Colombia por los Andes Ecuatorianos

Finally I can present a spanish article from my climbing partner Jaime Tinoco. Hannah (Wales), Jaime (Colombia) and I (Germany) went together to explore the Ecuadorian Andes (look my english articles before).

And here it starts:

Ecuador es conocido por tener muchas formaciones montañosas producto de la actividad volcánica, es un país con muchos volcanes aun activos y con un relieve un poco particular. El montañismo está bien organizado y existen varias montañas de gran altitud por lo que es visitado anualmente por expediciones de muchas partes del mundo buscando conquistar las cimas de sus dos más famosas cumbres, El Cotopaxi y el Gigantesco Chimborazo.

Como muchas cosas en la vida los proyectos nacen cuando nos atrevemos a soñar;  fue así como dos valientes mujeres y yo, decidimos escalar la montaña más alta de Ecuador, un reto en el que nos embarcamos en busca de aventuras y de probar los 6000 metros sobre la línea del Ecuador.

Como ya lo mencione esta expedición estuvo formada por dos mujeres Hannah, Christina y Jaime una mezcla de varias naciones pero con algo en común, la pasión por las montañas y por un hermoso país llamado Colombia.

Luego de ultimar detalles en Bogotá y organizar todos los pormenores, partimos el Sábado 12 de Mayo con destino a la ciudad de Quito, un viaje por tierra que nos tomaría alrededor de 28 Horas; Bogotá – Ipiales 22 horas, Tulcán – Quito 6 horas, al ingresar  al país vecino se encuentra uno con muchas sorpresas, como el exceso de vendedores en los buses que ofrecen todo tipo de alimentos, en una parada pueden ingresar 10 o más; pero algo más curioso es que los buses poseen baños que son de uso exclusivo para las mujeres, así que los hombres nos toca “apretar juerte” o con suerte esperar a una eventual parada en algún baño público del camino, lo mejor es no consumir muchos líquidos.

Después de muchas horas y muchos kilómetros estábamos  en Quito, una ciudad intermedia desde donde se puede salir hacia varias montañas; nuestro primer objetivo era el Cotopaxi (5897 msnm) como una opción para la aclimatación, averiguamos todos los detalles para el ingreso a la reserva natural y no encontramos nada nuevo a lo que ya habíamos investigado, excepto que ahora era gratis en ingreso, compramos las provisiones, analizamos la cartografía y nos fuimos al poblado de Latacunga a dos horas de Quito, allí rentamos una Pick up  que nos llevaría hasta el refugio del Cotopaxi; estábamos muy emocionados pues no habíamos visto ninguna montaña desde nuestra llegada a Ecuador y todos buscábamos en el horizonte al famoso volcán, luego de un poco más de una hora llegamos  a la entrada del parque, donde nos recibieron  con “ ese vehículo no puede ingresar ya que no tiene placas autorizadas”; ¡oh sorpresa! Luego de saludar nos dirigimos a los encargados del parque para contarles sobre nuestra expedición, la respuesta fue sorprendente y cortante, “ustedes no pueden ingresar, ya que deben contar con un guía naturalista y un guía de alta montaña, el primero para que les muestre y les enseñe sobre la naturaleza del lugar y otro para que no se pierdan dentro de la montaña, ante lo cual argumentamos que eso nos dejaba un poco estupefactos ya que en Quito nadie nos había comentado sobre dicho reglamento y que ni en libros ni internet figuraba dicha información por lo cual no teníamos presupuestado ese gasto, ante lo cual los hombres argumentaron que esa disposición gubernamental había surgido hacia ya varios años, tratamos de mediar la situación  pero ellos se negaron  y nos expusieron más argumentos poco convincentes, finalmente preguntamos donde podíamos conseguir los famosos guías naturalista y montañista, a lo que respondieron que no sabían, que eso era problema nuestro y que no tenían nada más que hablar con nosotros y que además esa ley funcionaba en todas las montañas del ecuador.

Nos retiramos molestos, tristes, aburridos y con ganas de largarnos del Ecuador con semejante bienvenida, pero la esperanza es lo último que se pierde, regresamos Quito y allí averiguamos en varias agencias de guías sobre esta reglamentación, a lo que respondieron que no era cierto y que ese mismo día había bajado un pareja de extranjeros felices por haber escalado sin ningún problema el Cotopaxi; la cosa más segura era que esos funcionarios querían un soborno; ante eso decidimos buscar aclimatarnos en una montaña más lejana y menos popular, el Cayambe (5790 msnm), no sin antes visitar un medico ya que Christina tenía problemas de salud y su estomago no se sentía bien.

