Days 49 & 64: Mountaintop Moments with Cumbres

Trip Start Jan 01, 2010
Trip End Jul 01, 2010

Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines

Flag of Ecuador  ,
Friday, March 19, 2010

  Some of you may remember the beginning of the semester when I climbed Pichincha. On the peak of Pichincha, I made friends with some Ecuas who were part of a group called Cumbres ("Summits;" of the mountain, not G20, assortment).

Cumbres is a mountain climbing enthusiast club (I guess they have those here) that climbs to a different summit every weekend.  They've definitely been a lifesaver when my weekend plans fell through, as was the case for the two separate weeks when we scaled Imbabura and Quilotoa.


 Admittedly, waking up at four on a Sunday morning isn’t an ideal situation. You feel wide awake, though, when you look out of your van window and see the sun rise over the mountain know you're eventually going to climb!  This mountain, or inactive volcano, rather, gives plenty of justification for the three cell phone alarms and grab-on-the-way-out-breakfast.
The beginning ascent was all clouds, with the occasional farmhouse silhouette in the distance.  It was an all-uphill, all-the-time kind of trail, but the sweeping fields of tall grass were not unlike nature’s pom-poms cheering you on.  Helpful, because the inter-group motivation wasn’t too convincing given the gasps we had to take between each “Al (huff) most (puff) there" (except in Spanish).

Eventually the grass thinned out with the oxygen, and a new, rockier landscape took the scene.  This required more scrambling--hiking with occasional help from hands.  Think jungle gym, except with beautiful landscape and acceptable for adults.  Also, the curtain of clouds we were walking through kept the mystery of where exactly the summit was.  Our guide seemed to have a pretty good idea, though, so we kept going and the trail kept winding.

Keeping its namesake, Cumbres got me to the summit.  Food tastes better on the tops of mountains, I decided, so my peanut butter-filled lunchtime was a venerable delight.  After eating, we improvised a round of photographer musical chairs for the group picture, leaving every camera with a picture of every possible combination of people.  These are the kinds of moments you want to remember, so might as well be thorough, right?

After saying a quick agradecimiento (prayer of gratitude), we stashed our trash and started heading back down.  And wouldn’t you know it, just as we were going down the clouds began to part.  Goodness gracious, what a sight—breath taking.  Rather, it would have taken my breath if I wasn't already consumed by the burning inferno of my legs, as side-stepping down a mountain turns out to be harder than I thought.

Even if I could have made the climb easier, though, I wouldn’t have.  When everything around you is so alive, you can't help but want to put some of your own energy into the air.  There is no tourism in nature, I decided.  If you're there, you are just a living, breathing thing among other living, breathing things.



Same early morning ride, very different experience with Quilotoa.  For starters, there were some new friends, including a gregarious man from India on a business trip and his faithful translator, as well as the familiar faces of the people I met at Pichincha months ago.

I needed my guide to explain this to me a couple times, but Quilotoa is a volcano with a lake on top of it.  Between the water and the lava, there is a layer of volcanic rock, which gives the lake anything from a turquoise to a green color, depending on the angle of the sun.  No delayed gratification this time, Quilotoa was beautiful from the start.

I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking (make sure to click on the pictures to read their captions!), but basically Quilotoa offered a surprising array of landscapes, ranging from rocky mountain to desert, and an equally surprising amount of sheep.

Indeed, the signs of civilization were much more apparent here than in Imbabura, as Quilotoa is one stop in a string of indigenous communities.  That didn’t bother me at all, though.  As I’m realizing, each mountain has its own personality and feel.  No use trying to change it; the most I can do is just savor and keep going.


To conclude, I leave you with the agradecimiento we said on the top of Imbabura: 

When we bow our heads and fold our hands, we can feel the strength that lives inside of us and throughout the universe, a strength that has much more in store for us than we can imagine.
The wind has been benevolent, the condor has guided our path, and the spirit of the summit has blessed us.
Thank you mountain.
For the nature of your being, for the silence of your peace.  In our search for happiness, the answer is you.
This is for the walk that brings us closer to the sun.

(agradecimiento by Paúl Cárdenas Lorences, poor translation by Tyler Sit.  You can contact Cumbres at pcardenas<at> 

 (Did I mention that you need to click on the pictures to read their captions?)
Slideshow Report as Spam
  • Your comment has been posted. Click here or reload this page to see it below.

  • You must enter a comment
  • You must enter your name
  • You must enter a valid name (" & < > \ / are not accepted).
  • Please enter your email address to receive notification
  • Please enter a valid email address


Hermana on


I am so impressed with your beautiful writing and keen eye for these amazing shots! Mostly, I'm so impressed with how much you are doingseeingthinkingfeelingtouchingexperiencing!! Thanks for sharing your journey! I love it!

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: