The Volcanoes

19 August 2016

As you may have noticed, I've so far failed to write about my South American adventures. Fear not, I have been taking notes and I'll turn them into some coherent words soon. Today, however, I'm going to write out of sequence about the last week in Ecuador, where I've been preparing for a big climb on Saturday night.

The beautiful Cayambe was my first stop on Tuesday. Ascending to around 5150 metres, it was the perfect location to combine some acclimatisation and snow training. Well, it would've been save for the vicious wind and snow. Good bad weather training, though. I was joined by a journalist who's on a work trip writing about climbing in Ecuador. Yes, I'm sure travel writing sounds more glamorous than it actually is, but it really doesn' t sound like a tough existence. A couple of hours with crampons and ice axes going up 60 degree slopes was actually quite straightforward once we got into the rythym, although I really wish I'd worn my thermal trousers; it would've helped to stop bits going numb that really shouldn't.

Next stop was Ruminawi. At 4730 metres, it was my biggest climb so far (we got a 4x4 most of the way up Cayambe). It was all quite straightforward until the last 300 metres or so, with some scree slopes and then some rock scrambling at the top. We were rewarded with a condor coming to see what we were up to, sweeping down into the valley below when it got bored of us.

Thursday saw an aborted attempt of Illianiz North. A shame, but the weather had better ideas about our climb than us. We did get to the refuge at 4700 metres but a combination of the bad weather and quite a slow pace meant we just enjoyed a nice cuppa in the refuge before heading back down, witnessing some stunning views on the way.

I'm currently sat in the refuge on Cotopaxi, where we're spending an hour at 4860 metres drinking hot chocolate for a final bit of acclimatisation ahead of tomorrow night. I'm feeling good, so fingers crossed I've done enough...

After the climb on Sunday I'll be heading straight to the coast for a bit of doing absolutely nothing for the final week before the trip comes to an end with the flight back to London.



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