Wednesday, December 1, 2010

NHESP Update 13

Ascent to Cotopaxi
            Mountaineering and mountains go together like dumplings and soy sauce. “Layers” is the mantra for any mountaineering expedition. The meaning of layers is threefold:  mental layers, layers of clothing, and the layers of snow. While you're ascending a colossal mountain your mind tosses around a myriad of emotions and thoughts. For example, "Michael, don't you think this is a little fast-paced?" or "Everyone, this is not the time to express yourselves by laughing, I'm already struggling for oxygen" or simply "I’d love a hot chocolate right about now." Climbing a mountain is not a physical battle but a mental one. As Pedro wisely said, "Mountaineering is 98% mental, and 2% physical." Knowing how to properly regulate one's layers can help deal with the 2% physical effort. Being too warm causes you to quickly perspire. Though you might not feel the cold while moving, as soon as you stop the temperature will overtake you. Being cold can immobilize you. In terms of the layers of snow, you have to know how to interpret the mountain’s conditions. So here's what happened after learning about the significance of these various layers.

Cotopaxi in the background

            Our group embarked on a 3 day and 3 night group solo through the Paramo and plains around Cotopaxi. Though we had a lot of rain and hail, we trekked strongly. The Paramo looked like a giant graveyard scattered with the bones of sheep, wild horse, llama, rabbit, deer, and birds. Sometimes we found half-eaten carcasses, and Tupack also snagged an intact deer skull with huge antlers. After three mellow days of trekking, singing, expedition meals, wildlife,  mud painting, laughs, and special times with just each other, we reunited with Davicho, Marcela, and Michael who were on their own solo. Carina had driven back to Palugo for resupply, and she met us with Francisco. They arrived with resupply food and mail from home. Francisco, like always, spoiled us with "manichos," the Hershey bar of Ecuador. We all deposited rocks, bones, and other collectibles in his vehicle. It seemed like the group was comprised of a bunch of archaeologists and grave robbers. So we said "hasta luego" to "the boss" (Francisco) and started our trek for the day. During the hike, we shared our solo experiences and it felt good to once again walk as one. We ended up camping in a magical ravine surrounded by ash and basalt walls. There, people played "Hearts" and other card games, and explored the nearby sand dune. We found more antler, and Gabe and Dylan discovered a new creature more like a leviathan called a "Horse Fish". The next day would be our last day of hiking as we traversed across the east face of Cotopaxi to "Cara Sur"-the South Face. After a long day climbing up and down the

At the Refugio "Cara Sur" with Eduardo, our host

steep slopes, we came to the Refugio Ecuador lodge of Shiram's father, a 2 hour hike from the glaciers of Cotopaxi. There we were provided with beds, shelter, food, and a warm feeling of home. It was nice to see a slice of Shiram's life. Her father has summitted Cotopaxi over fifty times and knows the mountain better than anyone. We filled up on quinoa soup,more manichos, and enjoyed games of chess and rested. Man, how we were spoiled. After

our layover day, we hiked from "Refugio Cara Sur" to highcamp, our final base camp until the 12:30 a.m. ascent. We pitched tents and all huddled into one big one. There we sang any song that came to mind and mentally prepared for the climb. We sent out good vibes because the mountain had not been summitted for two weeks because of snow conditions. The night before, 4 towering Austrians were unable to climb up because of exhaustion. The plan was to sleep for 5 hours, wake up, pack up our self-sewn daypacks, eat a light snack, gear up, and begin the 7-8 hour climb. It was hard to sleep because of the sheer excitement, but we did just that. The reason you climb at night, especially in Ecuador, is because of the danger of the sun. The sun combined with a fracturing glacier and a lot of snow creates prime

Armin leading our pack horse to high camp
avalanche conditions. As always, we lucked out, the moon was bright and enabled our group including Eduardo and Shiram's 14-year-old brother to climb by the moon's silvery glow. As it reached 3ish, the most frigid part of the night, times were tough. You couldn't feel most of your extremities, and a feeling of nausea and sleepiness were induced, but by then we were in a good rhythm. The conditioning we’d had climbing and working at over 14,000 feet helped, but not even five layers of clothes stopped the burning wind. At around 5, the sun was beginning to pop out, and a feeling of pure joy ran through our bodies. The sun provides us with so much energy,and on this semester, we have learned to appreciate its many treasures. So in the end, because of avalanche factors, we reached 150 meters from the crater. Surprisingly, when Mico informed us that we couldn't go any furthur, we all seemed very content; you have to enjoy what you've got. It was such a special moment

Pedro on rapid descent

that we just had to take a full breath, and respect how far the mountain let us step. We had gone the farthest in two weeks than anyone else, and the highest elevation ever that our entire group had made it. "The mountains are the means, the man is the end, the idea is to improve the man, not to reach the top of the mountain" -Walter Bonatti
            So we're back home with a mere 9 days left in Palugo, filled with cooking, academics, the market at Otovalo, crafts, and each other. I'll be sending the next update when we have landed in Marlow once again.

Snow, snow, snow........magical

Total Mountain Expedition distance: 120km
Total elevation gain: 3050 meters (more elevation gain than Mt. Everest)

Armin, Tupack, Gabe, Jake, Pedro, Dylan, Connor, Hannah, Julia, Shiram, Iyla and Hakeem love you all.
See you soon

Happy Birthday Rebecca!-Hannah

Yes please Mom acting class- Hakeem

A dormant yet fiery mountain

By Dylan Herman-Dunphy

A luminous figure in a darkening sky

Its white peaks glaze the very tips of the atmosphere

Birds do not dare fly as high as its summits

Only people, people withought fear, can reach as great a height as it's glacier tipped ridges

at night it is a dormant cone surrounded by a field of smaller children

but in the day it rages snow, rain, and hail from the heavens

only the volcano can accomplish all that it is

1 comment:

  1. It looks so cold! Julia, i seriously cannot wait to see u. Have fun in the meantime tho. Love love love you.