Ecuador Mountaineering - Cotopaxi Ascent

                    High Altitude acclimatization

"The Objective was to climb as many peaks higher than 3000m for a few weeks in order to acclimatize to high altitude and be ready for the ascent of Mount Cotopaxi and Chimborazo."
bamboo tunnel ascending Tungurawa volcano  


View of the Cotopaxi from the Corazon volcano









Mount Tungurahua

This was a great trek. the trail is formed by a tunnel of bamboo which made it really interesting!.  I felt like Alice in Wonderland, and the vegetation was more tropical with dozens of hummingbirds in very twisted trees,At the top I felt like I was looking out from a plane, all I could see were clouds with the other ecuadorian mountain peaks piercing through.  Trekking above 3000m was a mind opening experience, I can remember my heart beating faster the first night I slept above 3000m, I just had to relax and hope my system would get used to it.

Chimborazo Ascent

This is the highest mountain in Ecuador (6100m), more technical than the Cotopaxi actually. Since we just wanted to acclimatize we stayed at the base camp which is at 5000m.  Still, I felt like I was on the moon. The base of the volcano is already at 4100m so, it was very bare and windy, and the only vegetation consisted of cactuses.  As for wildlife, we saw a herd of "vicunas", which are animals that look like a mix between deers and lamas. They even made bird noises...?!

Ilinizas Peak

We climbed these two mountains first as they were the easiest technically. It was also my first trek and even first high altitude trek.  I know great way to start! I quickly got used to the pace and we first climbed to the peak of the Corazon.  We then traverse a mountain range to get to Ilinizas. We were trekking 10hrs days, but it was all worth it, my first and best trek of my life to this day.


Descending Cotopaxi

 Cotopaxi Ascent

Finally, here we were, at the base of Mount Cotopaxi, ready to climb our first 6000m peak, the highest volcano in the world. At the base we saw wild horses grazing away, so peaceful and serene. We then climbed up to the base camp where we got our gear ready, practiced our crevasse rescues, and at as much as we could to keep our energy up for the ascent!

We had an early sleep so that we could start the ascension in the middle of the night, when the risk of avalances are at their lowest. Unfortunately the winds were extremely strong, which was not a good sign. Our guide still gave us the “go ahead” so up we went. Here I was in the dark of the night, crampons and ice axe in hand, about to start our ascent!The wind was so strong and the hail was hitting our face, we had to climb hunchbacked.

At the beginning, I felt out of my element, and was asking myself was the heck I was doing here. “One step at a time” was my mantra, and after 2hrs of climbing, you just get into it, just 6 more hours to go on steeper terrain! Plus, we had to jump over or walk on snow bridges crossing crevasses that were so deep we couldn’t see the bottom. Definitely one bad sidestep and down you were, keeping my balance with the wind was also making it much more difficult. My heart started to sink, when the higher we went the more teams we saw giving up and coming back down. We still kept going to 5600m, 1 more hr and we were at the summit!!! However, like the other groups, because of the conditions, it just wasn’t safe to reach the unprotected summit with such winds. I was quite upset though knew it was the best decision. I realized that our decision was best, as coming back down was actually the hardest part, especially with the soft snow and the sun out. In the end, this was a very steep learning curve for me in regards to mountaineering! Maybe I’ll be back one days, hopefully before the glacier’s melted away...