Cotopaxi: @ 19,340 2time

Quito, Ecuador and Cotopoxi December 2011 and 2012 with 6

Six of us: two friends Charlie, and Marie and two nephews; David and Oliver Goodwin and Arden and I traveled to Quito, Ecuador and then onward to attempt the summit of Cotpoxi.

We climbed with High Summits and they are simply the best.  I made ti the very very last ridge above the dark black cliffs near the top in the center.

High Summits is a very favorable and reliable firm specializing in Mountain climbing, hiking and travel in Ecuador.  I landed in Quito and stayed at the Embassy hotel in Marascal also known as “Gringo Land”. It is located in north-central Quito and Quito is the second most populous city. Being about 20 miles long and 3 miles wide

Quito is the capital city of Ecuador in northwestern South America. It is located in north-central Ecuador and is the second most populous city. The elevation is about 9,200 ft, having the second highest airport and making Quito the second-highest administrative capital city in the world (after La Paz Bolivia and the highest legal capital also in Bolivia, and Bogotá Columbia – I have been to both. The town is Spread across a spectacular Andean valley and flanked by volcanic peaks, Quito’s setting alone is enough to strike you speechless it is truly awesome. The central square of Quito is located about 1 mile from the equator. A monument and museum marking the general location of the Quito has one of the largest, least-altered and best-preserved historic city centers and was the first to be declared World Heritage site by UNESCO on 18 September 1978. The Historic Centre of Quito is considered one of the most important historic areas in Latin America.

For us we got to party with the best in GRINGO LAND in all you could eat and drink establishments for likes of  25 dollars.

This is us partying like rock stars in the Embassy.  In addition, they had many of the home favorites like great coffee shops. So after settling in at the Embassy hotel with a good bottle of wine and good grub, the next day we toured the Historic center of Quito, a UNESCO world heritage site. We happened to cross the equator like four times.

The  ‘old town,’ as it’s called – is a maze of colonial splendor and 2006 marked the final installment of a massive restoration project that spruced up buildings and churches, brought historic theaters back to life and made the old town’s formerly sketchy streets safe to explore once again. The old town retains the vibrant working class and indigenous character that has always defined it.

Walking its narrow streets is to wander into another world. Women carrying impossible loads, past legless guitar strummers, blind accordion players, old men in sailor suits selling ice cream, past giant roast pigs peaking out of doorways and shops selling every odd commodity imaginable. The constant white noise of hollering vendors hangs in the air like chanting in a monastery

The Basilica

This monumental basilica is the most important neo-Gothic architecture in Ecuador and one of the most representative of the American continent, which at the time is the largest in the New World. It is 350 feet high and consists of 24 internal chapels representing the provinces of Ecuador. This sanctuary was inaugurated and blessed by the Pope during his visit to Ecuador on 18 January 1985.

One detail that distinguishes the work is replacing the traditional gargoyles for reptiles and amphibians typical of the Ecuadorian fauna; also willing roses windows representing the flora of Ecuador. At the highest point of the main tower can see the city and surrounding mountains. The central nave of the church is 140 m of long, 35 meters of wide and 30 meters of high which are arranged 14 bronze images that represent 11 apostles and 3 evangelists.

The Metropolitan Cathedral

The Metropolitan Cathedral, is one of the largest religious symbols of spiritual value for the Catholic community in the city. This church began its construction in 1562, seventeen years after the diocese of Quito was created. The church building was completed in 1806, during the administration of President of the Real Audiencia Baron Héctor de Carondelet.. The cathedral is located on the south side of the Plaza de Independence

El Panecillo below

A monument to the Virgin Mary is located on top of El Panecillo and is visible from most of the city of Quito. The figure stands on top of a globe, standing on top of a chained snake, symbolizing her triumph over evil. What is not so traditional, however, is her wings. The monument was inspired by the famous “Virgen de Quito” (Quito’s Madonna). This Madonna represents a turning point of the Quito Arts School because it shows a figure with great movement (practically dancing), which is in contrast to the traditional static Madonna’s produced during the 18th century.

The Presidential   Palace below on the right of the slide:

I would Highly recommend the Presendential Palace and we had lunch at the Plaza Grand hotel below

Plaza Grand Hotel a  magnificent hotel of grand proportions and fine food and drinks for us all.  My nephews ate me out of house and home!

La Mariscal

La Mariscal Sucre in Quito has earned the nickname Gringo-land because of its popularity with western tourists. While lacking in major tourist attractions, it is home to a number of clubs, bars and restaurants that cater to visitors. There are also many travel agents that specialize in western travel.  I stayed here in the Embassy Hotel.  Very very cool and partied like rock stars.

We also climbed Cotopoxi and here is the story below


THE CLIMB: The next day we were picked up by Abraham the finest guide in Ecuador and Taken to the Cello de Luna hotel at the entrance to Cotopoxi at about 12,000 feet now that is altitude gain.  Abraham was just tremendous, friendly and above all honest and safety oriented – Thank you Abraham!  The Hotel was spectacular.

IT was a quaint hacienda nestled away from the Pan America highway where one could take day hikes on their own and never see another being at about 10,500 feet of elevation.

