Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cotopaxi-yet another attempt!

Previous day's view

and in the evening

In a cravasse at about 5200m? Had to get out of the 50 kph winds to put MEC chemical warmers in my boots to thaw my toes...they never worked. The windchill calculator said -18! Are we really on the Equator??

First light around 5:30. Cotopaxi shadow on the left....Illinizas on the right. Camped at about 3700m...drove to the parking lot....started at about 12:30pm....200m up to refuge at 1am....onto glacier around 2am.....Studley pushed himself to his absolute max and made it to around 5500m (just below where I turned back on my solo attempt) He was dizzy and nauseous, as well as extremly cold at -7 with a major wind chill and no more layers to put on (5 on top and 3 for the legs).


Looking back to the summit....100m vertical from where we turned back.

Note a party of 3 near the summit.

Antisana in the background...5700ish metres

The main route at the moment goes under the big rock face. Absolutley stunning. Pics can't do it justice. I'd do it again just for the walk down the glacier.

View from parking lot

and from the drive back....exiting the park via the north gate this time. Two hour drive back home...only about 55km!

Trip report below written by Studley.

Since the last email we have climbed Illiniza Norte a 5100m peak in Ecuador which was amazing, I was a little disappointed to find out that I suffer from altitude sickness over 5000m which made me dizzy and when you get to see the photos you didn´t really want to be feeling like that, a wee bit dangerous. We spent the night in a climbers refuge at 4800m and I felt terrible all night. In the morning Squirrel climbed another peak with the guide which was a 70 degree glacier using 2 ice axes and front pointing with crampons. Sort of like how batman and robin would scale a building. Squirrel was on a huge high on his return and I had almost got rid of the hangover like effect. We still had an hour and a half to walk back to the car at lower altitude. I made it and ate Ecuador out of food as soon as we hit the restaurant an hour later.

Two days later we got ready for our Cotopaxi attempt. 5890m. It´s massive and brutal, Mazz is a hero for climbing it.
We got into the park at 2pm and had planned to camp, we found the free campground and decided to sleep on the floor of a day shelter. The cloud cleared off Cotopaxi and it is just gobsmacking, the glacier is huge, the wind was still blowing hard so we were a little concerned as no one had summited in a week due to high winds. We had dinner at 5pm and hit the floor at 6pm planning to get up at 11pm. We couldn´t really sleep, the wind was howling then a mini van pulled up and knocked on the door, Squirrel yelled out that it was full and they went away.
Up at 11pm, had breakfast got dressed and drove up to the carpark at 4500m. Headlamps on and we started the climb. We hit the refuge where everyone stays at 4800m half an hour later then headed up to the tip of the glacier.
It was getting colder and I already had on thermal long johns and padded gortex pants. Nothing like taking your boots off, whipping your overpants off and putting on another pair of fleecy pants then getting dressed at 1.30am in the morning at minus 2 on the tip of a glacier at 5100m
We set off on the glacier following a trail left by others we could see headlamps of other climbers in front and behind us so it was assuring that we weren´t alone. As we got higher we could see the lights of Quito and the stars above were just beautiful. The wind got stronger and we found an ice cave so we jumped in as Squirrel had cold feet so he had some instant heat bags that he squeezed and they were supposed to warm his feet up, needless to say they didn´t work but the ice cave was another one of those two in one things; it provided shelter from the wind and it also had served as a public toilet.You have to laugh at times.
Out of the cave and as we went higher the dreaded altitude dizziness returned to spoil my day. It is like being drunk I had trouble concentrating and my coordination was a little compromised, I was tripping up. We had every article of cloting on, including balaclavas, gloves and overmitts, 4 layers on the upper body. It was minus 7, the wind was blowing us off our feet and we were in a shelterd spot. We were 350 vertical meters from the summit where it gets a lot harder and I had to say to Squirrel that if I went higher I think I might have had an accident. The sun had now come up and the light was beautiful, we tried to drink the frozen water out of our bottles, Squirrel put some frozen sunscreen cubes on his face and we thought about the whole scenario. I felt bad about slowing him down as he was unaffected with the altitude. He had been turned around a bit higher up earler this year and he knew how dangerous it would be attempting it especially with the gale force wind. We sat around freezing for a few more minutes wondering what we should do and also why we were sitting in another public toilet, I thought it was a bit high up for pine cones.
So we decided to decend, Sqirrel asked me one more time knowing that I had my heart set on climbing this brute. I did wonder if I could make it down, but we roped up and set off.
Then it only got better, we were treated to the most spectacular scenery I have ever set my eyes on. We looked across to the Illinizas that we climbed 4 day ago, a huge shadow from Cotopaxi was almost touching them. We started winding our way though the trail on the glacier over massive crevasses that we had crossed in the dark. Spectacular ice formations too many to describe all around us. Then we were looking down the the low cloud coming up from the amazon and whipping past with the wind below us. Squirrel took a heap of photos and I was happy to be Where´s Wally seeing I was still feeling ordinary. When you all see the photos you will be gobsmacked, it was just unbelievable. We finally got to the tip of the glacier and realised what a dangerous yet exciting environment it is-mother nature at her best.
Off the glacier, crampons and harness off then we ran down the scree to the refuge, I was still feeling crap so I couldn´t boot it down as fast as I wanted to. Quick drink in the refuge, Squirrel tells me that there was an avalanche recently that came in the window of the refuge and killed people, I didn´t care at that point as I had a really bad headache. Then the last 300m vertical down to the car, the wind only blew me over once, so I was happy with that.
We drove down to lower altitude. I hit the aspirin and Squirrel decided to take another road home that was more of a direct route. I just love 75 minutes of dirt and cobblestones when you feel crapola. We just laughed it off and got back to Quito.
So yes I was disappointed in not summiting but the walk down would have to be the highlight of this trip.

