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  • Day161

    Cotopaxi & Lake Quilotoa

    October 2, 2018 in Ecuador ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    A big volcano!!! One of the highest active volcanos in the world. I knew about this one from my days at Snow + Rock, but didn’t quite know where it was. I do now!
    You can summit thee beast, but it’s full on winter mountaineering and needs proper kit, and a night or two acclimatisation first.
    We got in to Lacagunga just after sun down, found the hostel, and Malvin, and headed out for some food. He was supposed to be leaving the next day, but we convinced him to stay one more night and come to the volcano the next day. He had been to the lake the day we arrived, so he gave us the heads up and we would go the day after the volcano.
    It’s good travelling with people that have the same outlook as it not one to pay for a tour when you can go yourself and discover things. Cotopaxi is not a place to wander around without a car, but heading to the park on a public bus and getting a guide there works out almost half the price of a tour, so that’s what we did.
    The public bus drops you by the side of the highway and you can just walk 100m along a slip road and find a guide. Our guy was really nice, he spoke no English, but we all managed to get by, so was all good. We jumped into the cab of his 4x4 and headed off to the park.
    We registered and got some snacks at the entrance and headed to the first stopping point. It was a gulley left by the last eruption in 2015. Next, we moved on to a small museum to learn a bit about the volcano, lake, park and the sounding volcanos.
    We got back in the 4x4 and headed the lake which in the park. It would be a nice walk, of about an hour, to get round it, but we just stopped to say hello to the ducks. Time for the main event...
    We started to climb up the road to the start of the hike, a car park sat around 4500m. We passed a couple of cyclists on touring bikes, which would be something I’d love to do, but it’s high and those bikes would weigh about 50kgs. Not today!
    We got out of the 4x4 and the weather does not look good. It was spitting with rain and we were in the clouds already. Heading up the easier route the altitude is very apparent . Kirsty and Malvin are in trainer with not much grip, which is not great as it starts to snow. We would walk the kind-of path up to the the lodge at 4800m, before then heading up to the edge of the glacier at 5100m, the furthest point before you need crampons.
    On the way, it’s apparent to me that we are in an electrical storm, quite dangerous to be out on a volcano, but what can you do. Kirsty’s hair was sticking up like she was attached to a Van der Graph generator. The guide didn’t seem too bothered, neither was i, but it’s quite cool hearing the sound of thunder bouncing around in the clouds.
    We got to the lodge, had a hot chocolate and chatted to a few people coming down off the summit. One guy from the US was 76, a legend, saying how his guide had to go slow, but 76!!! He said he was slowing down, but had clearly been to a lot of places. He gave me a bar of chocolate and they headed on down as we head on up.
    Coming out of the lodge it was still snowing and thundering. The path to the glacier was a bit more challenging, even more so for Malvin, who’d never been on snow before and had bad footwear on. We headed on up to a ridge and that was about us. We took some photos and then headed back down. The quick way this time! From the lodge down was a scree path, my favourite! I ran pretty much all the way back the 4x4, great fun! The others were quite a way behind, but turned up on the end, then we headed back to the park entrance. We stopped to take some photos of the volcano just as the cloud was breaking, I also spotted a wolf, more of a fox/coyote, but cool all the same, then we saw some condors, which completed the wildlife set for the park. The guide dropped us back into town, which saved a bus wait, then we headed out for 2 for 1 burgers. 2 for me of course! Malvin then left on a night bus.
    Next day, we got up, then jumped on a public bus to Quilotoa Lake. A volcanic lake sitting quite high up. There’s a big loop the a lot of people walk, about 4/5 days, but we opted for the bus due to time.
    We reached the edge of the town, found the big old creator and got a hot chocolate and cloud empanada. We then decided to walk on down to the lake, a big old hill! I found a dog and convinced him to come with us. He followed us all the way to the bottom. He hing back with Kirsty as I marched on. We hung out at the bottom for about 20 minutes then, the ominous hill back up. I managed to get up in 47 minutes, big effort, good exercise though! We got back just in time for another hot chocolate and got the bus.
    That night, we moved on to Baños.
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