Nos fuimos a Cayambe una población a varias horas de Quito en donde contratamos una Pick up con placas autorizadas para que nos llevara hasta el refugio del parque, nuestro viaje se torno relajante y por una carretera de piedra entre fincas y muy bonitos paisajes, al cabo de más o menos una hora divisamos a lo lejos lo que parecía una montaña y luego  más adelante ya en la trocha se despejo un poco el Cayambe tal vez para darnos la gentil bienvenida. Como el camino estaba en muy malas condiciones tuvimos varias veces que empujar la camioneta y finalmente no pudo continuar algunos kilómetros antes del refugio. Caminamos cerca de una hora y arribamos al base con los últimos rayos del sol. Allí solo se encontraban dos hombres de Holanda y Alemania los que subirían a la montaña esa noche con su guía ecuatoriano.

Luego de hablar un poco y hacer un poco de amistad, nos fuimos y montamos nuestra carpa en medio de una noche de mucho viento, las horas siguientes fueron horribles con frio y viento muy fuerte que intentaba arrancar la carpa, en la mañana el clima no cambio y llovía con un viento muy frio que congelaba todo; fue un día largo y bastante frustrante ya que el clima no tenia tendencia a mejorar. Pero lo bueno de todo era que estábamos durmiendo en buena altitud (4600msm)  y eso ya era ganancia.

En el día dos el clima cedió un poco y decidimos caminar para ver la ruta de aproximación al glaciar en la que un día antes se habían perdido los hombres que habíamos conocido. Fuimos al borde de nieve e hicimos algunas prácticas y de paso observamos la ruta de escalada en la cara de la montaña que pretendíamos hacer. Regresamos al campo base y el estado de Christina empeoró y se sentía muy baja de energía, por lo cual decidimos que no escalaríamos esta montaña y que regresaríamos el día siguiente a Quito.

Con la moral un poco baja y con un poco de estrés nos fuimos a Baños un poblado donde es muy famoso el turismo de aventura, sus baños termales, entre otras cosas, el objetivo era jugarnos el todo por el todo, esperar a que Christina se sintiera mejor, relajarnos, divertirnos y buscar estar a punto para alcanzar nuestro principal objetivo el Chimborazo; así lo hicimos y para armonizar nos fuimos en bici hasta la selva a Puyo, fue un día fascinante viendo los espectaculares paisajes llenos de cascadas y exuberante vegetación. Tres días más tarde partimos hacia Riobamba la ciudad punto de salida hacia el Reserva Faunística Chimborazo. Nos hospedamos e iniciamos la búsqueda de información sobre la reglas para ingresar al lugar y con suerte llegamos a Andean Adventures en donde John un hombre muy amable nos brindo información clara y precisa sobre el lugar, y nos contó que todos los refugios de montaña en Ecuador eran gratis, ¡oh sorpresa! En Cayambe el precio era de 25 dólares, además nos ofreció llevarnos en su camioneta con unos clientes y ayudarnos a ingresar por si teníamos problemas con lo de los guías, pero dijo que eso no era muy probable.

100_7133En la mañana del día siguiente partimos hacia el Chimborazo cual lo pactado con este hombre, y con una sonrisa de oreja a oreja pues de nuevo la suerte nos sonreía, luego de dos horas estábamos allí a 4800 m en el refugio Hermanos Carrel, como queríamos dormir más alto caminamos 40 minutos y llegamos al famoso refugio numero dos llamado Edward Whymper a 5000 m, allí comprobamos que habían camarotes y cocina y que efectivamente era gratis, nos instalamos y concentramos el día en hidratarnos pues a esa altura el liquido es muy importante y se deben consumir unos 5 litros por día, nos sentíamos bien y con mucha alegría de tener en frente esta gigantesca montaña de nieve, hielo y roca. Hicimos un recorrido pequeño de aclimatación y en la tarde la montaña se presto para la sesión fotográfica con un magnifico atardecer.

