It seems that everyone else around here is doing it, so I thought I might as well give it a shot too. Today I set off with a little group — two English girls, Helen and Amy, and our guide Victor (from Sierra Nevada, the same tour company that I went cycling with yesterday) — to go and climb Volcán Villarrica, the enormous snow-covered volcano that looms over Pucón. At a mere 2,847m asl — and with such a good path, and such good snow-cover, that we didn't even need to use crampons — today's climb was really a walk in the park for me, compared to last week's Cotopaxi climb. Especially since we had a much more fun way of getting down than plain old walking.
At 1am this morning, Tony and myself — led by our trusty guide César — began our climb up Volcán Cotopaxi. Very quick "breakfast" (well, you gotta call a 12:30am wake-up meal something), and then we were on our way. We did our very best: but sadly, fate did not intend for us to reach the summit today. Close — oh, so tantalisingly close! — but no cigar. Ah well — as we say on Earth: c'est la vie.
Call me crazy, but I'm doing it again! That's right: almost killing myself climbing Huayna Potosí, two months ago in Bolivia, just wasn't enough. I've got my crampons and my ice-axe at the ready, and I'm off in search of snow-capped peaks once more. This morning, Tony and I set off on our expedition to climb to the top of Volcán Cotopaxi, whose peak is 5,897m asl. A little lower this time (about 200m less than HP), and apparently a little easier too — but still one heck of a challenge.
This morning's climb of Huayna Potosí was very hard. But it turned out that getting to the top was the easy part. Once we reached the summit, we had to climb and hike all the way back through the ice, to the high camp; and then straight away, we had to continue hiking down, all the way to base camp. I was already dead when I reached the top of the mountain; but by the time I'd done the additional 5 hours or so of hiking to get back to base camp, I was semi-human. Mountain climbing lesson number 1: getting to the top is only half the journey. Once you get there, there's no helicopter waiting to take you back down.
Yesterday, I made it to the high camp on the way to Huayna Potosí. This morning, I actually went and climbed the mountain. It was very, very hard work. It damn near killed me. But, with a bit of good luck, and a lot of persistence, I made it to the top! Nothing in the world quite compares with making that last step to the top of a 6088m mountain peak, and taking in the dazzling view around you.
Issac was the guy who took me up the crazy climb of Huayna Potosí this weekend. He's an incredibly fit and ready-for-anything guide: he climbs the mountain as much as three times each week; and he knows it like the back of his hand. Couldn't have got to the top without him.
This weekend, I decided to try real mountain climbing for the first time in my life, and I did it on the mountain of Huayna Potosí, not far from La Paz. Huayna Potosí is recommended as a great first try for people with no prior climbing experience, as it's a relatively easy 6000m peak to ascend (the total ascent is to 6088m), and as it's conveniently close to the already-high city of La Paz. Today, I drove out to the base camp with my guide, and completed the hike of about 3 hours, to the high camp of 5200m.