Ecuador Seminar: RMI Guide Nick Hunt Recounts Cotopaxi Summit Day

Posted by: Adam Knoff, Nick Hunt | January 19, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Ecuador
Elevation: 19,348'

Cotopaxi summit!

We woke up at 11pm to a breakfast of coffee, tea, oatmeal and bread. We finished our packing in the dark with the rest of the hut’s inhabitants before beginning our 9-hour summit bid. We got off to a bit of a stressful start when we realized that someone from a different climbing group had accidentally taken Adam’s climbing helmet, but we weren’t going to let that get in the way of our climb. (The helmet was returned later in the afternoon, once we returned to the huts after the climb.)

It was windy and snowy as we stepped outside around midnight, and that continued for the first hour during the hike up to the toe of the glacier. But soon after donning our crampons and ice axes, the weather mellowed out and the good luck we’ve been having with the weather on this trip continued for the rest of our ascent: the clouds cleared, the winds died down, and for the next 5 hours to the summit, the weather could only be described as mild and pleasant. At one point, we could see an active lightening storm beyond the lights of Quito and were grateful that we weren’t experiencing the same.

The initial climbing on the glacier was steep, but not too difficult. These moderate angles soon gave way to steeper slopes that had us rest-stepping our way up. The dry snow made traction difficult (even with our crampons), so as the terrain became more exposed, we had to kick hard with our feet to really gain purchase. An exhausting endeavor at 19k feet!

In 6 hours and 15 minutes, we had made it to the top! The group’s previous high altitude climbing on Cayambe and Antisana had definitely gotten us into shape for this climb. We moved well and as a team the entire way up! As we pulled on to the summit, the sun was just beginning to rise and we got a quick look into the summit crater. We didn’t stay for long, though, since the winds picked up as we snapped our group photo. After 15 minutes up top, we began our descent.

Not only was our group strong on the ascent, but we rocked our descent, too! Despite some rather high winds at times, knocking us around a bit on narrow ridges, we continued to move well and made it back to the hut in just under three hours.

Back at the huts, we packed up our gear and descended to the parking lot, where we met up again with Victor and the magic bus. We were whisked away to La Cienega, a hotel that looks more “castle” than “hacienda”, and after taking showers, we met up over dinner and a couple of games of Wits and Wagers, reflecting on our trip as a whole.

Tomorrow we head back to Quito and begin our journey back home. See you soon!

RMI Guide Nick Hunt

The team's views from the Cotopaxi summit. Photo: Nick Hunt The Ecuador Seminar descending from the Cotopaxi summit. Photo: Nick Hunt Stopping on the Cotopaxi descent to take in the views. Photo: Nick Hunt

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Congrats Nick to you and the team!

Posted by: Greg Hunt on 1/20/2014 at 9:34 am

Awesome accomplishment and fantastic photos!  Congratulations Shannon and the whole team!

Posted by: Mark on 1/19/2014 at 5:29 pm

Way to go Shannon and the team.  Can’t wait to see pictures and hear all about it.

Posted by: Patty on 1/19/2014 at 5:22 pm

Congratulations Shannon! Looking forward to drinking a cold beer and hearing all about the climbs…Bush

Posted by: Bush on 1/19/2014 at 3:03 pm

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