5 days in Ecuador

5 days in Ecuador

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Feb 14, 2010
Activities Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Scrambling

only 5 days

So many people think of me as a being a little bit "loca"= crazy, and I guess they are right. I work too much, and take many short, rushed trips, and this one only confirms it. I finished working late Friday night after a busy week of 10 to 12 hr days in the hospital. I packed quickly, and threw hiking/climbing gear into my backpack. Luckily, if one does this often, he becomes quiet skillful in packing. It is not that I enjoy having short trips, but my job does not allow me to take more than 7 days off, provided I worked 3 weeks non-stop (either days or nights). So, I got into a habit when working nights, skipping the sleep and going out to be able to keep up with all you active SP members. I have to admit that I do miss sometimes the more relaxed European lifestyle.

I got a cheap flight from Albuquerque to Quito via Atlanta and arrived shortly after midnight on Valentine's day. Boriss (= High Expeditions) made a reservation at a hostel in a nice area of Quito called La Mariscal.

Day 1 - Quito

I was truly impressed with the capitol of Ecuador. Quito is 2,800 m (about 9.186 feet) high, so you can acclimatize just while exploring this beautiful city. The climate was nice, so close to the equator (only 25 km north of the city), but so high in elevation. The city was declared Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO, so there is much to see.
It is surrounded by volcanoes, some are active (so please plan your visit accordingly). The valley in which Quito is situated is also called "Avenida de los volcanos".
So, during my first day in ECU I just decided to relax into a tranquil South American atmosphere. I hiked up "El Panecillo" (3.016 m = 9.895 feet), a small hill with the monument to the Virgin Mary. This Madonna has wings, so first I thought it to be an angel. I walked from here through the historical center of Quito, and befriended a group of kids who were working, either cleaning boots, or selling stuff. I had a lunch with them on Plaza de San Francisco. There was a carnival going on that day, so people were out in the streets celebrating. It was a nice leisurely day. Quito has many nice parks, and the Mariscal area is very tourist friendly, tons of choices to eat out, internet caffes etc.

Day 2 - Illiniza Norte

Boriss arranged for me this trip (Boriss = High Expeditions was busy with an another client). Segundo, a local spanish guide, picked me up at 2:30 am with his truck, and we drove to the trailhead for both Illinizas. We arrived to the parking lot around 4:30, after stopping at a gas station to buy some water and snacks. The hike was beautiful. We stopped along the way at the refuge, which was completely empty. I bought matte coca, just a commercial tea bag. I was told that coca leaves are illegal in ECU, which was very disappointing. I still remember chewing up on the leaves in Peru with a belief that this action will get me into any altitude without difficulties.
We reached the beautiful top of Illiniza Norte around 9:00 am. I was very happy since we were moving fast, and I felt no effects of the altitude. I was actually starving on the top! I took about 150 photos along the way, and was able to be back in my hostel by 1:00 pm. I loved having so much extra time for relaxation, and exploring the Mariscal area.
About Illiniza Norte - it is 5,126 m (16,818 feet) high. It is just a hike, so you do not need any equipment, just good hiking boots, and trekking poles are helpful. It is relatively rare to hike this in the snow. The route is quite obvious. I think that I would feel very comfortable going without a guide next time. The views along the hike/scramble (you do have to do a little scrambling near the top) were amazing - Illiniza Sur, Cotopaxi, Corazon, and Chimborazo.
Illiniza Sur is a glaciated peak and one of the most difficult in ECU, you do need two technical ice tools. I wish to have more time and climb this one as well.
Illiniza refuge

Day 3 - Cotopaxi refuge

This was a very relaxing day. Boriss and Segundo stopped by my hostel around 10:00 am and after a nice breakfast at Magic Bean restaurant we drove towards Cotopaxi National Park. It was raining a little bit. We stopped in a small town, where Segundo was from, to buy some fresh food. The drive is mostly on a 4-wheel drive road, and you can go all the way to the 4,500 m. The hike to the refuge is very short, only 300 m above the parking lot, but at that altitude and with your load you can count on about 1/2 hr walk.
The refuge is big compared to the Illiniza refuge, and there were many day hikers visiting. We picked our beds and made lunch. Boriss started to talk to some guy inside the refuge, and shortly I realized this is Andre Hangaard, an SP member. What a nice surprise! So, our trio ate together. Andre was so kind that he offered us his home made power bars - very delicious, and I hope that he will e-mail me his secret recipe. We relaxed the rest of the day outside the refuge. The weather cleared up, so I shot some more photos, dropped my expensive Canon camera and broke a filter. Oops. We went to sleep around 10:00 pm with the plan to start hiking around 2:00 am. Most people were however getting up at midnight, and they woke me up (I forgot my earplugs). But, this is already day # 4. I forgot to mention that Boriss made some soup and he put banana chips inside it. I was very suspicious of this meal at first, but it was actually very good.
Lunch is served...

