“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.”