Cotopaxi Trip Report (#1382)

  • Signed By: Vlad Broz
  • Date submitted: January 06, 2004

My 2nd attempt and 1st summit was in MAR of 98 with Edison as my guide. The usual drill of out-the-door at 0100 and hiked 1000' (300m) up the moraine to the glacier under beautiful full moon conditions. The lights of Quito were crystal clear. We geared up, climbed 20 meters of 25 deg ice to the glacier snow and hit the obvious route. A few minutes later we were harassed with 20 mph wind, 5 meter vis, cloud, and clear ice (not rime) on the windward (left) side of our bodies. For one hour my life was focused on following the rope and Edision's footsteps out of my small circle of light into the deepening gloom. An interesting plod: like being in a tiny cocoon isolated from the real world, the only noise being the wind, the cracking ice on my clothes and my deep breathing. One foot in front of the other. Endlessly. And suddenly a bright full moon in my face and a stuning glacial vista all about. Life was good!

We reached the bergschrund just past sunrise and what a stunner! It was slanted into the mountain at 45 deg with rows of long ice stalactites disappearing into its ice-blue deepth. We traversed left on the down-hill edge to a chicken-wire covered AL ladder. While Edision climbed ahead to place protection on the iced 60 deg slope, I looked back into the 'schrund. Amazingly, the altitude was playing tricks with my eyes, and the stalactites appeared in an exaggerated 3rd dimension. Like a 3d movie or looking at aerial photos of New York City through a stereoscope. Adding to the illusion was the difference in air density of the air in the crevasse vis-a-vis the outside air. This caused the denser air in the crevasse to have a gently rippling surface. For ten minutes I gazed into this crystal clear, gin filled lake of blue ice and realized it was the most beautiful thing I have seen. Ever. I took photos, but they were disappointingly average.

We continued up the steep slope to the summit under perfect conditions. All of Ecuador, from horizon to horizon was ours! Lots of lingering and photos. Despite Edisons exhortions that we should start down, I lingered for two hours. And paid for it on the way down. We got off the summit block no problem, once we hit the sun softened snow below the Yanesacha, it was ugly. Too much slush for the crapons to bite ice, and too little slush to compact a step. Muy slippery, muy interesante! Ever since I have always listened to the guide.

In summation, 6.5 hours up, 2 hrs on top and 4 looong and slow hours down. An "'Atta Boy" to Edison and Safari Tours for another fun outing.

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