Photographer's Note

The sun was shining upon Quito this day, it was bound to be a perfect day. Many companies seemed to offer tours to Cotopaxi, the second highest mountain in Ecuador, but I wanted to try this out on my own. I was not even sure if it was possible as I had seen that it is obligational to have a guide in the national park, but I gave it a try and I have no regrets.

I started out with public transport for an hour through Quito (25 cents...) before changing to a long distance bus heading for Latacunga ($1.50). I told them to drop me off at "La entrada de Parque Nacional de Cotopaxi" and they dropped me off in the middle of a huge intersection that seemed like in the middle of nowhere. Some Venezuelan tourists had apparently been doing the same thing, so we grouped together and managed to find a guide to take us. That became the start of a great adventure!

At 2:02 pm (EXACTLY one year after my New York Marathon finish) we arrived Josť Rivas Refigio, at 4,864 masl, below the glacier of Cotopaxi. By this time, the fog had surrounded the Andes mountains and hailstorms were introducing us to the volcanic landscape. In many ways it reminds me of Iceland. It also seemed to be a very popular daytrip for locals as heaps of them had found their way to Cotopaxi on this cold and wet Monday.

As we arrived the refuge (closed for renovation), a venezuelano and I decided to head for the glacier at 5,100 m. The increasingly red stones were very soon covered by a fresh layer of snow as we climbed the steep slopes. For my Venezuelan friend it was a blessing as he had never experienced snow before. Snow in the tropics doesn't happen every day!

On the way back to the parking lot at 4,600 m, the clouds disappeared and the thundering from all directions became less frequent. Although the summit never came out of the clouds, the landscape below did. And what a sight!

Cotopaxi is, as said, the second highest mountain in Ecuador. Some people would count it as the highest active volcano in the world, but as the sign at the beginning of the hike clearly states: It is second also here. In fact it can also be called the third highest mountain in the world! Only Chimborazo and Huascaran are further away from the center of the earth. These mountains are in other words the best places to step on the scale due to the loss of gravity. You'd just have to get there first...

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Additional Photos by Fredrik Henriksen (Bergenphotos) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 271 W: 53 N: 646] (3310)
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