Today was a full, delightful day. we began by going to the TelefériQo, which is a large gondola that takes you from the outskirts of Quito up part of the inactive volcano, Rucu Pichincha. (as a side note, in my video I incorrectly identified the volcano as its active neighboring brother, Guagua Pichincha).
After taking a cab to the outskirts of Quito, we had gained some elevation, and after the 10 min gondola ride, we were at 4050m (approx 13,300 ft). Quito has an elevation 2850m (approx 9350 ft), so in just a few minutes we were flying! I have Diamox with me – a medication which helps one acclimatize and can treat acute mountain sickness – so I took some today to try it out before our big climb. It has a side effect of tingling in your fingers and toes, which to me just made it feel like the tingles you get when your foot falls asleep.
After getting to the top, we walked around the designated viewpoints for awhile, taking in the sights. We could see Cayambe and Cotopaxi, the two highest mountains in Ecuador, along with the valley filled to the brim with the bustling city of Quito.
Looking west of the city, up toward the summit of the mountain we were on, we could see the crest of Guagua and Rucu Pichincha, two tall sister volcanoes. One has gone inactive while the other remains active.
The summit seemed so far away, so we agreed to simply climb the trail a little further up to stretch our legs, get a better view while breaking for a snack, and acclimatizing. However, upon reaching each signpost, we’d see something interesting up a bit further, or pass by people coming down who encouraged us there wasn’t much more to go, so we kept going… For 2-3 more hours!
I was huffing and puffing pretty hard. The altitude was getting to me despite the Diamox, and as soon as I would start to move upward my heart would jump up to a rate normally reserved for running. Breathing heavily, we made it up to just below the summit. Once within arms reach, we learned there was a fairly technical and unsafe traverse to reach the true summit so we have ourselves a gold star and turned back down. Rucu Pichincha is 4784m (approx 15700ft), so we gained approx 2400ft in elevation by our manpower.
About halfway back down I started to really feel the effects of altitude… I had a pretty consistent headache and was starting to feel nauseous. Overall, however, I think the hike was a great success in getting us ready for Cotopaxi next week.
After going back to the apartment to eat, nap, rehydrate, and relax, we decided to go to a club a few blocks away called El Aguijon which, on Wednesdays, is salsa night!!! We danced for a few hours, probably more than we could take (we were all exhausted) and went home pretty spent. Chase and Martha are sweet partners together, with her back-leading mostly, and I taught Petr some salsa moves (which he did a gear job of picking up!). I danced with a few local guys which was fun – my salsa legs are a little out of practice but it was starting to come back to me as the night went on.
I’ll be posting some videos I took while on the mountain today… Tomorrow is major site seeing time! All the churches and markets and museums are on the list 🙂