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