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Everest with Mountain Madness

Cotopaxi: No summit, but the right choice!

Word has just come in to the Moun­tain Mad­ness office of the Cotopaxi Trek or Climb trip. While the group did not sum­mit, our guides made the right deci­sion in turn­ing back when the dan­ger was too great.

Report by Ale­jan­dro Laz­za­ti. All pho­tos from pre­vi­ous treks.

The trip start­ed out nor­mal enough with Car­rie, Carl, Mal­lo­ry and Zac arriv­ing in Quito around May 25th. One day after arrival we trav­eled to Otava­lo and spent some time shop­ping and look­ing at hand-craft­ed good­ies in the biggest indige­nous marked in the Andes. We then checked in at his­toric Hacien­da Pin­saqui, where Car­rie and Carl decid­ed to stay in for the after­noon and catch up on some much need­ed sleep. Mal­lo­ry and Zac came to Cuic­o­cho and joined me in a hike around Lagu­na Cuic­ocha where the orchid lined trail gave great views of the water filled caldera of this ancient volcano.

Lagu­na Cuic­ocha. Man­dor photo

Day 3 start­ed out with a car ride to the start of the trek at the Rumi­pam­ba area. The weath­er was very rainy and we walked for close to 5 hours. For­tu­nate­ly for us, Luis had our tents set up when we arrived and the kitchen was ready, so we set­tled in for a nice after­noon sur­round­ed by the peace­ful countryside.

Camp all set up! Man­dor photo

The next morn­ing we pre­pared for our day hike to Paso­choa vol­cano. It’s an 8 and a half hour trip to the sum­mit and back. We lucked out and the weath­er held up all day. We were very lucky!. It was a long day for every­one but a great climb to the sum­mit and back to camp where we enjoyed a great meal pre­pared by Luis. It was a great day and a fine way to reach some high alti­tude on this walk-up ascent.

Acclima­ti­za­tion hike. Man­dor photo

The next day brought good weath­er and we hiked to Hacien­da El Por­venir. Just a lit­tle bit of rain fell while we hiked but the trail was very mud­dy, which made route find­ing fun! There were lots of cows on the hills and they were very curi­ous about us. A great day in the Ecuador country-side.

Day 6 brought our Rumi­nahui Cen­tral sum­mit day hike, which took about 6 hours from Limpi­op­un­go Lake. The ter­rain here can be chal­leng­ing but with encour­age­ment and patience, every­one made it just fine and the weath­er even bright­ened just after we sum­mit­ed for a bit. The descent was wet and slip­pery which made the hike down more work. Din­ner await­ed us and then off to bed.

On day 7 we pre­pared for the climb of Cotopaxi by rest­ing and din­ing at Tam­bopaxi Lodge. Tomor­row we will attempt the summit!

At 12:30am we depart­ed the Jose F. Rivas hut. Carl was not feel­ing great as the morn­ing start­ed and had to turn back short­ly there­after. The rest of the group kept going for a bit more, but high on the moun­tain they also had to turn back due to a very large and very dan­ger­ous cornice.”

Clas­sic Ecuador huts. Man­dor photo

Here’s what hap­pened on the moun­tain as told by MM guide Gas­par Navarrette:

We were lead­ing the climb and were ahead of all the rope teams on the moun­tain. The day before, peo­ple were talk­ing about a big crevasse that was not easy to cross at 5300 meters. When I got there, I checked the snow bridge and all was ok but at 5450 meters we found a very big and nasty ice cave with a big cor­nice. I decid­ed not cross it and instead turn back since I thought it was too dan­ger­ous. Two rope teams decid­ed to con­tin­ue. I explained to our clients that it is very unsafe and that it is hard to pre­dict when it is going to fall, maybe in a cou­ple of days or a cou­ple of weeks. How­ev­er, the next day at 3:45am that huge cor­nice fell and a Cana­di­an climber that was led by a local guide was killed.

Despite the dis­ap­point­ment that we did not get to sum­mit, we were all relieved and hap­py with our deci­sion to put safe­ty first! Back in the hut, we had some tea and food and head­ed back to Quito for our last din­ner and final goodbye’s.”

~ MM Guide Ale­jo Lazzati

Cotopaxi. Man­dor photo