Quito to El Chaupi.
La Virgen Parking Lot.
Jana (Czech) and I left Quito early in the morning and rode in a bus to the town of Machachi. We hung out a while there, had lunch and waited for our bus to take us the village of El Chaupi at the foothills of the Illinizas.
We got there by noon, had a quick visit to Llovizna
, my friend's lodge, and then we headed up to La Virgen
parking lot, the trailhead for Illinizas.
We got off Bladimir's truck and started hiking towards the refuge. It was a nice 2 and a half hours hike, through the highlands and by a long ridge that ended up 100 meters away from the refuge. We traversed the last hundreds meters and got to the hut.
Nuevos Horizontes Refuge.
We were the only ones at the refuge. We switched our wet sweating clothing for dry ones. Started cooking dinner and boiled some water for the night. One hour before sunset, a couple of my friends (Jose and Gustavo) got to the refuge. They were planning to climb Illiniza Sur as well.
So we talked and agreed on departing from the refuge around 3:00 am. The night was peaceful, windless and clear. Jana and I listened to a few songs of my Mp3 player for a few hours. We felt asleep almost at midnight.
All of us woke up at 3:00 am. and started preparing our typical light breakfast for every early ascention to the glaciated mountains.
Jana climbing up the first ramp. Illiniza Norte. Cotopaxi as seen from Illiniza Sur.
We had breakfast, organized our climbing gear and headed out of the refuge.
It was still dark when we headed out. The night was clear and illuminated by a beautiful full moon. We almost didn't use our headlamps. We kept hiking up towards the glacier until we got to the base of the mountain. Traversed by the lower slopes of La Rampa
(one of the most beautiful technical climbs in the country) and got to the base of the rock band which marks the beginning of the steep snow/ice climb to the summit.
Jana and I put our crampons on and roped up together. We started climbing up at slow pace. First of all, on moderate angle slope, then by a steep ramp.. using only the two frontal spikes of our crampons.
Got to the first resting spot, crossed a deep opened crevasse and continued heading up to the summit. The second ramp wasn't as steep as the first one, but longer. Kept climbing up on good compacted snow.. an enjoyable climb!.
Later on, we got to the base of Cumbre Ambato. Took a few layers off and continued traversing until we got to a nice snow cave filled by beautiful icicles. !
Illiniza Sur summit (5,266 m/17,277 ft)
We stopped a while there and admired the majestic power of the sunrays as they hit Illiniza Norte's south face. What a beautiful moment!, it really was a nice scenery.
Suddenly we saw our other friends coming up to the summit. I snapped a photo of them and congratulated to each other. They were heading up ahead of us. Minutes later we were arriving to where they were having their lunch. They called that spot.. summit. We told them that they should keep climbing up a bit.. that wasn't the summit.. But they told us that it was a bit dangerous to step up on it. It really was a tiny summit. Jana and I kept climbing up and got to it. We both were on the true summit. We took many pictures of us and the surroundings from up there.
It was a great perfect day, with all the mountains surrounding us and that huge green Andean valley beneath us. We spent 15 minutes up there and headed back down to the refuge.