Our Ecuador team took a couple of days to rest and enjoy the tropical lushness of Banos, Ecuador following an exciting and fun ascent of the 5897m volcano, Cotopaxi.
We hiked up to the Jose Ribas hut in the mid afternoon of the 15th and ate an early dinner. After five hours of restless sleep by most of the team (anticipation and excitement are better or worse than caffeine, depending on your hoped for outcome!), we had some breakfast, coffee, cocoa and hit the trail at midnight.
Climbing through the dark, we reached the glacier after an hour and a half or so and roped up. The route really wanders this year, emphasizing the ephemeral nature of many glacier routes. Shortly, we came to a broken, crevasse-riddled stretch of trail that wound under some huge seracs, which produced a mix of excitement and awe in the relatively dim glow of our headlamps.
Above the seracs, the trail climbed through a series of 40-45 degree slopes, through waves of sulfurous gas and up past several false summits before finally arriving at the stunning cone of the volcano. The day remained clear as a bell until just before we returned to the hut, however a breeze made the temperatures chilly for much of the climb.
I climbed this route years ago, and found that the ever-changing conditions on the glacier had forced us to take a route that did not resemble the one in my memory. The climbing was a lot of fun, very engaging and exciting, much more so than the route of old.
We are about to head out of Banos for the hut on the massive Chimborazo volcano, which, at 20,703′ is the highest peak in the country. If conditions are good, we’ll go for the summit tonight!