Climbing
Sport climbing, Non-technical rock, Trad climbing, Top rope
Alpine climbing NCCS rating
Grade I
Elevation Gain
556.00 m (1,824.15 ft)
Distance
2.00 km (1.24 mi)
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Cerro Quemado, meaning “burned hill," is part of the Almologna Volcano. Dormant since its last eruption in 1818, it is located just outside Guatemala’s second largest city, Quetzaltenango (literally “place of the Quetzals”), or more commonly known by locals as Xela. As such, the crag is comprised of sharp, mostly black volcanic rock. It is great for both sport and especially crack trad climbing, with a very minimal amount of bouldering, though the landings are all very poor. Even if you aren’t a climber, you can hike to the top of the crag for a stunning view of the valley below. Just take the chasm to the right of La Ola wall to access the summit.

Cerro Quemado is not only important for the Guatemalan climbing community (being one of the country’s only developed crags), but also a sacred religious place for Evangelicals and those still practicing the Mayan religion. Nestled among the rocks along the approach are countless wooden altars dressed with dried bouquets of flowers and words of prayer and remembrance painted on the rocks.

On any given day, your approach will likely be to the sound of wailing sermons and songs of worship. Passing near these religious ceremonies can feel awkward, but the worshippers are very respectful to the climbers there and willing to share their sacred space. They’ll even point you in the right direction if you look a little lost. Just be sure to be equally respectful and do your best to not disturb the ceremonies and give them as much space as possible.

 

The Approach

The access point to Cerro Quemado is Chicuá, a small and traditional village sitting right at the base of the mountain, that survives mostly by growing and selling beautiful floral arrangements that visitors bring to altars on the mountains. Despite being 10 minutes away from the urban center of Xela, it’s the type of village where it’s not uncommon to see people walking cows down the main street or balancing large bundles of flowers on their head.

The crags rise quite obviously over the village, but the trail itself can be a little tricky to find (like most outdoor endeavors in Latin America). The trail to the main area begins with what looks like a driveway cutting off the right side of the road (just before the a little red restaurant up ahead). Pass some pigpens and suddenly you’ll find yourself on the trail.

This trail quickly fades away among the black volcanic boulders that scatter the hillside below the crag. No matter; there is no one way to the crag, though some paths are definitely a bit easier. You can see it looming above, so just keep going up if all else fails.

 

Area Beta

There are currently no guide books written about Cerro Quemado, being a young crag with a newly emerging climbing community. Locals are the best way to get familiar with the area. Sundays are considered the local favorite climbing day, so going then is a great way to meet up with locals (including those responsible for developing and bolting the area) who can show you the ropes or share gear if you’re not traveling with all your own. You can also head to the minimalist climbing gym in town, Complejo Deportivo de Confede.

As of late 2017, there were 10 developed walls in Cerro Quemado with a total number of routes somewhere around 40, ranging in difficulty from 5.8 to a projected 5.14 standing project. Most fall in the 5.10 to 5.12 range. Helpfully, the names and grades of each climb are painted on the wall at the base of the route, so you don’t need an area guide to figure out what you’re doing up there. However, being so young, there are still many gaps in the info on these climbs, and many are missing grades. The main walls (in order from left to right) are as follows:

  1. La Chocolatada: This brown- and copper-streaked wall includes stunning rock and probably some of the best climbing in the area. The wall is so named because, when the rock is wet, it looks like melting chocolate. These routes are possible to do on top-rope, but you must climb to the top and repel down to the top chains.
    • El Culto: Sport, 5.12b
    • Nenas del Desierto: Sport, 5.11b
    • Poc a Poc: Sport, 5.12a
  2. La Vertical: A very smooth section of rock characterized by the narrow crack running down it, the climb for which the wall is named. Unfortunately, the crack climb is only trad.
    • Arete de Catel: Sport, 5.8 (but I would contest this grade for something harder)
    • Dulce Jiba: Sport, 5.11a
    • La Cueva: Sport, ungraded (meaning “cave," you have to rappel down into the cave located to the right of the wall to climb out of it)
    • La Vertical: Trad, 5.11a
  3. La Alemana: One of the walls that runs along the very dramatic cracks splitting down the side of Cerro Quemado. As such, all the routes on this wall are trad only, but they're some gnarly sharp splitter cracks!
    • La Alemana: Trad, 5.8
    • La Tromba: Trad, ungraded
    • Tacones: Trad, 5.8
    • Tirabuzon: Trad, ungraded
  4. La Integral: Again, a crack-ridden area only for trad climbers
    • La Competencia: Trad, 5.8
    • La Integral: Trad, 5.9
  5. El Robot: This wall is home to the most dramatic of the cracks, and again, it is only trad
    • Via Directa: Trad, ungraded
    • Who’s Your Bitch?: Trad, ungraded
    • Doble Via: Trad, 5.11a
    • El Techo: Trad, 5.9
    • Hambre de Rayo: Trad, ungraded
    • Tanga Parpat: Trad, ungraded
  6. La Ola: Named because the wall itself looks like a giant wave. This is the most popular wall, and it had the most sport routes with a wide range of grades.
    • Bolsita de Spiderman: Sport, 5.11b
    • Habas de Poder: Sport, 5.11a
    • Hijo de Gato: Sport, 5.13a
    • La Visita del Halcon: Sport, 5.12c
    • Moqueton Embrujado: Sport, 5.12a
    • Sala de Maternidad: Sport, 5.8
    • Tembloron: Trad/Sport, ungraded
    • Zapato al Ajo: Sport, 5.11a
  7. El Culo de la Montse: This wall is located down in a little dark canyon to the right of La Ola. While there is only one route here currently, there is loads of potential for more. It’s a shame there weren’t more when we were there, because the rock is incredibly interesting.
    • El Canaston: Sport, 5.11a
  8. Dent-de-Lion: If you continue through the canyon, the ground drops down once again and dead-ends. There are a couple more routes in this section.
    • Indian Crack: Trad, ungraded
    • Little Diedre: Top rope, ungraded

Note: There are more routes than the ones listed above, but they’re located on unnamed walls. For instance, the projected 5.14 project is on an unnamed wall directly behind La Ola.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Solid anchors. New bolting. Wide vistas. Cultural exposure. Low crowds. Friendly local climbers. Much development potential.

Cons

Currently not well developed. No guidebooks. Confusing approach.

Pets allowed

Allowed

Trailhead Elevation

8,664.70 ft (2,641.00 m)

Highest point

10,488.85 ft (3,197.00 m)

Features

Big vistas
Wildflowers
Shelters

Access

Hike-in

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Primary aspect

North facing

Class / Rating

5.8-5.14

Drinking water

Unfrozen water

Location

Field Guide

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