19th Mar 2012
Cotopaxi: 5000m Above Sea Level
Today it was Volcano time. 8 am sharp our 4 x 4 had arrived to take us the 1.5 hours along bumpy bumpy country roads a small refuge deep inside the Cotopaxi National Park. Just the ride itself was enough to keep us satisfied, fields of green as far as the eye could see, separated only by small fences or tiny river streams. The first point, the furthest the vehicle could take us was 4500m above sea level, and you could tell. The last 30mins you could feel as if the car was panting, sucking in any air it could as it constantly got thinner and thinner.
We had a 1km climb up 300m of altitude until the refuge camp, where a lot of the ‘summit seekers’ would prepare before setting of to reach the peak of 5879m. As we set off, immediately you could feel yourself struggle for air, every step felt like you had just sprinted 10m. Slowly but surely, we continued up the mountain making it to 4810m and what was known as “the Refuge”. We enjoyed a hot chocolate to warm up and give us a much needed energy boost, along with a small snack.
Vamos! Yelled the guide, we were off again – this time we had a 300m climb up 200m of altitude past the snow line to reach our goal – 5000m above sea level! …again just like the first stretch every step required two or three breaths. The scenery become more dramatic as the clouds lifted and we could see right up the mountain face. Crossing the snow, we scrambled slipping multiple times on our flat shoes, until finally reaching the 5000m meter mark! Our guide snapped our pictures, before we sat for a few minutes and enjoyed what were some of the most unbelievable views we had seen so far on any trip!
It was hard to believe that we were sitting in snow at 5000m above sea level on the Worlds most Active Volcano - ….Wow! Coming down was a breeze – like running down a sand dune. Although in saying that we both ended up on our asses a couple of times. Approaching the bottom, a wild wolf ran quite close to us rummaging in the volcanic ash for food – we couldn’t believe he was up here where it seemed as if nothing would survive looking for something to eat!
We stopped at the bottom taking a few photos to remember this incredible moment. The entire ride back we reveled in our achievement spotting wild horses running through open paddocks, cattle perched meticulously on high ridges and falcons soaring high above the ground searching for prey.
The afternoon and evening was spent relaxing. Roxy retired early with a headache – we assumed again was from the altitude. It was apparently quite common that people would return and require an afternoon siesta; 5000m is certainly into the danger zone for altitude sickness symptoms. Her symptoms passed however and we both enjoyed the views and sunset through the windows of the hostel, while enjoying the warm of the fire and company of Mash, Milo and Daisy – the true owners of the complex.
Time spent climbing: almost 2 hours
Highest mark achieved: 5000m
Animals Spotted: Wild Horse, Wolf, small Finches, Condors, Donkeys, Dogs and Cattle
Best views: On way day as clouds lifted, ...wow