Refugio Jose Ribas
Trip Start Jan 23, 2008
54Trip End May 23, 2008
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I have no idea what time it was, but it was still dark when the first groups started to return from their climb up Cotopaxi. This was not a good sign. We learned the next morning at breakfast that most had made it to the crown of the avalanche (around 17,700 ft) but had turned around at that point.
We set out for a little snow climb in the morning. There was about an inch of new snow from the night before. From the ridge just beyond the Refugio, we could see the avalanche debris to the right of the hanging glacier, but decided to follow another track that led up to the left of the glacier. Even with high overcast skies, we were roasting on the hike up, and the snow was pretty soft. At the toe of the glacier, Bill went exploring the trail we had followed for a few minutes and by the time he returned, it had started snowing again. I think Indiana has gotta give Ecuador credit for most variable weather.
While we were playing around, we noticed several buses parked along the road below the trailhead and a steady stream of people along the trail to the Refugio. As we strolled back into camp, we learned from one of the last groups that the group was from a nearby high school. Most of them had never been on snow before. We chatted with them for a few minutes before they had to go, and watched as they skiddered along the sowy portions of the path, clinging to each other and screaming in delight.
We also got a great look at a fox which haunts the area around the Refugio.
During the afternoon, a few more climbing parties arrived, including a big group of kids from Washington State. After playing in the snow and then eating a warm lunch, I was ready for a nap. With a midnight wake-up call on the way, every little bit of sleep helps. For me the afternoon felt like the break in a stage race, resting, hydrating and squelching pre-performance jitters.