Ecuador Trip:  Guagua Pichincha

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Guagua Pichincha The second part of our acclimatization tour was to Guagua Pichincha, an active volcano just one mountain away from Quito itself. It is 15,700 feet high (4,781 meters). We were shocked that our Land Rover could make it up the super steep, rutted and decrepit road to the base of the hike. But we were distracted by our pleasure at learning that Crazy Chris would be making this climb with another group.

The view that morning was awesome. These two group shots catch two different parts of the skyline:
David, Cari And Daniel On Guagua Pichincha

The big cone you see in both pictures is Cotopaxi, the second-highest volcano in Ecuador and the site of our final climbing trip:
David, Cari And Me On Guagua Pichincha

I was definitely adjusting to the altitude because I finished the stretch to the crate rim in fine form. When I got there I found our guerilla guide in the mist, answering his cell phone!
Guerilla In The Mist

Guagua Pichincha is on the western side of the cordillera and so is subject to heavy cloud cover (particularly at that time of year) coming in from the coast in the late morning. Thus we were denied a view of the active steam vents at the base of the crater. We settled for cool pictures in the dense mist. Here's David emerging dramatically from the clouds:
David Closes In On The Rim

And here's me:
Me At The Guagua Pichincha Rim

The summit lay a little higher up. So we had a quick sip of water and headed farther up into the clouds. Here's the trail up along the rim toward the summit:
Rim Trail To Guagua Pichincha Summit

David and I posed at the summit:
Guaga Pichincha's Summit (The Last Summit We'd See)

When we left the Land Rover we were in a hurry to get started before Crazy Chris's group arrived. But moments after reaching the summit, what do we see? It's Crazy Chris, and he's already complaining that that point in the background looks like it might be higher than this point. We bolted.

Our guerilla guide was very proud of his expertise and informed us that he was taking us down the "super secret back way" (approximate translation from Spanish courtesy of me). Guagua Pichincha is named after the child in a local myth. Guagua means "child" in Quechua. As we descended from Guagua we headed towards Padre Encantada, an immediately adjacent volcano cone. On the saddle between the two settled down for a snack (the picture looks toward Guagua Pichincha):
Snack Time En Route To Padre Encantada

Our "path" (increasingly loosely fitting that description as we got further along) led along a knife-point ridge of jagged rocks, which made a neat setting for more photos:
David And Daniel On Padre Encantada

Looks Comfy, Eh?

Matt And Cari On Padre Encantada

David Perched On Padre Encantada

Matt Perched On Padre Encantada

Our increasingly iffy trail finally did make its way back to the Land Rover. And we even managed to get away before the rain kicked in.

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