Cotopaxi- Ecuador

In 1989 I traveled alone to Ecuador, South America with a duffle of mountaineering gear with the intent of doing some climbing. I had a belief that I could find a climbing partner and summit one or two peaks. After a few days in the capitol of Quito I took a public transportation south to the town of Banos where by chance I met a French fellow named Reme and a Swiss couple at a local bar. The four of us climbed the volcano Tungurahua and after a day of rest the four of us traveled by bus to the small town of Lasso to attempt a climb of Cotopaxi (19,348ft) , considered one of the highest active volcano in the world. We had really not thought out how to get from Lasso to the Refugio at the base of the mountain as it was quite a long distance. Luck would have it that we met an American fellow and his Ecuadorian guide and girlfriend. They had hired a pickup truck for the drive and invited us to share expenses for the truck. We agreed and the seven of us piled into the back of a small pickup truck for the one and a half hour drive up the mountain. The views just kept improving as we got closer, absolutely amazing. About half way up there was a small elderly woman standing next to the road with a rope strung across. She had set up her own toll gate which most likely worked for the tourists, but our local driver would have none of it so he just flew through (she was there the next day when we returned but this time she let out what I assumed were curses at us not stopping).¬† The Jose F. Ribas Refugio is a large building with a kitchen and sleeping rooms with wood slatted bunk beds on the bottom and upper levels. We paid our fee and found an area on the floor where we could sleep as all the beds were taken. We did not bring any food other than some nuts and cheese but a group of Brits gave us their leftover rice and bread which was a nice treat. There was little chance of sleep with the number of people staying at the Refugio so with us heading to sleep at 7:30p we tossed and turned until 12:30am when we got up and gathered our gear for the climb. As soon as I walked out into the night air I was overwhelmed by the millions of bright stars overhead. The first hour took us up a steep scree slope to the base of the glacier where we put on crampons and roped up. There was a faint track in the snow so under the dull wash of our headlamps we climbed onto the ice between two large seracs. There was still alot of snow on the ice so crevasses were few as we gained¬† a broad rising and narrowing hump that passed under the large black rock band (Yanasacha, black rock) and slipped around the right side. One rather steep pitch took us to the summit high point on the north rim of the crater after five hours of climbing (Grade II). The summit view was spectacular in the morning light. Snow covered peaks in the distance poked above a sea of clouds. We spent a short time gazing down the black soil that led into the volcanoes’ caldera before we made a rapid safe descent back to the Refugio and our ride back to Lasso. Journal: “Amazing, once we got back to Lasso the Ecuadorian guide wanted to charge us more for the transport to the Refugio and back. We had agreed on a price the day before and paid him, now he wants more money. He thinks we should pay for his wife and his portion of the jeep. Reme would have none of it. Abet of an awkward parting but what a great climb on a peak over 19,000ft.”