Volcán Guagua Pichincha: My First Climb
Dec 9, 2004
|Volcán Guagua Pichincha
10 miles outside of Quito, Ecuador
2,656 miles outside of Elizabethtown, KY
The purpose of climbing this volcanoe was to test myself and see how I handled the altitude before trying to attempt Volcán Cotopaxi which is at an altitude of 19,347ft.(5,897m). It also helps me to acclimatize to the altitude.
I hired a guide in Quito to take me there. My guide only spoke Spanish and talked alot. I only understood about half of what he was saying, but I got the gist of most of it. We left Quito at 7AM and although Pichincha is only 10 miles outside of Quito, it took almost 2 hours to reach the climbing refuge at 14,949ft.(4,570m). The ride there felt like riding shotgun in a rally car, but we weren´t going quite that fast. The roads were very bumpy with alot of switchbacks on the side of the mountain/volcanoe.
We started our climb from the refuge. The climb wasn´t technical and it took us an hour and 10 minutes to climb 692ft. to the summit. All I can say is that the views were amazing and that luck was on my side, because I saw 2 Andean Condors(endangered and Ecuador´s national symbol) and I saw the still active crater emitting plumes of smoke. According to my guide both of these are very rare sightings. He has never seen the condors at this volcanoe and has only seen the plumes of smoke once before. Also to my luck, ten minutes after reaching the summit, the clouds rolled in and you weren´t able so see anything. The climb back down only took 20 minutes.
After doing the climb, I decided that it didn´t hurt too much and that I would like to attempt to climb to the peak of Volcán Cotopaxi. So once back in Quito today I booked two more climbs for Friday and Saturday. Friday, I will be climbing Volcán Rumiñahui at 15,460ft.(4,712m) and Saturday, I will be climbing Volcán Cotopaxi at 19,347ft.(5,897m).
Cotopaxi is a technical climb requiring crampons, ice axe, and climbing gear. We will be starting the climb at midnight and if we are lucky we will reach the summit by sunrise. Only 25% of the people attempting the climb are successful. Most have to turn back to due to altitude sickness, which is easily cured by going to a lower altitude, or from sheer exhaustion. Wish me luck.