Day 3 & 4 - 3rd acclimatization climb: To Illiniza Norte, 5116 meters
Again, we leave Quito in the morning. We should be heading toward a place called La Virgen. However Annette's son is sick ... stomach ache ... I think. Hence on the way, Frank, the mountain guide took a detour to a hotel where the son and Annette and her friend Brigette stayed behind instead of going climbing with us.
After dropping them off, we go to a nearby town, buy some food for the next 2 days, have lunch, then drive to La Virgen, the start of the climb. Frank had hired a guy with a horse earlier on. We meet up there. The guy took our heavy plastic climbing boots and the food, rides off by himself to a hut called Refugio de Los Ilinizas (4700 meters) where we'll be staying for the night. Frank, and the driver together with Josh and I then take a pleasant 2 and a quarter hours hike up to the Refugio ... minus the weight of the heavy boots.
I am very impressed by the Refuge system in Ecuador. Each hut has at least one housekeeper stationed there to look after the place. This keeps the hut well maintained. Usually the guy stays there for a week, then rotates out for a week of rest etc.
It is cold in this mountain. Well, the altitude is high. But the Refuge has a wood heater which keeps us reasonably warm.
Next day, we are up early and are on our way at 4am. The ground is icy. It gets treacherously slippery further up, especially when, nearer to the summit, we get to the ridge with steep drop off on both sides. We are all roped together for safety.
Three and a half hours later, at 7:30am, we reach the summit. We are inside the clouds, with light snow falling, hence it is a white out. All I can see is a cross at the summit which is a sharp peak with standing room for one person only.
After taking some photos, we climb down a different but quicker route through loose screes back to our car. After picking up Annette, her son and Brigette, we drive to Hotel Cuello de Luna near Cotopaxi National Park for the night. Tomorrow, we'll start our 2-day climb of Cotopaxi.
To the pictures ... I don't have many meaningful pics as both days are white out inside the clouds. That is a pity as otherwise the mountain scenes would be very beautiful. (To enlarge a photo, click on it.)
1.) Illiniza Norte is the peak on the right of this pic, 5116 meters. Takes 2 days to climb it. The white peak on the left is Illiniza Sur, slightly higher at 5248 meters, and harder to climb due to its glacial nature.
2.) A horse takes our heavy plastic climbing boots and food to a hut called Refugio de Los Ilinizas.
3.) Looking back ... If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can see our car parked at the centre of this pic.
4.) After 2 and a quarter hours of walk, we reach Refugio de Los Ilinizas (4700 meters).
5.) It is a small hut. All the beds can be seen in this photo.
6.) Next day, climbing up Illiniza Norte - Here is Frank, our mountain guide. The rocks are icy and slippery. We are all roped together for safety.
7.) After 3 and a half hours of climbing, we reach the summit at 5116 meters. There is cross at the top, otherwise there is nothing to see ... we are inside the clouds, a white out :-(
The next 2 days are to Cotopaxi, 2nd highest mountain in Ecuador ... refer http://mntviews.blogspot.com/2011/07/cotopaxi-ecuador.html