Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Saturday Well-Spent

Saturday morning was an early one for the five of us who decided to climb Volcán Pichincha, the active volcano after which our province is named. (Don't worry parents, Pichincha hasn't erupted since 1999, and before that in 1660... we thought our odds looked pretty good.) Mike, Krysta, Jackie, Sonia and I bussed our way out to the TelefériQo, a huge gondola-esque tourist trap on the west side of Quito, as early as we could be expected to get out of the door on a Saturday morning (which was about 45 minutes after our scheduled time of departure, since my alarm was promptly thrown on the ground when it went off at 7:15am...).

We made it to the
TelefériQo shortly after it opened, and hitched a ride up the side of Cruz Loma, the hill next to Pichincha. The gondola dropped us at an altitude of a mere 4100 meters, and we were free to hike the easily identifiable path to Pichincha. After several rolling hills, "Is there any oxygen up here"-stops, and an hour of hiking, we made it to the base of the volcano. We were fairly convinced that the worst was over (ok, so I was fairly convinced) and that we only had 30 more minutes until we reached the summit... we were sorely mistaken.

After circling one side of the volcano, we stumbled onto what felt like a vertical climb of sand and loose rocks (in retrospect, "vertical" seems like a strong word... but I guess it's all relative when you feel like you're going to begin a human landslide at any moment). That's where the real "hike" began. We slowly followed each other up the sand/rock combo and after a little quasi-rock climbing, we finally made it to the top.

I distinctly recall one of my college professors saying that the word "amazing" is overused, and I'm fully aware that I'm guilty of all charges. But I'm also convinced that no better word exists to describe the rush of emotions we felt when we reached the top of Pichincha. We sat at the top - above the clouds, the airplanes and the noise (a big deal when living in a house of 10) - and took it in. There is something magical about being that close to the sky that neither words, nor photographs, can capture.

Once we got cold enough, we began our descent. I'm pleased to report it was much more pleasant (and less terrifying) than the ascent. After only an hour we found ourselves safely back on the ground in Quito, with only a dehydration/altitude headache, a little sunburn, and a ton of dirt in our shoes to show for our adventure; however, I'm sure the feeling of climbing over that last rock and seeing the view from the top of Pichincha will last much longer than any sunburnt face or dirt in our shoes. And for that, the climb was well worth it.

Here's to hiking teamwork and reaching the summit with friends,

PS. Psssst... we just added photos from the end of August/beginning of September. Check them out by following the link to the right!

The view of Pichincha from the Cruz Loma trail

Me, Mike, Sonia, Krysta and Jackie at the beginning of the Cruz Loma trail

Stopping for a breather at the top of a hill, and looking at the view of Quito

We reached the base of Pichincha!

MPI was here. :)

Mike and Sonia look thrilled to have reached the summit!
(They were so tired they couldn't smile...)

Sarah taking in the view from the top

One part of the descent... sand skiing?

Safely back at the bottom. And absolutely exhausted.
A Saturday well-spent.


Craig Smith said...

What a beautiful day, wow! Now yall should hit up Iliniza Norte before the rainy season hits for 10 months.

Mark Clayton Hand said...

And next time, you can cross that sandy patch and climb up the grass on the other side...

Sarah said...

Thanks, Mark. We figured that out on the way down... duly noted for the next trip.

Holly said...

looks like it was the perfect day for a summit! very jealous and home-sick for that enormous city and craggy mountain, even the blasted sand trap :)