Well after running around Quito for a few days and changing plans more than a few times, we finally settled on one thing. We are determined to go to Cotopaxi (but the three day guided climbing trip would cost us $150 per person) so we opted to go it alone. Well we realized that climbing the snow and ice coverd volcano wouldnt be possible alone so we decided to just backpack around the park. We caught a bus out of Quito friday morning and made it to the park around noon.
It would be a 25 km hike, all uphill, into the main part of the park where there is a laguna and another volcano so we negotiated (not very well) the price for some tour guide at the entrance of the park to haul us up to the laguna. The ride was bumpy in his very old and rusty Ford van. He droped us off at the laguna and told us it was about a 4 to 5 hour hike to summit Volcán Rumpiñahui (pronounced rum-pin-YA-wee) at an elevation of 4700 meters, which is somewhere around 15000 feet if im not mistaken, and definitely the highest peak ive summited to date.
So without a map or a guide or any really well defined trail we were off. The trail faded out and there was nothing but low lying brush around at this altitude and so we just walked in the direction of the volcano for a few hours until we came to a dead end, where we had to decide which ridge to climb up to get to the summit.
We went to the right and got to the top to find a cool little spot to camp. We dropped our packs and kind of “hitched a ride” with two other (guided) groups that were doing the summit.
Probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever done was to try to summit without bringing along any snack food or water… wait I take it back, even dumber was that we didn’t even eat lunch or breakfast before summiting. All I had in me was a piece of bread and a banana from back in Quito earlier that morning. Yeah, so I was pretty much out of it by the time we got to the top.
Paul thought he would be adventurous and get out infront of the guides and scramble up some loose shale and climb a steep chimeny to get to the top… at the top he said he was shaking with adrenoline. I took the safer easier route follwing the guides :)
The summit was quite cloudy and we couldn’t even see down in the crater. Coming down was fun because there was a huge probaby 300 feet of sand which we just kind of skiied down. We got down to our camping spot around 5:00 and the normally cloud covered Cotopaxi cleared up and provided us some great views for a sunset to end an excellent day.