Adventure at the Equator – Cotopaxi Day 6 – Summit Day

// March 26th, 2012 // Climbing

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Getting up at midnight this time was easy and made even easier as we looked outside to see clear skies and no wind. The temperature was pleasant, and as we headed into the dining room we were greeted by a few eager parties that were on their way to the summit. Breakfast was quick and warm, the gear had been packed the day before, batteries in our headlamps were fresh and after slugging down some coffee, a visit to the baƱo, we were on our way. Time: 1:15 a.m.

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For the first time we could see the lights of Quito (2,000,000 people) in the distance below. Reaching the snow in minutes we also realized the with the moon shining brightly upon us, there would be no need for headlamps. John would keep his on and mine would be used intermittently as needed in the crevassed terrain, but the night was one of those rare beautiful gifts that we sometimes receive in the mountains. This was special.
Within the first hour we had already passed a couple of parties, John and Freddy were climbing strong and steady. We roped up as we hit the glacier and like a slow freighter moving by icebergs in the North-Atlantic at night, we moved past large blocks of ice the size of houses almost unseen.
One step at a time crampons crunching on snow and ice, the rhythmic pace becoming the focus taking ones mind away from the burning lungs and lightheadedness. As a team we moved in sync together doing very well especially considering this was only John’s second time on a rope. As we got higher, so did the sun and soon we were basking in the deep blue of a new dawn. The shadow of Cotopaxi could be seen stretching out into the distance pointing towards another volcano and the equator. Weaving around a few crevasses more and a couple of steep sections of snow and ice we then finally hit the cauliflower wind blown rime of the summit cone. Gorgeous!

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19,348 feet high at 6:50 in the morning – what a feeling. John did a super job and after 15 minutes or so on top we were headed back down. The trip off of the mountain only took two hours and we made it just as the snow was softening and the clouds returning. Truly a perfect and flawless summit day. This one was dedicated to our buddy Mark who was now recovering from HAPE back in Quito.

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