Monday, January 20, 2014

Going for the Glacier

Cotopaxi sits at 5,897 m (19,347 ft) and is the second highest peak in Ecuador. Lucky for us, this beautiful mountain is practically in our backyard (only about an hour away by car), and can be seen from most places in the Chillos Valley, including my bedroom window. 

Yesterday a group of 10 us piled into two cars and took the drive to Cotopaxi National park to hike to the glacier line. The park is an amazing place, with wild horses, lakes, flat expansive plains, amazing views of 15,000 ft + peaks, and, of course, Cotopaxi. A road runs almost all the way to the Refugio, a small building used as a base for the more serious climbers making their way all the way to the top. We had to climb for about 40 minutes from the parking lot to reach the Refugio, which was jam packed with people of all nationalities and many different levels of mountaineering experience. Groups squeezed through the tiny hole of a door with large packs, and warm snowsuits, ready to make the trek to the top come midnight, while families with small children in simple fleece jackets sat around sipping hot chocolate. (There was even a glimpse of some high heeled boots being worn!) We enjoyed some hot chocolate ourselves, while letting our brains adjust to the thin air, and then headed back out the door to complete our hike to the glacier line. The rest of the hike took about 30 minutes. When we finally reached the glacier line we celebrated by taking a "few" snapshots and exploring a large crack in the ice. Although it was hard to see at the top, the shifting clouds gave way to different views of the peak and the valley below. It was an entrancing experience and definitely made me want to keep going, all the way to the top.

The steep incline at the beginning 

Taking a break with some coco 

The Refugio 

Finally at the glacier line 
Cate and Ben exploring the ice

The hike back down was easy as we kind of glided down the gravely trail. Once back in the car we rewarded ourselves with chocolate and headed back down the road, stopping to look at a little fox who was curiously staring at the passing cars. At the bottom the clouds finally parted and we were able to see Cotopaxi in all its glory. Another photo shoot took place until the clouds consumed the mountain once again. All in all, an amazing day with one of Ecuador's finest. 
Claudia and me enjoying the view

Our fox friend 

Carryn, Torie, Heather, and Taylor at the bottom 

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