So after 11 hours sleep I am a new man, I jumped on 2 buses this morning an 4 hours later I am in 30 dergees and 5 kilometres lower than where we turned around on Cotopaxi, what a country of contrasts. The bus ride was fun, some bloke tells the driver that a gringo had stole his phone and credit card so they pull over in a town and the police march us off the bus and search our bags, never looked in our pockets though, I didn´t really think that they believed him. In the last 20 k before we hit Tena, the driver must have been feeling lonely and kept stopping for more passengers, which was funny because it pushed them all down the back of the bus but then they had to yell out to stop the bus and crawl over evryone to get out. But it seems to be a good system, especially when they let them get on the bus then the assistant crawls over everyone to find them for the money. This way the bus doesn´t lose time. I was told about a hotel overlooking the river for $25 with brekky, I check it out but no rooms with a view. I have found another with river views with breakfast for $12 what a bargain. I even found cheap stamps for the hard to find postcards $2.75 per stamp, I had 2 course lunch with juice today for $2.25 how does that work?.
But I did save on a canoe trip across the river to a flora and fauna reserve, due to the bridge being washed out in a flood-I just waded the river, gotta love that. I don´t think the fish that I saw were pirannas.
Tommorow I´m off to Baños on the bus to see the town, I ´ll have anothet soak in the hot spings then back to Squirrels place hopefully via three buses, I ´m looking forward to the challenge of finding my way.
We are going to climb Pinchincha at 4700m in Quito on Saturday just one last scramble before I fly out 6.40am Sunday morning. I didn´t want to go over 5000m in case I got sick again-it is long enough flying home as it is.


Stewart Midwinter said...

With all due respect, I don't think you were prepared enough or took the altitude seriously enough. It's unrealistic to spend one night at 3800m and expect to summit at 5900m.

Last October I stayed in the refuge for two nights ( after prepping by spending two weeks at 2800m in Quito, and climbing Rucu Pichincha and Iliniza Norte ) and still found it tough going, but summited.

Having gone all that way, you would have done well to invest in one or two more days to acclimatize.

Pics from my ascent at:

Aubrey Groves said...

i won't leave anything so harsh.

Never been higher than 5600m and that really was quite enuff.

Familia Tober-Zambrano said...

guess I can post comments on my own blog. The 1st person, whoever you need the whole picture before you make a judgement. I live in Quito. Also, we were up Illiniza norte and Galeras in Colombia before Cotopaxi.

Aubs! I just can't keep up with your EXCELLENT blog! esp this time of the year. Love the photo of the black kid in front of the white church!