Walking on the volcano well above the clouds. Submitted photo.

B.C. man recalls terrifying experience at edge of Fuego volcano in Guatemala

‘I had never been on a volcano when it started grumbling. That was scary.’

“I took my shirt off and pull it over my head and suddenly ‘wrrom’ everything was shaking and more activity out of the volcano and I quickly put my shirt on and heard the guide yelling ‘Vamos! Vamos!’ Go, go go!,” says Heinz Weigelt.

In 1995, he and his son-in-law, Dr. Blair Main, were on top of the Fuego volcano, the same volcano which erupted about a week ago on June 3 leaving at least 99 dead and thousands missing.

Weigelt and Main started their trip in 100 Mile House and were travelling to Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost tip of South America. During the expedition, they made many side trips — one of them in Antigua, the old capital city of Guatemala. While they were there, they saw a mountain with smoke coming out of the top, obviously, a volcano, says Weigelt. They asked if they could go.

The Fuego volcano as photographed by Weigelt and Main in 1995. Submitted photo.

The next day they were met by a guide, an “old fart in gumboots,” says Weigelt, who’s in his 80s now, adding that the guide was probably 40 years old.

Their guide at the time.

“We went all the way up with our dog. We had a German Wirehaired with us and well, we made it up the mountain with a couple of American students too. It wasn’t too much of a stressful hike and while we were up there, close to the crater, it was smoking. You could see steam coming out of it. Then on one the edge of the crater and you could see red lava glowing there.”

Weigelt on top of the volcano with the dog they brought.

It was hot and they were sweating and Weigelt carried an extra shirt in his backpack. That’s when Weigelt started changing his shirt and the volcanic activity started.

“Before we realized, we saw the old guy like a young buck going down in his gumboots, running like crazy. So of course, we run too and behind us, it was rumbling.”

At that time the Fuego volcano had last exploded in in 1974, says Weigelt.

“The old guys knew,” he says. “Obviously he was old enough to remember. So that’s why he was absolutely panicking. Totally wsssh, nothing. He didn’t us see anymore. He didn’t see difficulties going down on the lava face down the mountain. He just ran, ran, ran.

“I had never been on a volcano when it started grumbling. That was scary. The whole thrust of it, we still didn’t realize while we were there, he’s running so we’re running, the danger we were in,” he says, adding that the American students started crying.

Heinz Weigelt looks through photos from his trip at his house in 108 Mile Ranch. Max Winkelman photo.

Nothing else really happened, but Weigelt looks at things a little differently now.

“We were lucky. It could have happened”

It wasn’t the first volcano Weigelt had been on. Despite his age, he hopes it won’t be the last either.

“I’m still looking forward to one volcano want to climb. In my age, I’m in the 80s now, it’s getting a little tough but [I want to climb] the Villarrica in Chile.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Dr. Blair Main and the dog they brought with them. Submitted photo.

Heinz Weigelt was changing his shirt on the Fuego volcano in 1995 when everything started shaking and a black cloud of smoke came up. Submitted photos.

Just Posted

Tom Shypitka, pictured with his campaign team. on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. Trevor Crawley photo
Shypitka wins second term; BC NDP cruise to majority

“Election Days,” rather than “Election Day,” may be the more accurate term… Continue reading

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

BC ELECTION
Voting day: Elk Valley braves the cold to vote for next MLA

Today is the last chance for voters to have their say

Green candidate for Kootenay East, Kerri Wall (centre) voted in Fernie on Oct. 24 along with her son and his girlfriend. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
With polls closed, BC Greens candidate Kerri Wall reflects on the campaign that was

Wall said she was settling in for a long wait until full results were known, and wished the BC Liberal and BC NDP candidates good luck

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

Most Read