Dispatch from Gary Falk about their recent successful ascent of Cotopaxi. More pictures to follow shortly!
We put six out of eight climbers on the 19,347 foot summit of cotopaxi friday morning, and conditions were perfect for climbing; supportable snow, clear skies, and mild wind. Views of the eastern and western cordillera were stunning, featuring Chimborazo (our next objective), the Ilianizas, Antisana, and the smoking Tungurahua .
Our day began at 11pm Thursday night with scrambled eggs, bread and jam, hot coffee and tea, and yogurt with granola. Spirits were high, no headaches, and everyone was psyched to go climbing. Recent precipitation allowed us to leave the refugio with crampons on, and we crunched up the initial snow field for an hour and a half, to the toe of the glacier. Now roped up, we wandered in the dark around crevasses, under seracs, and ahead of the snaking line of headlamps from the other 15-20 climbers below us.
Making good time, we traversed underneath the massive yannasaccha, which is the rock band on the northern side of the mountain, and over to the west side. Here, at dawn, we tromped up what we coined “cardiac ridge”, a 40 degree and 700 foot slope, and rested below the crux “canaleta”, or couloir, on a nice flat bench. Switching gears, we belayed the 60 degree ice pitch, and rest-stepped our way to the summit. After hugs, photos, and fuel, we turned around and headed down the exact way we came up. The uneventful descent took less than half as long as the ascent, and upon returning to the refugio we packed up and headed to la cienega, our hotel for the night. Tired, hungry, and psyched, we dined at 4pm, and afterward celebrated beside the fireplace while listening to a live local string/flute band.
This morning we slept in, ate, then drove to the town of banos, where the views of the erupting Tungarahua dominated our descent to the valley. Tonight we will soak in the hot springs and breathe the oxygenated air of the 3000 foot town.