After climbing Tioniza (Iliniza Norte)twice(in years prior), I figured it was time to venture to Iliniza Sur. Not getting the benefit of the upper parking lot, the walk from La Virgen(the lower car park that is now the only car park) to the Refugio seemed endless, probably due to the fact that it was approaching dark by the time we got to the refugio and it started to cool down. When I arrived at the Refugio I noticed that improvements had been made from times prior and the conditions were now much better. None the less, after being treated to a three course meal, and crawling in our sleeping bags we started to hear an Andean Fox(Lobo Andino) outside and sleeping became impossible. We started climbing the mountain promptly at 4 am and the route led us up and over the saddle between Iliniza and Tioniza. The route wound up to a rocky area with ice formations that showed remnants of where the glacier used to be on the old route(La Rampa). We rock climbed up a section of rocks in our crampons, a very hard technique. Once we got on top, we were now fully on the glacier and started up the long, steep slope. we took three to four breaks to give our poor legs a break from the constant upward climb, but as day came, the mountain beat us, and tired and without water, we decided it was absolutely necessary to come down.
On to Cotopaxi
We felt defeated after coming down from Iliniza, but we were not ready to give up. After our guide, Nicolas, told us Cotopaxi would most definitely be easier, we felt reassured. The next day we headed to the refugio, got our gear and hiked to the refugio. We set our bags down, and admired the beautiful sunset looking to the north over toward Quito and the valleys of Los Chillos, and Tumbaco. Antizana, and Cayambe were also visible at the time. NIght came over the hut as we at our meal, and drank hot tea. Soon, it was time to sleep, and we headed upstairs to where our sleeping bags were. Sleeping at this altitude was unbearable, and as a result both me and my dad got no sleep. That night we woke at 11:30(23:30), and were out of the refugio by 12:30(0:30). We wound up the scree slope four just under two hours, and a sad thought came over my head, the last time we had attempted Cotopaxi, it had taken 1 hour to reach the glacier, now, it took two, and we were in the same time of year, so the season was dry both times, meaning so much of the glacier has retreated. We wound up to the glacier, and though we went much faster than the prior time, the route changed drastically, making the climb much harder. We came to one part where we had to drop down into some areas to weave through the glacier, as seracs were hanging above us. At the end of this section we had to do a steep ice scramble to get above the seracs. From this point we did switchbacks in the snow up to the base of Yanasacha. From here we wound up around the slope by Yanasacha up to a path that wound us up and around steep slopes until finally after six hours we reached the summit! We had don it, after two attempts! We were not rewarded by a view of the crater because of cloud cover, but we could see as far north as anyone could ever dream of! We saw pichincha, Iliniza, Pasochoa, Ilalo, Antizana, Cayambe, Imbabura, Cotacachi, Atacazo, Corazon, Casitagua, Pululahua, and I could have sworn I saw a snow-covered peak all the way out past cayambe, meaning it would have been in Colombia. We finally felt great about our mountain climbing skills, but we did not let it get to us, because we had a long descent journey, and we were well aware of the fact that most accidents happen on the way down. We took our time, and had lovely views across the avenue of volcanoes, and noted how lovely a country we were in. It was the best day of my life, and I hope to return to Ecuador soon, and climb many other peaks, and maybe even try Cotopaxi by its south face.
"After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, which is the most horrible thing in the world."
--Oscar Wilde on Absinthe