Our private rooms were spectacular with nice beds, hot showers and bathrooms.  Each room had a fireplace now that is what I am talking about.  The food was scrumptious and the wine and beer over the top.  Every morning we woke to a hot shower followed by a great homemade breakfast and the hiking, biking or horseback riding depending on what we signed up for.  Lunch was great and dinner was fresh trout or beef or chicken with fresh vegetables and potatoes and for me some nice wine.
Guine Pig for dinner anyone above.  They had Llamas in the yard at the hotel and it was really very very cool. Ok on to the hiking and climbing

The lead into the CLIMB: The next day we were picked up by Abraham the finest guide in Ecuador and Taken to the Cello de Luna hotel at the entrance to Cotopoxi at about 12,000 feet now that is altitude gain.  Abraham was just tremendous, friendly and above all honest and safety oriented – Thank you Abraham!

During the day we would hike the amazing trails and land in the Cotopoxi National Park.  We saw no people but we saw God’s gift and that is nature in all its glory.

Lakes that reflected the images of the mountains, sunsets and rolling hills with tall their grasses.

We saw ducks and geese land and take off from the lakes and hummingbirds dart about flying from flower to flower.

As an example this is a note from a days hike.  On the first day after checking in to the hotel, we hiked for about 3 -4 hours from about 11,000 to 14,000 feet.  It was a beautiful afternoon  with the area having rather large stands of eucalyptus and pines and they perfumed the already clean and refreshing air.

The next day we hiked for about 8 to 9 hours from about 12,500 to about 15,000 higher than any place in the continental United Sates.  It was awesome the lake, the flora with beautiful flowering plants,

the cloud cover roiling around and of course the views form the summit. We saw a few eagles and condors as well as many ducks. We passed through lush green pastureland and hillsides.   The wind blew the clouds about like ghost dancers taunting us and then they disappeared into oblivion or formed wormholes that would devour all in sight.   This area is sparsely populated and we never saw another person.

Meanwhile back at the hacienda, we saw hummingbirds dart between the flowering plants. Imagine climbing all day and walking in field after field between beautiful flowers, scented pines and eucalyptus and then watching humming birds dart about.  Now we were consuming wine by the outside fire-pit how cool was that.

The next day we hiked from a rudimentary parking lot at about 14,500 feet to the Refuge at about 15,500 feet

and tried out the gear (crampons, ice ax and practiced on the snow and ice) we started at about 15,500.  By the time we got to the refuge at at about 15500 feet ,the scenery changed had changed dramatically. The green pastureland gave way to tall grasslands that permeated the landscape and then to a barren landscape.  The temperature dropped precipitously and the wind blew steady at 20 mph and gusted to 50 pelting us with small snow crystals, rain and ice for the next three hours.  We climbed a very steep inverted cone to about 17,000 feet and were sucking air.  (I love Mathematics) and when we finished we slide down the perfectly formed cone on our butts.  It was a grueling day and most were suffering some form of high altitude sickness to some degree.

The next day we traveled to a small village where we went horseback riding.

IT was fun as we meandered along the dirt roads and small farms that punctuated the landscape.  It was New Years Day so we  had to give money to the children dressed up as ghouls and demons.

Ok so on to the summit.

The following day after the horseback riding we attempted the summit.  We were now only two people – Oliver and Me- the others were out from sickness.

So the tow of us traveled to the refuge starting at the parking lot with full backpacks and gear at about 14,500 and hiked to about 15,500 a nice lodge at the base of Cotopoxi 20,000.  The refuge hosted bunk beds and was a very clean and well function refuge.  We had a nice meal at about 6 Pm and then settled into the beds.  I had to pee a lot,  filling my pee bottle and some guy below me had serious ASS problems, he stunk up the place with bad bowels.  So we did not sleep at all and at midnight attempted to summit after a light breakfast of COCA tea and some cherries for me.  I do not like to eat before an event.

We were dressed in cold weather gear, crampons and ice ax a so on.  We were immediately in snow and ice and had a great time moving up the huge mountain.  I is huge with crevasse, rifts, snow bridges and ice.  Oliver and I climber together for quite some time before I pulled away.  I was on a rather large glacier when it exploded the noise was scary and everyone was scrambling to get off the ice monolith.  Wow I jumped across this crevasses and fell forward into the snow – thank God I did not go into the crevasse.

SO I continued onward and it only got steeper and the trail very narrow and more difficult..

At times it was straight up (for short bursts) but it was awe-inspiring).  Well at 5,600 hundred meters about 18,400 feet and about 1,000 feet short of the top, I mentally got weak and stopped.  Abraham begged me to go onward and looking back I should have but at that moment I was weak of mind.  Damn it, but that is how it is at high elevations so I turned around.  So with 10000 feet left to go I ended the event as well as the group but I am going back down there to kick its ass in May.

In May I summitted see shots below


Some shots from a previous climb below

The green pastureland gave way to tall grass lands that permeated the landscape and the temperature dropped precipitously and the wind blew steady at 20 mph and gusted to 50 pelting us with small snow crystals, rain and ice for the next three hours. This is where it got dangerous.  We climbed a very steep inverted cone (I love Mathematics) through loose volcanic ash infused with beautiful yellow sulfur.  – I was covered in yellow cake. It was very loose and a few times I was surfing the ash downwards up to my knees – not what I wanted.  After about an hour we started a very serious steep 1000-foot climb where the pitch at times was probably like 75 degrees.  This was compounded by the ice and snow and loose scree and fog – I cannot see that great to begin with.




Climbing at night on Orizaba

climbing cotopoxi

climbing cotopoxi

climbing cotopoxi