Libellule

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Chimborazo 6310m & Cotopaxi 5895m

06 August 2010 | Chimborazo, Equador
Phippu
After a long time on the sea, I was really looking forward to climbing again. Lacking physical training and acclimatization, attacking Cotopaxi first was a logical conclusion. Volcano Cotopaxi (5895m) is very close to Quito and considered an 'easy' summit in the sense that apart from a few crevasses and altitude there are no serious obstacles. Furthermore, as with many Ecuadorian peaks, one can drive up to 4700m from where the relatively comfortable hut is only a 30-min 'Spaziergang' away, which means that the whole ascent is a mere 2-day adventure. And since one must take a guide to enter the national park, it is a walk in the park - or so I thought.

The actual Cotopaxi summit ascent turned out to be quite tough. My guide and I left at 01:00am. It was very cold, the wind was blowing heavily and it was snowing. We made the summit at 06:30am as the first ones, and also one of the only ones to actually reach the summit that day, but had a total 'white-out'. Supposedly, normally Cotopaxi is a beautiful summit, but we only saw white everywhere. To me, the summit looked like any Swiss peak in a snow storm. Despite some problems finding our way back down, we made it safely back down the volcanic slopes.

Two days later, my dear friend Pat Rueben from Canada joined, and we attacked Chimborazo (6310m), Ecuador's highest mountain and the summit that is the furthest away from the earth's center. Again, it sounded like an easy peak, as apart from some easy ice climbing in the ascent to the volcano ridge, there are no technical difficulties in the climb. We drove up to 4800m and walked up to the comfortable Whymper hut on 5000m (the same Whymper who was the first person on the top of the Matterhorn many, many years ago, was also the first person to ascend Chimbo). The wind was already blowing heavily, and when the guides woke us up at 23:00, they told us to stay in bed as to them the wind was blowing too heavily and there was no way we would make it up. Of course Pat and I insisted to go up nevertheless and so we left around midnight. It was bitterly cold, with very heavy winds. Apart from the first icy part it was a very boring ascent up the ridge in the black, cold, windy, snowy night, fighting altitude and low oxygen. The few other climbers who left with us gave up along the way, but we went on until we reached the pre-summit (appr 6200m, about 1 hr away from the top summit) at about 06:30am. Despite of climbing on all fours, the wind on that summit was dangerously strong and constantly tried to blow us off the mountain. In addition, it was terribly cold and we were getting frostbites. Realizing that it would be very dangerous to continue, we decided to abandon and went back down, quite tired and semi-frustrated. Once back down in Ambato, we looked like zombies with our frostbites - it was only then that we realized that it had really been the right decision to turn back, otherwise we would have been left with black noses...

So altogether, it was nice to be back in the mountains after 7 months sailing, but the mountains turned out to be much more hostile than expected, and apart from white-outs and wind storms we didn't see much of Ecuador's top.
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Vessel Name: Libellule
Hailing Port: Switzerland
Crew: The Cottier family on s/v Libellule
Extra: Caribbean - Greenland/Iceland - NW Passage - South Pacific - Antarctic Peninsula - Svalbard- East Greenland
Libellule's Photos - Main
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Created 30 July 2023