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La estrategia era pasar dos noches con sus días aclimatando y en la noche tres iniciar el ataque a la cumbre. En el refugio encontramos expediciones de Suiza, Austria, España, Francia, Japón, USA, entre otros; indagamos con lo guías locales sobre las condiciones de la montaña y todo estaba perfecto, aunque todos nos preguntaban sobre nuestro guía y se sorprendían cuando decíamos que no teníamos pues teníamos conocimiento de lo que hacíamos. Se sorprendían además cuando nos preguntaban de donde éramos, ya que todos respondíamos de Colombia, algunos no indagaban mas pero otros le decían a la chicas, pero ustedes no se ven como colombianas, ante lo cual ellas revelaban su nacionalidad, agregando que vivían en Colombia y se sentía como de allá.

Dato curioso, gente de poblaciones cercanas vienen a visitar en días normales los refugios, ver la montaña y jugar en la nieve, allí para ellos, los montañistas somos gringos y  como si fuésemos celebridades quieren tomarse fotos junto a uno.

Entonces examinamos la ruta, chequeamos cada detalle de lo íbamos hacer y con la predicción de buen clima, nos fuimos a dormir a las 4pm para levantarnos a las 10 pm a “desayunar” y salir a las 11:30 pm rumbo a la cumbre. Así lo hicimos y esa noche del 24 de Mayo nos fuimos con toda la energía y ganas de alcanzar este sueño.

La ruta inicia con una zona de tierra y piedras que a esa hora están congelados y hace difícil caminar sin crampones, así que poco después de una hora tuvimos que equiparnos con crampones y encordarnos ante el peligro de una caída por la pendiente. La temperatura era muy baja y sobre la una de la mañana comenzó a soplar el viento, uno de esos que hacen todo mas helado y difícil; habíamos elegido la ruta normal que pasa por abajo del castillo, una zona llamada el corredor, esta zona de roca y tierra es difícil para la orientación y aun mas en la noche, razón por la cual nos desviamos del camino y fuimos a parar en una zona llamada el glaciar de Tyelman, que es una placa de hielo muy dura donde inicia la ruta que lleva su nombre, para nuestra fortuna esta desviación no nos afecto, por el contrario nos alejo de una zona donde caen muchas rocas y  nos llevo a un punto alto donde solo deberíamos hacer un traverso para conectar con la ruta originalmente planeada, así lo hicimos hasta llegar a la arista que conduce a la cumbre; desde allí es posible ver el amanecer durante todo el ascenso, todo un espectáculo de colores sobre el relieve andino. El viento no cesaba y muestra de ello era la gran cantidad de penitentes (formaciones de nieve en forma de lenguas verticales), la temperatura era muy baja y las pausas para descansar eran insoportables pues había tendencia a congelarse rápidamente; la ruta normal no tiene exigencia técnica mayor,  excepto algunos pasos en mixto muy sencillos, pero es una infinidad de domos que terminan frustrando la expectativa de la cumbre pues cuando ya crees que has llegado ves otro domo y otro y otro…

Luego de 10 horas de mucho esfuerzo, de mucho frio , de soportar el rigor de los 6000 metros, allí la teníamos la cumbre Veintimilla con sus 6280 m, el sueño se había hecho realidad, la expedición colombiana había alcanzado la cima del Chimborazo; la expedición compuesta por dos valientes mujeres y un hombre lo había logrado, entre una mezcla de felicidad, humildad, libertad y orgullo a las 9:30 am del 25 de Mayo celebramos nuestro logro y emprendimos nuestro regreso al refugio, ya habíamos hecho lo difícil ahora venia lo más duro, el regreso, pero después de varias horas y con gran agotamiento estábamos de vuelta en el refugio, con la satisfacción de poder decir con plena seguridad, lo hicimos, cumbre!

Pero siempre hay un detrás de cámaras, Hannah quien se había mostrado imbatible durante toda la expedición presentó muchos problemas para respirar sobre los 5900 metros, pero como toda una valiente exigió su mente y cuerpo para llegar hasta el final  y Christina quien había demostrado su fortaleza en la montaña al reponerse de sus malestares, nos despertaba con la noticia de un insoportable dolor es sus dedos gordos de los pies, la examine y descubrí que tenia congelamiento en ellos, lo cual genera un dolor muy agudo, verifique que no era tan profundo, le suministre un calmante y le aplique sobre sus dedos una crema para aliviar el malestar en los tejidos, así pudo dormir mejor y al día siguiente con la ayuda de Hannah logramos que como una guerrera caminara al refugio Carrel, donde un vehículo nos llevaría a Riobamba, sus dedos mejoraron con los días pero perdió sus uñas. Luego de descansar algunos días regresamos a nuestra Colombia con la satisfacción del deber cumplido.

