Entrance to Cotopaxi. I spent about a week in Quito (~10,000 feet) trying to get acclimatized to the elevation, and hopefully get the hemoglobin levels in the blood up a bit. The timing for this climb to just under 20,000 feet was perfect, for I was planning to head off to sea level and the the tropical Galapagos Islands when I got down off this frozen volcano.
"The Highest Active Volcano in the world!" It has erupted about 50 times in the last 200 years! We spent a day driving around the park, then drove the truck as far as we could and loaded up our gear. Photo of me and one of the guys from Austria on the approach to the refugio (hut) at about 15,300 feet. The roof is visible in the center of the photo, but it is a long slow approach even to the refugio.
Approach to refuge. Very slow and tiring due to elevation, steepness of the slope, and scree underfoot.
We also were very aware that if conditions allowed, we would be headed up the final 4000 feet starting at midnight, and using headlights until sunrise.
Inside the Jose Ribas Refugio at 15,300 feet, having supper and copious quantities of matte de coca. Besides pulmonary and cerebral edema, the major problems at this elevation are dehydration, continuous headache, fatigue and exhaustion. The tea really helped with all of those. It was still plenty cold in the refugio, and the whole building was shaking from the intense wind. After supper we would all climb into our sleeping bags and try to rest for a couple hours until midnight, when the alarm clock would tell us that is was time to suit up and head out into reality. (left to right; Tim, guide, and two dudes from Austria)
We spent a couple hours before supper practicing our roped climbing and self arrest techniques. The mountain was relatively safe, but if one of us fell into a crevasse, or slipped in a critical spot, it would be up to the others on the rope stop the slide and/or to perform rescue. (somewhere in this photo there are a couple of guys picking their way through the icefield)
Halfway up, just at sunrise. stopping for a break!
Stopped for a break right after sunrise. We had been climbing in the dark for about 7 hours up until now.
Tim at about 17,000 feet.
Tim near the summit. The wind was screaming, and at one point we stopped to wait out a particularly strong gust. I closed my eyes for about a minute to give them a break from the wind and UV light, and the darn things froze shut!
He knew I was only kidding. But we still had fun making up stories to tell the authorities and all the relatives back home. We secured the rope and sat down for awhile and ate the rest of our chocolate and other snacks, and just enjoyed the view from the top of the world. We could see the tops of many other peaks, and the guide enjoyed pointing summits out telling us stories about some of his favorite climbs.
Luckily we were still roped on the long slog down, since I fell into a crevasse. It was narrow but deep, and I used my elbows and the rope to keep from going in too deep. There were huge cravasses everywhere, and most were big enough and easy to avoid. The smaller ones were covered by snow bridges, and and the one that got me was invisible under the snow. They got me out quickly. We glissaded most of the rest of the way down, and after 12 hours on the snow we were sure glad to be back at the refugio.
Two days later I had hooked back up with Yfat, and we were on a flight to the Galapagos. That afternoon we were swimming in the ocean, chatting with just about everyone we met, putting together info and trying to handpick some new friends, a boat, and a crew to spend a week visiting the incredible islands of the Galapagos.
Two days after Cotapaxi, Yfat and I headed back down to sea leavel and the Galapagos Islands. We met Eric our first day there, and the three of us spent the next few days checking out different boats, guides, cooks, boatmates, etc. We spent a few hours every day at this beach, body-surfing in the huge waves, and just loafing as much as possible.
If you ever get a chance to climb Cotopaxi, or any other big frozen mountain, go for it! Of the dozen climbers attempting the summit that day, none of us made it, but I think most of us had an awesome time!
Steve & Judy's Cotopaxi Page
Cotopaxi Web Links
Mt. Cotopaxi (nice pics)
Page by Tim D, October 1999
Back to Tim's Home Page
My other pages:
Travel * Ecuador * Columbia * Peru
Too bad I had to compress these images so much to get a reasonable download time,,, the originals are much better!