Day 4 - Blizzard on Cotopaxi

We got up, had some tea and a nice breakfast, and left the refuge shortly after 2:00 am. I guess most people try to leave around 1:00 am, but I was hoping to be a little bit faster. It took us nearly an hour to reach the glacier. We put crampons on, and started climbing. The weather was getting worse every minute, it was windy, snowing, cold. We soon started to see some people descending. Most parties were giving up due to the strong wind. I wanted to go on so much, but after reaching 5,600 meters, and seeing most people getting off the mountain, we turned around. I am still wondering whether we should have pushed to go on. I was slow, I started to feel the effects of the altitude. I guess I can always come back and do try this again.
I was very cold after the arrival to the refuge. I crawled up inside my sleeping back, but was still shivering, so after about an hour of shiver I decided to get out and move. Boris was so kind that he brushed the ice/snow off my ice axe and crampons. Segundo picked up us at the parking lot and we went back to Quito, where I finally warmed up.
And this day was not over yet - Boriss suggested a trip to the Otavalo, small town north of Quito. So, we took the bus, actually many buses. I was impressed with the bus system in ECU - very cheap, clean, and fast.
what a weather...

Day 5 - Cuichocha crater lake

We had a leisurely breakfast in Otavalo, walked through the market and took a bus towards the Cuicocha Crater Lake. The visit to the mysterious Cuicocha lagoon was amazing. It lies at an altitude of 3.068 m, and is 120 km north of Quito. It has a diameter of 3 km and depth of 200 meters. Cuicocha is part of the Ecological reserve Cotacachi-Caypas. The bright blue colored lake is located inside the volcanic crater under the skirts of the Cotacachi volcano. The local flora is absolutely amazing - Boriss has a special album of flora along the crater lake. The hike along the crater takes about 3-4 hrs, depending on the frequency of your stops, and after hiking, you can take a cruise on the lake.
view of the island

And it was it! My flight was leaving shortly after midnight. It was fast, but a great trip.

I would like to thank Boriss Aulestia = High Expeditions for helping me with my plans and being a wonderful guide, and to Marc Soltan, who encouraged me to write this trip report.

I am sorry about the rushed composition. It is like my life, not enough time to think about my writing (done in 20 minutes, and I never had time to study English).


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Viewing: 1-19 of 19

rpc - Feb 23, 2010 12:25 pm - Voted 10/10


your "only 5 days" paragraph hits home nicely - the cry of the gainfully employed :)

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Feb 23, 2010 7:59 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: great!

Thanks Radek... Yes, the American lifestyle + balance act of a single mom... always more stress before the trip and such a relief on the plane...now trying to catch up at home, at work....


Marcsoltan - Feb 23, 2010 7:41 pm - Voted 10/10

Sorry Liba,

about asking for a trip report. I know you are extremely busy, but thank you for taking the time to put this TR together. It is an engaging story and fun one to read. It is amazing that with such a tight schedule you still manage to get out and smile in every photo.

If I could be a kid again, I would want you as my doctor.
Great job, and thanks again.

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Feb 23, 2010 8:01 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Sorry Liba,

Please, no sorry... it was my choice to write it... pretty rushed, I had not time to reread it - hopefully tonight if my son does not have too much homework and I will be able to keep my eyes open.
I would love you to be my patient - haha...