Las montañas ecuatorianas son una experiencia que vale la pena vivir y creo que son una buena escuela para muchos de los que intentamos dar un paso más en la carrera de montañistas, así que si usted desea una aventura en altitudes considerables o por encima de los 6000 metros, Ecuador lo espera. Soñar es la parte más importante en la motivación para llevar a cabo un proyecto, pero siempre es bueno cuando se cuenta con el apoyo de personas que hacen más fácil y factible lo que queremos lograr, por ello queremos dar gracias por el inmenso apoyo a Adventure 360 (comunicaciones y localización satelital), Revista Viajes y Aventura (publicación de este articulo) y Sun Xtreme Sport (protección solar), quienes sin dudarlo creyeron desde el principio en nuestro proyecto. A mis compañeras y amigas Hannah y Christina un abrazo fraternal y muchas gracias por permitirme compartir tan maravillosa experiencia.

Thank you very much Jaime. Hopefully there will be many more expeditions with a great team.

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Chimborazo – the walk to the summit

Finally, it was the “big” day to get out of the town of Riobamba and up to the mountain Chimborazo, the highest mountain of Ecuador. And the climate seemed to be nice. That was great. After a good night sleep we got ready for this big adventure and first of all for our breakfast. The breakfast was brilliant and offered energy for our day.

After this strengthening we went back to the Andeans place where John waited for us. He was surprised that we didn’t arrive 10 minutes before the actual appointment. That’s why he thought we won’t come and now his guide and his clients already left. What a pity! But our nice friend phoned his guide and ordered him back to pick us up. What a relief for our expedition! Funny enough right now a procession of some school in Riobamba started in front of us.

The main street, where we were waiting, was blocked, so we had to go to another side street to meet eventually our ride. Everything went fine. Hannah and I jumped in the back of the Jeep and enjoyed the view and the fresh air. But soon enough we were ascending more and more and it was becoming more freezing in the back of the Jeep. But we were in great humor, so we didn’t really mind.

             

           

Our plan for this day was, to go up from the refuge Hermanos Carrel, which is situated on 4.800 m and accessible by car, to the upper refuge, called Whymper. This refuge you find on an altitude of 5.000 m. On this way we passed a memorial, a kind of graveyard for the dead people – the dead who lost their life in the Chimborazo. Hopefully their souls are in peace nowadays and that all their relatives will be released from their grief.

   

It was a bit oppressive and we were reminded about all the risk of climbing a mountain. But still we had confidence in our abilities and experiences.

After 1-2 hours we finally arrived at the refuge Whymper. There we received good news in the cold. We were free to sleep in the refuge and use the kitchen. After the windy, cold and rainy days in the base camp of the Cayambe we were happy to do so. Only now we got the fact that every entrance of the national parks of Ecuador, including the refuge is or should be at least for free. But as you heard from my other stories this wasn’t really the case because the responsible persons in the refuges or national park entrances wanted to do their own small business. But anyway now we are here and the guard in the refuge Whymper was really nice and helpful.

     

After we put our material and backpack in a small room with 3 beds, we went for some walk. We wanted to get to know better our surrounding and of course and very important, we wanted to get used to the altitude.

        

       

Later the sky cleared up and we were regarded with a really great sunset.

So far we hadn’t problems. But at dinner time Hannah felt a bit sick. Hopefully she will recover soon.

The next morning, after a cold night, every one felt good, so we explored our way up to the mountain. If we want to climb the summit we needed to leave the refuge latest at midnight, so it was necessary to know the route up to the summit.  Back in the refuge we had an early dinner and went back to bed. Our big day has come. So we planned to get up at 10.30 pm for having a kind of breakfast and then leaving the refuge to accomplish our project, the Chimborazo.

