A strong stroke of thunder punched the air and I knew it was my cue to depart. Quick.
I scaled down the snaggy formation of the Pichincha Volcano summit to the thick, sandy bluff slightly below and I started to run. My toes slipped deep into the sand and, with each broad step I skated one other two toes additional downhill with the free floor.
Thick pellets of ice have been thrown from the sky and I turned down my head to deflect them. Operating sooner and sooner down the unsteady financial institution, I kicked up enormous parts of free filth and sand into my socks and boots. I didn’t even care.
The thunder and hail indicated that my scenario was getting dire and that descending the volcano was going to be a race in opposition to the storm. I used to be properly on my technique to shedding.
With my head tucked, hefty pictures of hail continued to strike the highest of my head. Dense blobs of water clobbered the bottom and soaked the heavy filth, turning it right into a thick mud. I slipped and slid on the skinny path, making an attempt to keep up my stability atop the grassy ruts that had been eroded into the facet of the volcano.
It was unimaginable to remain on two toes in these situations and I had already slipped and fallen and was coated in mud.
A colossal streak of lightning cracked by way of the sky, bringing with it an enormous reverberation of thunder. The lightning illuminated a set of energy strains in entrance of me and I noticed that, in my descent, and in the course of this large lightning storm, I used to be going to must cross beneath them.
Rain soaked by way of my jacket and water poured down my brow and into my eyes. I squinted by way of the rain, drew a moist breath into my lungs and high-tailed it underneath the facility strains. I thought of what the headlines would learn: “American Vacationer Struck by Lightning Throughout Large Hailstorm on the Aspect of a Volcano in Ecuador.”
Not a nasty means for it to finish, fairly truthfully. I wouldn’t thoughts that headline. Mother wouldn’t be pleased, however it might be a hell of a technique to go.
Climbing the Pichincha Volcano
I’m not going to lie—I had a sense it was going to occur like this. After I arrived on the base of the volcano I used to be greeted by a thick fog and I may barely see 20 toes in entrance of me. I thought-about not going any additional as I had heard tales of individuals getting misplaced within the haze, however when else would I get the prospect to summit a 15,000-foot volcano in Ecuador?
So, on I marched.
Although the signal on the backside of the Pichincha Volcano learn: “Problem: Demanding,” the beginning of the hike was innocuous sufficient. Lengthy yellow fields bounded within the distance, barely seen by way of the fog. Dashing streams of water had left massive, corroded ruts within the floor, however within the dry ascent to the highest, they have been nothing greater than interwoven filth pathways.
I walked in the one route that made sense—up. Contemplating I couldn’t see a lot by way of the fog that was rolling in, I trodded blindly ahead into the huge meadow in entrance of me.
Reaching the primary plateau, I finished to survey my environment. I used to be already excessive above town at 12,943 ft, and I appeared again to see what I had left behind me. Having already trekked by way of and above the clouds, I circled simply in time to observe a thick blanket of cotton billow by way of the valleys in a single brisk, sweeping movement. The fog enveloped the encircling mountains, together with the one I used to be standing on. Swarming round me, it engulfed my complete physique.
I stood and watched, and allowed the sunshine moisture of the mist to sink into my pores and skin.
Trekking to the Summit
It was 1 pm and the sky was darkish. Contained in the clouds, at 13,000 toes it didn’t really feel just like the solar had even risen but. I crossed paths with two solo vacationers after which a bunch of three–everybody else that I had seen on the base gave up hours in the past.
The air crammed with denser layers of humidity and I trekked on, watching the bottom flip from grass, moss, and dirt to sand and stone. I sunk my toes deep into the escarpment, burying my footwear, and I pushed onwards and upwards.
Giant, jagged rock formations have been juxtaposed throughout the higher layer of the volcano and my path modified as soon as once more, however this time into a particularly steep rock climb. At this altitude, and with an entire lack of visibility, I didn’t even know the place I used to be purported to go–there was no path, solely volcanic rock formations which, if climbed, would carry me blindly farther up.
So up I went.
Reaching a vertical rock wall I finished and hesitated. With two plumb drops on both facet of me, I questioned my sanity and whether or not ascending even farther was truly the neatest of decisions. Having made it this far, there was no means I used to be going to surrender now. I used to be all-in from the second I began the hike, and turning again would have been the worst resolution somebody may make.
As a result of who climbs a volcano simply to show round after they’re virtually at the summit?
So I climbed, one hand after the opposite, step-by-step till I may simply barely make out the signpost in entrance of me. It learn: “¡Bienvenidos! Cumbre Rucu Pichincha. Altitude: 4,696 m.s.n.m.”
However nonetheless, with a thick cloud hanging over the summit of the mountain, I may barely see 20 toes in entrance of me.
I perched myself on the very best and farthest rock on the summit, and stared into the gap by way of the fog, at nothing particularly. There was nothing to see, however I didn’t care–on this second of glory, a stance to characterize it was required. It wasn’t in regards to the view, however relatively the journey of getting there.
5 minutes later, and virtually as if on cue, the fog started to billow by way of the valleys, revealing the splendor of the mountains beneath. At that very second, watching this magnificent act of nature unfold earlier than me, I shed a tear.
And that’s when the thunder started.
In regards to the Pichincha Volcano in Quito
The Pichincha Stratovolcano is situated simply west of Quito, Ecuador. The 2 highest peaks are Guagua and Rucu, that are 15,696ft (4,784m) and 15,407ft (4,696m) respectively. Although Guagua has the one lively caldera on the mountain, each are wonderful acclimatization hikes, and are much less technical than the favored Cotopaxi which is situated about 50km south.
To provide you an thought of its top, the Northern Everest Base Camp in Tibet is situated at 16,900ft (5,151m).
The Rucu peak is now extinct, nonetheless, the Guagua facet does exhibit phreatic volcanic exercise each few years. With three main Plinian eruptions going down previously 2000 years, the newest one occurred in 1999, masking Quito, a metropolis of two million, with inches of ash. On condition that the earlier eruptions occurred in 1553 and in 1660, a bigger, Plinian eruption is just not anticipated to occur inside our lifetimes. Nonetheless, as is the case with volcanic exercise, something may occur.
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Learn how to Climb the Pichincha Volcano
Identify: The Pichincha Volcano in Quito, Ecuador
Price: Roughly $13
Notes: From Quito, take a taxi to the Teleférico, the cable automobile that takes you to the beginning of the path. It ought to solely price $4-5 USD from La Mariscal. Board the Teleférico for $8.50. Enable 5 stable hours to do that hike, and begin early within the morning (8-9am) so that you don’t get caught in a storm like I did. Climate doesn’t cooperate right here within the afternoon.
This can be a very demanding hike. Deliver sturdy footwear, layer your garments, and pack rain gear. Take loads of water and convey snacks for vitality. This is an acclimatization hike–it is extremely excessive and oxygen is skinny. If excessive altitudes hassle you, please take acceptable precautions.
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