This February, Climbing Expert Jake Mason from our Castleford Store, alongside friend Ramon Eudes travelled to Ecuador with the intention of summiting some of the most picturesque and perfect volcanoes in the world. Their primary objective, Chimborazo at 6310m, eluded them due to poor weather and lack of time, however, Ecuador’s second highest mountain, Cotopaxi, proved to be a resounding success. Check out Jake's report and incredible photos below...
"The trip began with the usual sightseeing and illness from eating weird food; notably a whole guinea pig each. Eugh, not tasty. We spent the first week resting and acclimatizing at 3200m above sea level. Lots of water and Diamox certainly helped. We also took in a couple of 'lower' summits to accelerate the acclimatization, Rucu Pichincha and Illiniza Norte, both of which are as high, or higher than Mont Blanc."
"The mountain looked daunting but enticing as it reached into the cloud."
"Late in the second week we made our way to Cotopaxi National Park and across the vast volcanic paramo. We packed light and began the steep ascent to the intended camp at 4900m. That evening, Cotopaxi received a dusting of snow which emptied the skies and allowed us a perfect summit morning. At midnight, after exactly zero hours sleep we awoke, filled ourselves with coffee, kitted up and set off on to the glacier."
"At the foot of the glacier we could see several other teams already roped up and making their way on the long summit route. Over the next four hours we made good progress on 60˚ ice slopes in the dark. We overtook all the other parties and were soon making our final strides towards the summit crest. The final 50m was incredibly tiring, not only did we have loose snow on steep ice but we also had the altitude to contend with."
"Cotopaxi's glacier proved a horrendous challenge!"
"We hit the summit at sunrise and were greeted by one of Ecuador's current active volcanoes, Tungurahua - it had erupted! Just forty miles away, it made for quite a spectacle. The early morning weather was perfect. A blanket of cloud way below allowed for a crisp clear sky, only interrupted by several other soaring summits on the horizon."
Jake stands atop the 5897m summit.
Pedro, Jake and Ronan share an amazing moment.
The team take a well-earned break.
"After summit photos were taken and food was eaten, we began our descent and revelled in the fresh mountain air. We made it up and down in 5 hrs 30mins, then I slept for 16 hrs! Cotopaxi 5897m, the perfect mountain day."
Cotopaxi's perfectly conical profile is revealed in its shadow upon the inversion layer.
"Despite the failure to summit Chimborazo, the trip was certainly a success. Food, culture, weather, people and most importantly; mountains. All experienced in full!
A big thanks goes to Ellis Brigham for their support on the gear front, and many thanks to our friend and guide Pedro Rodriguez in Ecuador.