At 11.30 pm we were walking up the hill and it was windy and cold. Soon we needed to put on our crampons because the way was a mixture of ice and earth, in which it was really hard to find foothold. After some hours we were on the ridge. Here it was extremely windy and my eyes hearted from the sandy wind. We had a short break and then we continued our walk to the peak. It was an exhausting climb since the inclination was strong.

        

But after the sunrise, it go a bit warmer and sunnier.

Soon we were on the summit Ventimillia (6.275 m).  

What delight! We made it!

        

But every climber knows that reaching the summit does not mean that you have already accomplished your expedition. Now it was another hard work to get down to the refuge. This was really difficult since we already were late and so we had the risk of falling rocks on our descent.

        

Only in the afternoon we reached finally our destination, the refuge Whymper. After a hot soup and some food we went straight to bed.

The following day we were descending from our refuge to the city of Riobamba. There our Ecuador expedition was going to its end. But yes we did it!

Riobamba – the Rio de Janeiro of Ecuador, we wished…

After our retreat from Cayambe, we were happy to get to warmer regions in Ecuador. We wanted to relax before starting our last and biggest project – the Chimborazo, the highest volcano of Ecuador. It is 6.267 m high – an impressive altitude.

To get easily to the base camp of the Chimborazo you should be in the city Riobamba. On our way from Quito to Riobamba, Banos was on the map and so we decided to relax there for a few days.

When we got to Banos we were happy to take a hot shower and unpack our backpacks.

The following day we had a late breakfast and still decided to do a cycling trip from Banos to Puyo, which is a small city located in the Amazon region. This trip is a 58 km cycle. During this tour we were passing different climate zones, which was amazing and very interesting. You end up in the Amazon region, where you find different food and climate. I was impressed. Now I really was looking forward to see and feel more of this fascinating region.

All in all it was a nice and funny cycle trip. In Puyo we got a bus to Banos. The bus driver was not amazed about carrying our rented bikes with the bus but we persisted. So just in time we got to the bike shop in Banos to return the bikes. Our shower was deserved!

The following days we prepared our project and went on to Riobamba. There we wanted to do the last bit of shopping, revise our plan and request the last missing information. Personally I was looking forward to go to Riobamba, the second Rio de Janeiro, at least the name sounded like that. But Riobamba was more Pampas than anything. When the bus driver said we already got to the Terminal in Riobamba, we couldn’t believe what we heard. But sure, you accept fast that you are in Riobamba and so we had to look for a Hostel, which wasn’t that easy either. After a through-the-city-run we finally found ourselves in a descent hotel.  Then straight away after getting rid of our heavy luggage we searched for camping gas, food and for more information. Still we weren’t sure how to get to the mountain hut “Hermanos Carrel” of Chimborazo.

We had luck; we found the Andean Adventures place where we met John, the guy who is working there. We talked with him and he gave us a lot of helpful information. After he heard about our project he offered us a lift to the base camp the next morning because his guide would take some clients up there anyway.  This was really nice and helpful.  So now it was fixed. We were going to leave Riobamba and going up to the base camp of Chimborazo the next morning. How exiting! In a hurry we went to a supermarket to buy the missing food and then more or less straight to bed. Some important days were waiting for us.

But first, some more impression of our stay in Banos and surrounding:

Cayambe

Early in the morning, I heard someone calling my name and shaking the tent. It was the guy from Switzerland from last night. I said, you are back early and what happened. He told me that the weather was miserable and the sight was really poor, so their guide couldn’t find their way and they had to go back. This wasn’t a good motivation but during the night I was pretty sure that in this kind of weather you can’t climb the summit or at least it is better to wait and not to try at all. But the guys were kind of busy, so they wanted to head down to the valley immediately after a disappointing night trek. They asked if we want to join because there would have been enough space in the Jeep and the weather forecast wasn’t good either,but we negated.

Then we want back to sleep, everyone alone with their thoughts. After a few hours, in the later morning time, we still found ourselves in a rainy and windy day and of course this wasn’t a big surprise. I decided for myself to wait and stay inside until the worst would pass by, but the group consensus was different. So half an hour later I found myself outside in the snow rain. At least I got some breakfast inside me. I didn’t feel good because I was still suffering from my cold and my bad stomach. After getting soaked outside, every inch of us was wet, we finally got back into the tent. What a relief! There we changed clothes, heated up again, and went back to sleep a bit more. In the middle of the day the weather got better and we had a look around.The view was spectacular now!

