On Thursday, I was talking with some people from the NGO, and they told me about their plans to go hiking the coming weekend. I decided that it would be fun to go, so I joined them on Saturday morning at the bus stop to make our way to Cotopaxi National Park, where we would hike the dormant Rumiñahui Volcano, whose summit measures 4,721m (15,489 ft) above sea level.
The bus dropped us off on the side of the highway, and indicated that we could ask for more help from the line of trucks lined up on the on-ramp. The trucks were a local taxi service that took people to the National Park and could provide guides to climb. The six of us (4 from the US, 1 from Germany, 1 from Italy; 2 female, 4 male) decided against a guide since we’d heard it wasn’t a convoluted path to the summit. It was chilly as we got into the truck, so I sacrificed the fun of the back of the truck to actually sit in the cab, which a great choice in retrospect.
|Batman logo on taxi|
|The group in the bed of the truck, with Cotopaxi Volcano|
At the entrance of the park, our driver got out to talk with the guy at the gate. The man at the gate asked if the driver was our guide for Rumiñahui, to which our driver said that he was not. At that point, the entrance gate-guy chuckled and said, “Well, when they die, you’ll have to come back to climb with another group.” Luckily he used the subjunctive, so that made me feel a bit better since it wasn’t an absolute, but still a bit concerning.
By the time we got to the base of the volcano, it was about 10:15am, so we arranged for the taxi driver to come back around 4 to pick us up. We established that we would be hiking the central summit of Rumiñahui because the others were technical climbs. So off we went on the path, well indicated along the way. About ten minutes in, one member of the group start to say that we had probably missed the path to the summit, because the one we were on seemed to be going around the base without climbing. Of course, the rest of the group assured him that the path would be well marked and that we would start the incline soon. Well, unfortunately, when we finished the warm-up loop around the lagoon and ended up back at the parking lot, we realized that he had been right. We asked a man in the parking lot where the trail was, and he looked at us and immediately asked if we had a guide. Well, we still didn’t, so he pointed out the trail to the center summit (really he mostly indicated to the middle part of the path we were just on) and told us to be extremely careful.
So, off we went once again. This time, we found a tiny little path that led in the correct direction. So along we went, keeping to what was a decently defined path. We had a couple of iffy sections, but we would do a small search to confirm which was correct, then make a cairn out of rocks and cow chips. We made it without problem, though I was clearly not accustomed to the altitude or the physical demands. I was generally the last one, but it was okay with me at that point. I was just happy to make it.
|Making a cairn|
|Hiking in the sun|
|What we climbed up|
|I was last, so I took the photo|
|At the summit|
|At the summit|
|The 4 guys made it|
|And it started hailing|
|On the way back|
|On the way back|
|Where we had just been|
Video of the hail at the summit (sorry for the slight language, it was a bit of a shocker)