Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cotopaxi, Ecuador

( ... Continue from the 3nd acclimatization climb, )

We are getting towards the business end of the climbs. Day 5 & 6 are to climb Cotopaxi, 2nd highest mountain in Ecuador, 5897 meters.

Frank is still the mountain guide. But Jose, the driver is no longer with us. I feel a bit sad not having him around as he is a nice guy. Even though he doesn't speak English, he always has a sweet smile. In his place, we have a new driver and 2 extra mountain guides. A Norwegian couple also join our group.

We also have a big full blown tourist bus. Don't know why we need such a big bus ... there is only 10 of us:
- Frank the main mountain guide
- Me
- Josh
- 2 Germans - Brigette & Annette (Again, Annette's son is not with us. He is still sick and stay back at Hotel Cuello de Luna.)
- Norwegian couple
- 2 mountain guides
- Driver who also doubles up as a mountain guide

The plan for day 5 is drive to a carpark somewhere up in the Cotopaxi mountain. From the carpark, it is a one-hour walk to Refugio Jose Ribas. Then do some training with crampons and ropes on the glacier. Early to bed, then up at midnight for the Cotopaxi climb.

However, the gods are not kind to us. It snows on the day. With the snow covering the road, the bus is unable to get close to the carpark. To save us from doing too much walking, Frank gets a lift back to Hotel Cuello de Luna to fetch his small jeep. Then in 2 trips, takes us further up the road, though not all the way to the carpark. Instead of 1-hr walk to the refugio, it becomes one and a half hours of walk.

The refugio is quite large, reflecting the large number of people who regularly climb this mountain. There are 2 storeys. The eating quarter is downstairs. The sleeping quarter is upstairs. On this particular night, it is less than half-full.

After settling down at the Refugio, we are supposed to practice using crampons and ropes on the nearby glacier. But with all the delays due to the snow, plus the fact it is still snowing, naturally we couldn't do any practice. Nevermind, it is early to bed and we'll learn all that needs to be learnt on the actual climb.

Around midnight, we are up, have some supper, then off to the climb. We are the slowest group to get off. Other groups were long gone.

The night is cloudy, otherwise the weather seems ok. However after a few hours of climbing, we meet the earlier groups returning back. They all say the wind is too strong further up the slope. Frank says it is no point going further. He turns us around too. It is a big disappointment. I would love to go further up just to experience how strong the wind is.

After breakfast at the Refugio, We all return to Hotel Cuello de Luna. From there, Frank drives Josh and I to Banos. The others went their separate ways. (The Germans, Brigette, Annette and her son will have a few days of sighteeing in Ecuador before heading to the Galapagos.)

Not many interesting pictures as the climb was in the dark and we didn't reach the summit. (To enlarge a photo, click on it.)

1.) On a clear day, this is beautiful perfectly cone-shaped Cotopaxi Volcano (5897 meters) - I didn't take this pic ....

2.) ... Instead, I took this one ... and I was lucky as this volcano was always shrouded in clouds when I was in Ecuador.

3.) Just outside the entrance to Cotopaxi National Park, there is a line of small stalls selling souvenirs. Here is me inside a stall, testing out a ceremonial beanie.

4.) It takes 2 days to climb Cotopaxi. Here is the start of the climb on the first day - I and my backpack, ice axe (red coloured one), trekking poles. We are preparing to hike up to Refugio Josef Ribas for the night. It was another white out day - snowing outside.

5.) Walking towards Refugio Josef Ribas, 4810 meters

6.) Arrive at the Refugio - Here are the 2 German ladies of our group, Annette & Brigette. Cute poses - they are holding icicles in their mouths.

7.) Part of the sleeping quarter inside the Refugio. My backpack is the one on the floor on the right side of this pic. It is leaning against the bunk bed where I'll sleep for the night. The red sleeping bag on the bed is mine.

8.) We get up at midnight for the climb, but turn back due to strong wind. There are no pictures of the climb as it is at night and in the dark. This pic is our group of climbers having breakfast after we return to the Refugio.

The next day is a rest day in a town called Banos. Then it is to climb Chimborazo, highest mountain in Ecuador ... see

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