Cayman and foster interest in the environment.

In April, Mr. Haines took second place in his age group in the challenging Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, marathon. He will later run a marathon in San Francisco and then in Grand Cayman to complete the challenge.

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  1. I applaud Mr. Haines for all his efforts in doing what he has done to show us , don’t let our age stop us from doing any thing we want to do .

    I think we should change his name to , “the first iron man”. I don’t know of any more like him .

  2. It bears repeating that Derek is in his late 60s.
    This challenge is especially tough for any of us living here in Grand Cayman as our terrain is so flat.
    Massive difference between walking a mile on the flat to walking a mile either up or down a mountain.
    So thank you Derek. Not only for the money you are raising for these excellent causes but for inspiring all of us.