Barb and Ben's South American Adventure 2008 travel blog

Just below the mountain - can´t see it though!

So we thought we would be slightly adventurous and go and check out Volcano Cotopaxi - the most climbed volcano in Ecuador (2nd highest at 6200m or so). The weather was not great a bit cold and overcast but we thought we´d just do a day tour of the park surrounding the volcano. It turned out that our tour included a little hike round the lake in the park down the bottom and then they drive you to the lower carpark (at 3200m) and let you climb to the base camp refuge at 4200m - sounds easy enough doesn´t it - yeah right.

Well we drove into the park and after about 40min arrived at the Lake. The elevation was already increasing, the rain was holding off, but unfortunately it was too cloudy to get any good photos of Cotopaxi. So we walked around the lake (large puddle) which turned out to be quite nice. Next we set off for the carpark. Lucky we had a 4WD as you had to keep avoiding the large volcanic rocks that had been spewed onto the gravel road at various times in the past. As we drove up the cloud and the cold moved in, the road got steeper and the drop-offs at the side as well. So we finally get to the carpark which was relatively freezing and our guide says ¨here you go, so that little house up there in the distance - that is the refuge - take as long as you like, i´ll be here¨. So we look up the massively steep hill of volcanic gravel and about 2 of those massively steep hills up you can see a tiny little house. We got out of the car and it is freezing, and starting to snow/sleet. We were in our rain jackets, fleece and jeans. At this point i said to Ben - this is not my idea of fun. Ben, ever the optimist, said - maybe it´ll clear up while we´re walking (yeah right, the clouds were so thick we´d lost sight of the lake about 500m ago). So i gritted my teeth and started walking - who out there of you has ever tried to walk up a 1000m sand dune in sleet - well i wouldn´t recommend it! We got about 1/2 way up and we could no longer feel our hands or feet or anything else important, our jeans were soaked - we decided it might be a good time to turn back. As we drove back down we emerged out of the cloud and the temperature increased - hard to believe conditions change so much within a few hundred metres. I´m glad we had not decided to take a guided summit climb - we spoke to some others later had been taken up for the proper night summit in the same conditions - they had not been able to get to the top and had turned back after a 1500m climb - they were not happy campers!

It was nice to have got to the park but i was disappointed i didn´t get any perfect volcano pictures. Such as life (overall in the 4mths we´ve been away so far we´ve been pretty blessed with good weather!)

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