And of course we had to dry our soaked clothes in the wind and in the few patches of sun. Repairing and reinstalling the tent was another thing to do. The following night wouldn’t get any better, this was certain.

The next day we had more luck and the day started without any snow rain, so we prepared ourselves to go up to the glacier for doing some exercises in the snow.

But finding the right way to the glacier turned out more difficult than we thought. Finally, after some hours of walking and searching we actually got from the rocks to the wither ground.

We put on our equipment and revised everything. This was a good practice but I realized as well that my body wasn’t in good and sufficient health estate. The illness made me weak. But still I had the wish to try. When we only return to our camp late in the afternoon and only went back to sleep around 8ish, it was clear that we won’t head to the summit at 11pm. It was just no possible with my strength at this time. The next morning we left the base camp and got down to warmer area. We need to relax after these cold and windy days. So we decided to head out to Banos some days. From there we would start our expedition to the highest mountain of Ecuador, the volcano Chimborazo.

Soon there will be published an article over our whole expedition in spanish from Jaime Tinoco on this blog. Thank you very much for that!

Mountains and more mountains

After the Cotopaxi, the Cayambe

Did you actually know that there are so many Volcanos in Ecuador? Of course you did and as I’m a student of an Alexander-von-Humboldt School, I’ve to say, that this guy named the valley between the Cordillera Oriental and the Cordillera Real „Straße der Vulkane“ – the streets of volcanoes.

Out of the possibility to climb many volcanos we decided to try the Cayambe next. The Cayambe is less popular then the Cotopaxi, so we supposed that we won’t have any problems to enter there. And finally we were right. The volcano Cayambe is 5.796 m high and with its altitude the third highest mountain in Ecuador. The volcano is a complex volcano. This type of volcano occurs in location of principal vent area and asks the mountain climber for good mountain reading abilities.

The first man to climb actually this volcano was Edward Whymper from England. He actually also did the Chimborazo and nowadays the refugee at 5.000 m is named after him. But from the Chimborazo you soon will read more in my next articles.

Fair enough, now we were prepared to start our expedition to the volcano Cayambe. We left Quito in bus and got to the city Cayambe. From there we went up with the Jeep to the refugee “Ruales Oleas Bergé” which is located at 4.600 m.

We only left late the city Cayambe which, I think, was my fault because I was a bit sick – bad stomach and the flu. So I took my time in Quito and in Cayambe for the increase of altitude. We needed two hours to get near to the refugee. The Jeep had problems passing the road. It was really muddy with deep lanes.

Well there wasn’t any possibility to get straight to the refugee so we had the chance to walk the last bit, which was as well a good preparation for our peak climbing plans.

The walk was nice but there was a lot of cold wind and it was getting darker and darker. My friends already got to the refugee but I with my flu and bad stomach, I was slow and now as well really cold of the wind…got there of course as well but a bit later.

In the refugee we met two guys, one from Germany and one from Switzerland. They were really nice guys and they planned to do the peak this night. They wanted to leave in a few hours with a local guy.  After a nice talk we went outside to find a place to camp. Wow this actually was really difficult and uncomfortable – it was black and dark, with a lot of snow wind. But finally we were inside the small tent and found our sleep in a really stormy and freezing night. I hold my thumbs for the other expedition, knowing that this climate won’t make the access of the peak easy.

The next morning the guys from the last night woke us up to tell their story of their climb…but this I will tell within a short time!

The volcanoes of Ecuador

Yes the volcanoes of Ecuador standed on our list…we had some projects there to finish off. So after arriving in Quito, the capital of Ecuador and near the zero point, we prepared our base camp for our mountain climbing. That means that we booked in a Hostel in Quito and bought the missing stuff, which was mainly food and gas.

   Wellprepared, we went with the bus from Quito to Latacunga. There you can hire jeeps, which take you to the base camp of Cotopaxi. Cotopaxi is the second highest summit in the country, around 5.900m and it is a stratovolcano in the Andes Mountains.

