This weekend we had a little expedition up Iliniza Norte, to recce it for groups.
Just south of Quito is “The Valley of the Volcanoes”, which is dotted with active, dormant and extinct volcanoes of varying heights. The most famous, and the highest active volcano in the world, is Cotopaxi, but there are many others and most of them are climbable. We have it in mind that there maybe great experiences out here that we can offer visitors to Ecuador. So, I dusted down the boots and got myself out there.
OK, I live at 2,400 meters above sea level, but even with that, a one day ascent of a mountain over 5000 meters has got to be a little tiring.
I am not entirely sure why I look so pained – perhaps it was some sort of premonition into the agony that was to be experienced struggling up the scree slope you can see behind me.
After the walk in, things started getting a little more serious rather abruptly. The views, between gaps in the hail and fog, were fantastic, and it is from up at height that you really get a sense of truth of the name Valley of the Volcanoes. However, we also saw a lot of this:
After the scree slope, there is a fair amount of easy scrambling, first to reach the summit ridge, and then to move along it; with some interesting drop-offs on both sides – most of which we had to imagine rather than see fully. At this point you get a strange sense of dislocation – you are scrambling along a ridge at 5000 meters above sea level, having woken up in your own bed. It takes 5 or 6 days to get to these altitudes on Kili’.
Our little band of climbers reached the summit after around 4.5 hours. We had in the group three Brits, an Argentine and an Ecuadorian guide.
(The man in the middle of this photo is Kevin Irvine, whom Stuey, Rory and I worked with something like 15 years ago. He is out in Ecuador teaching at my childrens’ school: now that’s a coincidence.)
The result of all this? Iliniza Norte is a fantastic mountain, the views are incredible, it is achievable in a day, and there is a real sense of being in a place that you can only be through your own efforts and that you are not going to be everyday, month or even year of your life.
I hope that we can get our Gappers up there, once they have had a little time at normal Ecuadorian altitude to prepare, and maybe for some of them that can lead on to Cotopaxi itself. It is often used as a warm up /acclimatisation to that mountain and that is our plan: I’ll report later this month on the success or failure of that.