EricChu - Feb 26, 2010 3:18 pm - Voted 10/10

Dear Liba,

this is a lovely and well-written report you posted! Thanks for taking the time to write and post it, together with all those lovely photos, despite all the things you have to do!
Take care and a big hug,

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Feb 26, 2010 11:35 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Dear Liba,

Thanks Eric... I still did not have time to re-read it, probably very poor compostion... but oh, well... Currently on call, and getting interrupted too much from my favorite leisure activity - being on SP! haha


yatsek - Feb 26, 2010 5:58 pm - Voted 10/10

Interesting TR

Liba, thanks, plus extra thanks for your remark about the "more relaxed European lifestyle" which gave me a good laugh - ha ha unless you meant the Western European doc or the typical Eastern European medical bureaucrat - why don't you come and work in a hospital in Poland for a change! LOL

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Feb 26, 2010 11:33 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Interesting TR

Jacek, i worked in the Czech republic. We were usually drunk by noon... My friend are at home at 3:00, bring tons of bribes from their patients (unfortunately paychecks are pretty low), and plenty of vacation...


yatsek - Feb 27, 2010 3:57 am - Voted 10/10

Re: Interesting TR

Sure, Poland and Czechia are not that different - one of the reasons behind me opening the new forum yesterday LOL I last tried to get help from the state-run health "care" system four years ago when I fell off the road on my bike. My ordeal had lasted for a few days when I was told a good surgeon had just given up his ordeal at the clinic and set up his own practice just nearby. He had a look at my poor shoulder and told me it was too late for an operation to make sense, and I've lived happily along with my funny-looking shoulder ever since. :D That really is great you've made it out of the mire. I hope you make it to CO as well.

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Feb 27, 2010 10:35 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Interesting TR

Oh... I did not know that you are handicapped.... Perhaps massages would work better. I remember some polish movie about a doctor who lost his memory, and was fixing bones, even a brain surgery just in a little village. But, what was the name of the film? hmmm... I tend not to trust doctors. I removed finger nail yesterday on myself at home.


yatsek - Feb 27, 2010 3:26 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Interesting TR

It's not that bad, Liba, it just looks a bit funny. Given my age the girls will look at my bank account rather than my shoulder so it's not a real problem :) I wouldn't like to try and belay anybody though.
I tend not to trust docs, they're just people, not dogs or bears, but I did trust that doctor as I found him both professional and caring, did go to a rehab centre for about a month and have been fine since then. It cost me less than $300 altogether while the tax payers would've paid ten times as much as that if I'd gone to hospital and I might not be OK at all. I hate the system, which is surely a political thing. And the film you mentioned (one of my parents' favs :)) was made before World War II and was based on this book.

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Feb 27, 2010 11:54 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Interesting TR

Thanks Jacek... I want to get that film, (hopefully they have it on Amazon). You know that I love Henryk Sienkiewicz - not just his Quo Vadis, but also Pan Wolodiovski... it has been a long time since I have read it, but I bought a polish movie recently "Fire & Sword" in Polish. I also have Bolek i Lolek - ahahahhaha

Bank account? hmm... sometimes I am wondering the same, especially when younger guys tell me how young I look... is it my young look, or my money? haha - I guess we will never know for sure.


yatsek - Feb 28, 2010 1:56 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Interesting TR

Try and see The deluge if you haven't yet. Bolek i Lolek was great but the same goes for Rumcajs, and Krtek :)
No, we'll never know for sure – is Duchess (&) Libusa thirty or just twenty some (altogether). I wish I were twenty years younger to better see. LOL

andre hangaard

andre hangaard - Feb 28, 2010 5:38 pm - Hasn't voted

Nice strory!

Nice to read about all your adventures squeezed into five short days. It was great meeting you up there at the refugio. I am sure both you and me will be back for another try on Cotopaxi. I am sure it is worth it. And of course.... I will email you my secret power-bar recipe :-)

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Feb 28, 2010 8:00 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice strory!

Thanks Andre... can't wait to try to make your perfect power bars... so delicious!!!


ErikaRN - Nov 15, 2010 2:59 pm - Hasn't voted

Great report!

I loved this report and the photos. You are awesome Liba!

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Nov 15, 2010 9:36 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great report!

Thank you so much. It was during my crazy lifestyle - worked over 80 hrs every week, and went on this trip so exhausted.
Now, feeling that it was a long, long time ago, but it is less than a year.
Thanks again.


edomar2611 - Mar 9, 2011 5:20 pm - Voted 10/10

Life Style!

Congratulations! I'm italian, so I know what you mean when you say "more relaxed life-style"! It's mine! What wonderful style of traveling, even if I prefer to have more time to enjoy my experience. Anyway I admire you for your force and courage moving around the world alone.
Thank you for telling us your adventures!

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Mar 13, 2011 11:54 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Life Style!

Thanks again, I don't mind moving alone, but I wish to have more time.

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