Iliniza Norte & Cotopaxi

I'm still in Quito with a couple more trainings left to do for work. I took a long weekend, though, and headed out to the Andes. I did one acclimatizing hike up Iliniza Norte (5,100 m) with a couple of lovely Canadians and a Vasco. We had one rest day before venturing to climb Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world (5,897 m).

I was feeling great the night before, sleeping high (well, not sleeping, but resting), around 4,800. I had proper glacier training with crampons and ice axe (and I learned that I love ice axes). We woke up at midnight to prepare ourselves, eat a little breakfast (but it's so hard to eat when you're that high up), and head out to the mountain. In a blizzard. I seem to bring the Patagonia wind with me wherever I go. It was crazy windy, with plenty of snow.

We were in two rope teams of three people each, except I was with Ramon, the Basque, and I probably should have been going slower. We were supposed to meet up around 5,200 meters to make sure we all felt OK and switch up the rope teams into slower and faster, if need be. But that didn't happen. I guess my group was so far ahead of the other group, that the decision was to keep on keeping on. But, man, the altitude really got to me. I wasn't even that cold, what with the blizzard and all. Just had many symptoms of soroche, altitude sickness. Dizziness, slowness, headache, nausea, etc.

So the guide tested my reflexes... Said to cover one eye and touch his forefinger with my thumb about an arm's-length distance away. And to do this fast. RĂ¡pido, Heather. I guess I did it really really, painfully slow, with a lot of wavering. I was so happy to have finally made it to touching our guide's finger that I grabbed onto it. Pure victory. We were moving on up the mountain. The guide and Ramon, apparently looked at each other and shook their heads (as Ramon told me later). We were on our way back down that mountain.

We'd made it up to 5,500 or more, it was 5 in the morning, we were so close! And we had to go down... I was crying. And then on the way down Ramon fell into a hidden crevasse. It all happened so fast, yet in slow motion. I stopped, sat, and dug my crampons into the snow so as not to let him fall deeper and not to slide into it myself. I have no idea how he got out, from my view it looked as if he trampolined himself out of there, springing out like a cat, and screaming, "Grieta, grieta!" Crevasse, crevasse!

Anyway, we all made it down safe. Out of about 8 groups, only 2 made it up the volcano that morning. I think the blizzard was definitely making it more difficult for everybody. Our Canadian friends were already back at the base camp refugio resting when we arrived, covered in an even layer of ice...

1 comment:

shammywu said...

Hey Heather. Glad your guide didn´t take you down with him. Sounds like a tough outing. Huaraz was great. Huayhuash is on my list now. Have a great trip back! Sam


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