Getting with the bus to Latacunga wasn’t really difficult, but our hope to get some nice view at the Cotopaxi from the road was just a dream. The weather was really cloudy, so our project, the Cotopaxi, remained so far just an imagination. But we were in good humor and with hope that soon we will stand on the top, on around 5.900 m. But everything became differently to our expectations…

First of all, of course, we wanted to go for our lunch in the town of Latacunga. We actually had to ask some people where to catch some good food. This is pretty unusual for South America. But finally we found a nice and cute place for our lunch and then nearby as well the jeeps to Cotopaxi. Everything went great.

But then actually at the national park entrance, the problems started. I and not only I expected to enter without any further problems. Before leaving Quito we spoke to many people, so we were quite sure about what we are doing. As well we found out that the Ecuadorian law changed and with these changes every park entrance is for free, as well as the refugees. Everything could have been so easy. But out of nowhere the entrance personal was in quite bad humor. They said first: “Pull over, pull over you can’t go inside.” On our questions of why and how, they couldn’t really give a logical answer. It was something like you are foreigners, you only can go in with a local tour guide and beside this guide as well you need a local guide for the environment. This was really weird. We were really good informed about the official organization and heard as well from other climbers that they did the summit without the local guides and without further problems. So I suppose it was just a face issue: “You can’t go inside…because, well just because you can’t”.

Of course we were disappointed but the Colombian rule says that for everything is a solution, so we got back to Quito and started to plan our next project – the Cayambe, which is the third highest mountain in Ecuador. So we tried to forget the disappointing event in Cotopaxi and concentrate on nicer things. First we needed to collect information and prepare the other mountain. This we did in Quito.

The Cayambe…Vamos equipo, vamos…

El Cocuy

The National Park „El Cocuy“is situated in the eastern Andes. 3 departments of Colombia share this beautiful Park: Boyacá, Arauca and Casanere.  “El Cocuy” is mainly dominated by mountains, of which 19 summits are covered with snow, and of course the national park offers 300 Lagunas which are an important water reservoir for the country.  The water in the park is really clear without any contaminations. Well the only contamination could be the feces of the horses or donkeys.

A friend and I stayed one night in the village “El Cocuy”. We were really tired after spending 10 hours in the bus. So we tried to recover quickly in a Hostal there, to start early the next morning.

The next morning we got up really early to search for a transport up to the entrance of the national park. I was reassuring myself, if I’m really fine without bringing loads of water with me. My friend told me that I don’t have to carry any water with me because the national park with its 300 Lagunas offers loads of drinkable water. So we only went with the needed food up to the entrance of the national park. We got there with a Jeep. We had a load of stuff with us and the way up to the main entrance isn’t that great to walk. Well after almost an hour in the Jeep we were at the entrance of the park and paid the entrance fee. Yes you have to pay to enter there, but it isn’t that expensive and it is worth it.

After this payment we went to our next “stop”. For our backpacks, filled up with food, tent, sleeping bags and warm cloths, we hired a Mule (mix of donkey and horse). We only started our way up to the “Laguna de la Plaza” with the most important things like energy food, rain jacket, sun cream and drinking bottle, which we filled up during our way whenever it was empty.

So all in all we were walking around 7 hours and it was really exhausting for me. I wasn’t really used of this altitude of 4.000 m. The highest point of 4.500 m we reached two times. We had to go over the Cusiri Pass to reach the “Laguna de la Plaza”. Between these two high points we had to cross a valley. So it was an up and down, up and down.

But finally we reached our aim. I was surprised by an awesome view. I was really overwhelmed. I was so exhausted and with an awful headache, that I thought, that everything is a fata morgana, but the next morning I was relieved. Everything was so real.

They stay at the “Laguna de plaza” obviously didn’t offer any luxury. So you couldn’t take a shower or something. You could have washed yourself in the Laguna there, but the water was really cold. As well during night time it was really called. I was sleeping with my winter underwear from Germany and still I felt the cold. During daytime the sun was heating you up and you need loads of sun cream, but after 5pm, after sunset, it was immediately very cold. And then you only want to get into your tent or drink something warm.  But every suffering of cold, sun, wind or the headache of the altitude was worth it. The sunrises and the view over the clouds were really impressive. Just really, really awesome!

The days in “El Cocuy” passed really fast. I only had two full days there. After one quiet day of light walking and a relaxing phase we went to summits nearby. I think we almost got to the 5.000 meters. The view was awesome and the walk exhausting but really enjoyable. We went as well to one glacier there. This was an impressive view!