Climbing Cotopaxi (again) with Laine and Andres


Just after the family left, my friends from Reno, Laine and Maryanne came for a visit. I was busy during most of their first week here. They spent the week traveling to Mindo, checking out the colonial district, and climbing Rucu Pichincha. On Thursday night we went downtown to La Ronda for dinner and Bandidos for beers to celebrate Maryanne’s birthday.

Laine and I are old climbing buddies and have put up new routes together in Woodfords canyon, done some long routes in Yosemite, and climbed some hard stuff at Lover’s Leap back in the day. So I couldn’t pass up the chance to take Laine up his first high altitude, glaciated climb! We had planned to climb Cayambe but the weather forecast called for high winds (again!) and 25+cm of snow on Saturday night with more on Sunday. The weather for Cotopaxi also looked pretty bad, but not as terrible so we changed our plan at the last minute and headed to Cotopaxi. My friend Andres also joined us for the climb.

We had a heck of a time getting past the control since we didn’t hire a guide. Last time we got through no problem, but this time they searched my bag and tried to hold onto my climbing equipment until we exited the National Park! I said no way and asked to talk with the gatekeeper’s boss. Luckily the boss was much cooler and let us pass through since I used to guide and still hold some certifications. The REALLY need to change the law requiring a guide, it is ridiculous and really destroys the climbing culture and opportunities for independent climbing.

Not surprisingly, the weather was dismal when we reached the parámo. It was alternating between heavy rain and drizzle, and Cotopaxi was completely invisible. I set up my tent in the rain, while Andres and Laine opted to sleep in the Tambopaxi Refuge. We lounged around the restaurant until about 5pm when we tried to get a bit of sleep. Our plan was to wake up at midnight and get going around 1am. I didn’t want to get to the summit too early like last time-though I knew we would be slower than Felipe and I had been.

We left Tambopaxi just after 1am but unfortunately Andres hit a rock on the road and we were smelling gas. We thought we had a hole in the tank-but we headed up the parking lot anyways! We hit heavy snowfall a few hundred meters before the trailhead. We figured our chances for the summiting were slim to nil, but I wanted to get Laine onto a glacier-so we went for it. We started at around 2:30am and were climbing on the glacier by about 3:45 am. Luckily as we ascended, the conditions didn’t really get worse, though the snow got deeper in some deposition spots. We climbed along at a good pace and began passing the groups that had started 3-4 hours earlier as we approached the crux of the route. We actually passed two guided teams on the crux itself- which involves front pointing on 60-70 degree ice. After that, it was just a hop and a skip to the summit. We made it in about 3.5 hours from the glacier-really good time considering Laine had only been at altitude for a week-though BC skiing in the Sierras at around 9-10,000ft probably helped. Unfortunately, the blizzard was still raging on the summit so we weren’t rewarded with any views. I am still on my streak of never getting any good weather or views on Ecuador summits. I wonder if it will ever happen….Still, it was fun to climb with an old friend from my Reno-Tahoe days on a tropical glaciated volcano!

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