Saturday, August 13, 2005

Getting High

That´s high

Wednesday was Dad´s last day in Ecuador, and we took an excursion to Cotopaxi Volcano, near Quito. The excursion was not to the top of the volcano, at more than 5,900 meters (19,000 feet)--that requires two days and some serious effort. Instead we would go up to the snowline, checking out the flora and fauna along the way. We were a group of 7, with a guide, and at the beginning of the day it looked like the mountain might be covered by clouds all day (reminiscent of my other volcano climbing attempt, in Pucon, Chile). The women selling handicrafts at the National Park entrance were happy to see us coming--they must love chilly days, they sell lots of knitted hats and gloves to unprepared tourists! We drove most of the way, parking at around 4,500 meters. From there we walked up to the refuge for a snack, before deciding as a group that we wanted to continue hiking up to the edge of the glacier at more than 5,000 meters. Although we took it easy and walked at a slow, steady pace, the walk was very hard for most of the group, since they had spent very little time at high altitudes and the thin air up there is hard on the lungs! I was happy to discover that despite time spent at sea level, my body is still acclimatized to high altitudes and I left the huffing and puffing to the others. Clouds continued to blow by but when we got to the glacier we were rewarded: the sun came out and shined on us, and we had the satisfaction of seeing that 5059 meters (16,600 feet) on the guide´s GPS. There it is, folks, the highest I´ve ever been!