The hike up took about 4 and a half hours at a grueling pace. The first phase of the hike was jungle, with a bunch of awesome looking insects and a lot of monkeys. The second phase was steep rocks. The weight in my backpack made it almost impossible for me to pull myself up the vertical slope. The third phase of the hike was through a bunch of knee high shrubs. The slippery mud path that we were following was extremely narrow. The shrubs on either side of the path were so overgrown that we couldn't see where we were stepping. It was especially nerve-racking during as the slope became steeper and steeper. The last phase of the trip was by far the most difficult. The climb was so steep that I could just reach out my hand and touch the ground in front of me, which was hot, hot gravel. There was a really strong smell of sulfur that got stronger as we got closer to the mouth. The amazing view that I had been waiting for was made foggy by all of the smoke and clouds at the peak. We took our last break about 4 meters from the peak--it was so difficult to see that we had no idea that we were so close. I was so terrified to be so close to the mouth of the volcano. There was ash all over the ground so we had to sit on our backpacks to keep from burning ourselves. Nice place to eat lunch.
After about a half hour at the top of the volcano, we started the decent. I spent the entire 3 1/2 hours on my but, grabbing on to rocks and plants with my hands to slow myself down. Two hours in and I couldn't feel my legs anymore--felt like Jello. We all wiped out a lot on the way down, but nobody got seriously injured, thankfully. Our guides called me "piernas borrachas," or drunk legs--a joke that lasted the rest of our trip.
What an adventure!