Our next day trip from Quito promised to be a cold, windy, snowy challenge. Today we would climb to the refuge house on the Cotopaxi Volcano, the second highest peak in Ecuador.
Victor picked us up in the van and we drove to the parking lot where we would stage our hike up the very, very steep ascent to the refuge at 15,953 feet. The trail was made up of very loose rock and ash and it was a real challenge to get a foothold. It seemed like every step I took up I slid two steps down. The wind nearly blew me right over several times, and the rain was soaking my pants.
John and I trained for this hike by doing some very steep trails near our home, but we live at 1400 feet and there was no way to replicate the elevation! So breathing on Cotopaxi was a real challenge. My trick is when I get out of breath I stop and sing happy birthday then start going again. It worked! I also took Diamox so that I would not get a headache or belly ache. Again, worked great!
Our team made it to the refuge, where several stopped for some hot tea and rest! Others headed back to the trail, where we topped out at about 16,611 where the snow started in earnest and we watched the water melting away from the glacier in a muddy rush. It was a wonderful challenge and getaway!
For lunch we stopped at El Rondador. It was a really sweet family place where we were greeted by an enthusiastic pack of friendly and affectionate and fluffy dogs. They were clearly well loved and cared for, and they had a line of dog beds on the side of one of the outbuildings. We managed to get a lot of snuggles in before eating a delicious meal that included (as so many Ecuadorian meals do) delicious fresh juice, steaming hot potato soup, and then a rice and meat entree.
We had a long ride home to Quito, where the Team split for dinner since some folks were more tired. John and I went to Mucura Cocina and enjoyed trying some local dishes.