Cotapaxi 2009

COTOPOXI CLIMB

I climbed with High Summits and thank you Isabel (El Mucho Gusto Roberto Travers a sus ordenez) Isabel and Abraham are simply the best.  High Summits is very favorable and reliable firm specializing in Mountain climbing, hiking and travel Ecuador.  I landed in Quito and stayed at the Embassy hotel in Marascal Gringo Land.THE CLIMB: (See section under Activities Trekking for more details), The next day I was picked up by Abraham the finest guide in Ecuador and Taken to the 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!   Every 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 and the lake side and sunsets, rolling hills with tall grasses and then the steep mountain sides covered in ash and brimstone form the active volcanoes.   As an example   this is a note from a days hike.  On Tuesday we hiked for 7 hours from about 12,000 to 17,500 feet.   It was a cold, rainy and snowy and an extremely foggy  overcast day.  From 13,000 to 15,000 we passed through lush green pastureland and hillsides, yet it was difficult to see through the blowing fog and light drizzle.  The wind blew the fog about like ghost dancers taunting us and then they disappeared into oblivion.  This area is sparsely populated and we never saw another person until late in the afternoon.  The area had large stands of eucalyptus and pines and they perfumed the already clean and refreshing air.At about 15000 feet we came to the refuge and the scenery changed dramatically.
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. I never get scared (I never put myself in that position) but I must say I had to totally concentrate and never lost site of the task in front of me.
I had to focus totally on the loose pebbles, snow, ice and the small hand holds or one could die here and there was no help around the corner.  I positions like this one never think of cold, hunger or pain but only of the task at hand, thankfully I can do that. I felt
comfortable with my limited abilities (we were naked on ice ax, crampons, just free climbing) I can say as I stood on a 12-inch ledge with an abyss that fell away to eternity, that some people might freak. At that moment I thought of the women that flew into the abyss below in the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.  We went on and did summit Illinitzi wow it was a little dicyFauna and Flora:  I was here during the rainy season so everything was lush. The are was
beautiful and verdant.  The Valley is closed in by Huge Mountains that reach to the sky at 20,000 some thousand feet.  There are also rift valleys that fall away into the Hades that. Consume everything.  These steep and precarious rift valleys lead to huge landslides and one happened when I was there that killed over ten people.  Meanwhile back at the hacienda, I 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.  Very cool.So on on to the summit attempt.We traveled to the refuge at about 15,000 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 at midnight attempted to summit after a light breakfast.  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.  And it is huge with crevasse, rifts snow bridges and ice.
Cotopaxi Refuge aboveRefuge where we had a nice meal above at about 6 Pm and at midnight attempted to summit after a light breakfast.  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.  And it is huge with crevasse, rifts snow bridges and ice. I did summit on the second attempt and it follows below.
Climbing at night above  on a different mountain above but cool anyway
I climbed, summited and skied down from 17,500 with High Summits and thank you Isabel (El Mucho Gusto Roberto Travers a sus ordenez) Isabel and
Abraham are simply the best. this is me on
Summit aboveSummit above and shots on the way
climbing cotopoxi