Not an entry for Mum to read....Volcano climbing !

Trip Start Jun 15, 2008
Trip End Aug 15, 2008

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Where I stayed
Casa de Rosa y Antonio

Flag of Ecuador  ,
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Iīm not really sure why it is briget and I thought we would be fine climbing a 4900m volcano without much in the way of aclimatisation...just for all of you on the edge of your seats: we made it, we are alive, it was amazing.

The trip involved a stay overnight in the house of one of the members of the community of the town of Cotacachi, where Imo and I were taken care of by Rosa, the wife of our guide for the next day. Rosa seemed a little unsure what do with us and put us to work taking beans out of their pods and guarding the corn from the rogue chickens. The language spoken in the community is Quichoa, which sounds lovely despite being utterly incomprehensible, though most people also speak Spanish so communication was fine. We were fed the most amazing meal by Rosa which we drunk with home made blackberry and quinoa juice...Imo tells me this is quite trendy at the moment in England! It was then straight to bed ready for our 3.30 am(!) start the next morning.

The climb itself was probably the most physically demanding thing I have ever done in my life. About an hour what we had been told was to be a 6 hour ascent, I genuinely thought I was going to faint/vomit from exhaustion. It didnīt help that the first part of the walk was a steep hill (curious that, it being a volcano...) to be climbed in the pitch darkness. Day break was pretty amazing though as we gradually became aware of the amazing scenery we had been stumbling our way through. I am still kicking myself for not having my camera with us (not that it would have been possible to do the views justice). About 2 hours in, when, to me, even the view wasnīt enough to make the climb seem worthwhile, our guide, Antonio sat us down to drink some "medicinal" tea made from leaves apparently related to the coca plant. The idea of the tea was that it was supposed to help with the altitude. Unmentioned side effects seem to have been a potent diuretic action, just what you need on a volcano! After that, I wished I had just stuck to the leaves Antonio had given us to sniff when we felt tired (you might detect some sceptisism in my tone).

For all lord of the rings followers, the first part of the walk looked a bit like Rohan (I make no appologies for nerdiness) while the second part was more akin to Mordor! (Mum this is the part you might choose not to read) At times it involved vertical climbs up stacks of volcanic rock. I wouldnīt be able to tell you what the view was like from here as all my attention was focused on NOT looking down! The climbing was actually less tiring than the walking, though this may have been an illusion as fear may have distracted my attention from exhaustion. This part of the ascent also took us into the clouds, which with the silence made everything very eery. I donīt know what I had expected the top of the volcano to look like. More like a grassy hill top, I guess, as opposed to the very bleak, cloud wrapped and gradually more snowy place we had somehow got to.

We did however reach the top (I canīt really beleive it, I was so convinced we wouldnīt). The very last part of the ascent requires ice picks and crampons so Imo and I whipped these out of our bags and....just kidding, Mum!

Iīll leave the descent to Imo seeing as going downhill is her personal area of difficulty (no, Iīm not joking).

I might have focused on the bits I found less enjoyable but I should also say that it was amazing and definitely worth it! Arriving back at our hostel in Quito was also one of the nicest feelings ever. Not so nice is the fact that one side of my face is more tanned than the other from when I fell asleep in at the bottom of the volcano.

It will also mean we will enjoy our well earned rest on the beach that bit more, after 10 hour bus ride to the coast.

Lots of love, and sorry if I went on a bit! 

Penny xxxxx

The volcano climbing was amazing. I also really didnīt think we were going to make it to the top, especially as when we got the cable car in quito up to 4100m we were both really quite breathless going up a little hill.  So climbing up to 4800m is pretty impressive (especially as we beat two germans who our guide took up the day before, (twice in two days, mentalist) who we reckon were boys).  Enough blowing of our own trumpets, (nearly, they also say its a 5-6 hour assent, we did it in 4) the views were incredible on the way up, we could see lots of the other volcanoes in the area including cotopaxi and another snowcapped one which was poking out of the clouds was particularly beautiful.  The climb was pretty tough though the altitude was less of a problem than I thought it would be, and as penny says, going down is always the problem for me.  I find it much more exhausting than going up and the snowy bit at the top brought back nasty ski-slope break down memories...
However it was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be and some of the views that we missed out on on the way up (leaving at 4.30 am we did the first 1.5hours in the dark!) were amazing, including the Cotocachi lake which less hard core people than ourselves take trips around.
After some breaks on the way down we arrived at the bottom 45 mins before we were supposed to be being picked up at 1 and settled down in the sun.  When it got to 2 and we realised the car probably wasnīt coming we set off at a stroll and managed to hitch a lift to the entrance to the park where we ran into the car that was meant to have picked us up about 2 hours earlier.  South American time.

Went for a very nice included lunch in the town of Cotocachi (hurngry work volcano climbing...) before being dropped back in Otavalo from where we got a bus back to Quito.
A hot chocolate to go and the very comfy and very welcome beds.

Imo xxxx
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