for this trip was named, I think, Daniel. He was a veteran of
Ecuador's army and had participated in skirmishes against Peruvian
forces. Because of that, and his slightly official-looking jacket
and his very odd-looking hat, I came to think of him as our
"guerilla guide". He told us stories about his work as a
bodyguard for foreign executives, and about eating grass and leaves
while in the field as a soldier
Pasochoa, like every
mountain in Ecuador, is a former volcano. Like Pululahua its top
section is a massive crater. The summit is at 13,800 feet (4,200
meters). The Andean cordillera in Ecuador is quite narrow. A matter
of ten miles wide, if that. The western side is coastal and the
eastern side abuts the jungle. Pasochoa lies on the east, and the
lower portions of the mountain are humid and lush. Oh, and muddy as
well. This is the place where I really learned the word resbaloso,
which means "slippery".
Also joining David
and me on this trip were Chris, the crazy guy from Seattle, and Cari,
the U-Mich law grad traveling on her own through Latin America.
Chris was just a random; he happened to book in on the same trip
through Safari Tours. Cari sort of attached herself to David and me
because she was alone and wanting some people to go trekking with
because otherwise the tour place charges you more. David and I had
an amusing time with Cari because of her naively idealistic
perspective on politics and economics.
Here's the view from
the parking lot, looking away from Pasochoa across the cordillera:
And me, Cari and
David as we set off:
David and Cari posed
as we hiked along the rim of the crater. We were using an alternate
route because recent rains had damaged the regular path, which
follow another route along the rim towards the summit. You can see
from this picture that as we climbed we left the jungle-y terrain
and entered a far drier microclimate of scrub trees and grasses. The
sharp transitions from wet to dry terrain were a recurring feature
of our Ecuadorian travels.
As we approached the
summit clouds started to gather, meaning I was stuck with this shady
shot towards the peak:
Because we were on
the alternate route, our only path to the summit involved scaling a
15-foot rock face, which we were not prepared to do. When we
discovered this our Seattle traveling companion revealed himself as
totally nuts. He was a crunchy, grungy type, so I was surprised when
he started to behave like the stereotype of the big, dumb American.
He got made at our guide and harangued him for about 15 minutes.
When that went nowhere, in part because the other three of us jumped
in and firmly took the guide's side, Chris decided he could just go
up by himself. (Nutball!) Don't mind the rest of us, of course.
Sure, go ahead and spend an hour tilting at this windmill. That's
great. Anyway, as we were climbing down from our high point at the
base of the rock wall, Chris was trying to convince these four other
hikers to "lend" him their rope so he could climb on his
own. Oy vey.
In the few peaceful
minutes we had to enjoy our lunch, David snapped this shot for me:
As seems so common on
this kind of climb (at least for me -- off the top of my head I
remember it happening on Mt. Humboldt, Gothic Mountain and in
Montana's Absarokee Wilderness), our descent was hastened by the
start of a small electrical storm that chased us toward less exposed
terrain. About halfway down Crazy Chris caught up to us, having
(finally) taken the hint and reconciled himself to not reaching the
absolute tippy-top. When we got back I took this timer shot of all
five of us: