As well as Earth’s closest point to the sun.
Today, Jonathan and I joined 12 other students from our Spanish school in Quito on a day trip to Cotopaxi.
In case you missed the title, Cotopaxi (a volcano in Ecuador) is the highest active volcano on Earth.
We were prepared this time, unlike our trip up Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala. We wore our hiking boots, plenty of layers, and our heavy coats.
There were glaciers waiting for us at the top.
Well, not the top top. That’s a really technical climb that takes some serious ice climbing skills, so we just went to the glacier’s edge.
When we got to the base of the climb up Cotopaxi, we realized that the parking lot already sits above treeline.
So, from there (at approximately 14,500 ft), it’s about 1.5 hours to the lodge.
The trouble is, looking at the lodge from the parking lot, you wonder how it would take so long. It doesn’t look like it’s that far away.
It’s not. But, the way to get there is harder than it looks. It’s a pretty vertical stretch, and the ground is scree. The scree is deep too. So, for every step you take, you slip 1/2 a step a step back down.
I hate climbing on scree. It makes me nervous for coming down while I’m going up. Not the best combination.
But, we all made it to the small shelter and had breakfast of bread, cheese, and bologna.
We also had some wonderful hot tea and hot chocolate.
After resting for about an hour or so, we all decided that we were going to climb to the glacier’s edge.
We were told that it was only about another hour from the shelter. We were also told that the path was easier because it was a winding path instead of a straight-vertical path.
We were not, however, told about the rain. The freezing rain that would greet us less than 1/3 of the way up.
You all know what freezing rain is like. And when you’re already not particularly enjoying something, it makes it more difficult to want to continue.
Many in our group turned back. They decided that it wasn’t worth the trip.
I’m not going to lie to you. I wanted to turn back.
I very nearly did.
But, I didn’t. With the help of my friend, Kyra, I made it to the top. Kyra and I were able to keep each other’s minds off our freezing bodies and burning lungs long enough to make it to the top.
Once we were there, it was definitely worth it. Kyra was so happy, in fact, that she and her boyfriend Alex actually kissed the glacier.
(Another guy in our group asked her if it was a “proper kiss, you know, with tongue”.)
Jonathan and I didn’t kiss the glacier, but we did touch it.
The way back down was easier than the way up (which is odd, it’s never that way for me). This time it actually was easier to run down than to try to walk.
One good thing about hiking boots: their traction.
One bad thing about hiking boots: their traction (is what makes you fall when running down scree if the part underneath the scree is rough enough in certain places to actually grip.)
After everyone made it back down, we went to check out a lagoon in Cotopaxi national park.
It was nice, but we were all tired and hungry by this point, and just wanted to move on.
So, we did. We went and had lunch at one of the cafés in the park.
We didn’t have a choice in what we ate, they were only offering one plate that day. So, trout it was. (Jonathan and I split a plate since I wasn’t very hungry.)
But, we did get to try coca tea for the first time. (Don’t worry, it’s not in its drug form. It really is just tea.)
We had a great day at Cotopaxi, and have now been able to cross off 2 of the Ecuador must do activities.