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Monday, October 1, 2012

Return to Pichincha: The Summit

Frequent readers of this blog may remember that I have been to Pichincha before. Last time it was quite a hike and it seemed that we had made it fairly close to the summit. We were wrong... so very wrong. Pichincha is one of those hikes where you always think "It's just over this next hill!" and it never is. In total the trek to the summit took us 3 hours and 15 minutes, and it was a bitch. The summit is at 4,698 meters (15,413 ft.), the altitude becomes a big factor. During our climb I was huffing and puffing more than Chris Christie climbing the capitol steps. It is also freezing cold with near tropical storm force winds, so that's not helping anyone.

The path to the top, this would be a great place to film Lord of the Rings, just saying.

To the summit!
The last 45 minutes is the real challenge. At that point it turns from an uphill path into crazy steep landslide. Where once there was hard packed dirt and grass, now there is only sand and broken rocks. To quote myself from the trip "Damn this is steep!" At this point it's about as steep or steeper than a double black diamond ski slope to give a reference. Once you tackle the land slide it changes from a hike into rock climbing. This is the point where most people choose to turn back... we didn't.

The landslide portion

No Tobias is not standing on a hill or anything. I was a few feet away from him, this is just how steep it is.

From here you must climb vertically up the rocky face of the summit. This was definitely the scariest part, given that you're rock climbing without a harness or ropes. But it was really really fun, and totally worth it. The summit of Pichincha is a great place to have a picnic, so that's just what we did. The views were amazing, we had a hawk walk only about 10 feet from us, and we met a really cool mountaineering couple up there that showed us an easier way down (basically sliding down the sandy part) and then gave us a ride home. Overall a pretty awesome day, and despite all my whining about how tough the hike was, it was completely worth it, and I would go back without question.

Starting the final ascent.

This is what you have to climb up to get to the summit.

This is what awaits you if you fall.

The view from the top
Mr. Hawk

Made it!


Yes I do often picnic at 15,413 feet... I'm pretty cool, no big deal

And now I have to steal a card from Kamila whom I miss very much, and give you a preview of what I will be doing two weekends from now, biking down Cotopaxi!

We have a date, see you in two weeks Cotopaxi!

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