Hikes and plans
The weather looked pretty good along the Occidental Cordillera in Ecuador. My french friends Heloise and Mathilde invited me to join them in a hike from Chugchilan to the crater lake of Quilotoa. We started our hike at 9 am. It took us about 5 hours to get to the crater rim where we arrived before it rained. We spent the rest of the afternoon there, in a small hostal ran by the local people of Quilotoa.
Heloise and I hiked the crater rim next day. An approaching thunderstorm made us speed up a bit, so we hiked the whole rim counterclockwise in just 2 and a half hours. The rainshower lasted a couple of hours and it left us an amazing view of the Andean peaks to the west which looked totally snowcovered.
One of them was Illiniza Sur, one of the top ten ecuadorian mountains which involves some technical climbing. We focused our eyes on it and started our plans for our next adventure.
Heloise and I went back to Quito in order to bring some extra climbing gear I had at home while Mathilde waited for us in the town of Latacunga.
Cotopaxi as seen from Illiniza Sur
We all left early next day, hired a truck up to La Virgen Parking lot in Illinizas Ecological Reserve and started hiking up towards the refuge. The day was kind of cloudy and windless. We continued hiking up by the sandy ridge which runs all the way up to the base of Illiniza Sur glacier, and then we traversed to the refuge. Once at the refuge Heloise, Mathilde and I cooked lunch and relaxed for the rest of the day. We had a calm night, starlit and with a full moon.
Climbing Illiniza Sur.
Heloise and I woke up early the following day at 3:00 am, had a light breakfast and headed out the refuge. We started hiking up to the glacier where we put our crampons on and roped up together. We surrounded the northern part of the mountain, crossed below La Rampa, one of the most technical climbs in Ecuador back in time (it's gone now, glaciar retreating made it disappear) and got to a rock band. I scrambled 8 meters up to its top and started belaying Heloise up as soon as I set an anchor on a boulder. We got this way to base glacier.
Heloise (FRA) after the climb.
We both climbed straight up by the first ramp until we got to a big crevasse. We crossed it and kept climbing up by the left side and below the summit. It felt so great to look back to Heloise following my footmarks on the steep ice wall and with the void in the background. A few more meters and we got to it! We arrived to the tinny summit (5,263 m/17,267 ft) after 2 hours and 15 minutes of leaving the refuge. We took our awards out of our backpacks... the chocolate bars, drank a bit and enjoyed of the amazing view. It was a great day... clear and windless.
Climbing Illiniza Norte.
We didn't dawdle too long on the summit. Mathile was waiting for us at the refuge so we headed back down by the steep slope to the base of the glacier. We rappelled down the rock band and traversed by the scree-covered slope towards the refuge.
After our Illiniza Sur climb with Cotopaxi in the background. (Photo. Heloise Renault)
Mathilde was waiting and ready for Illiniza Norte's climb, so we started climbing up to Illiniza Norte right away. We approached to the summit by the southern sandy slope of the peak, then climbed up to the upper ridge and surrounded the summit by the northern face. Once at the base of the summit we scrambled up towards the summit. We had climbed for about 2 hours when we reached the summit (5,126 m/17,267 ft). It was a bit cloudy but we had a great time up there. We took some pictures of ourselves with the summit cross and headed back down to the refuge.
Heloise and Mathilde at the summit.
Once at the refuge, we stowed our gear in the backpacks and together planned more interesting climbs while in Ecuador.
A greased lightning ascent to both peaks. We felt so happy of our achievement. The start of many more climbs in the ecuadorian Andes with Heloise. We traveled south to the town of Banos by late afternoon, and had a very relaxing bath in the hotsprings and waterfalls. We earned it!
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