When we left our hostel Wednesday morning the sky was clear and the volcanoes were taking over the blue skies. We had a chance to stop along the cobblestone road to Illizina and take some photos of Volcan Cotopaxi ruling the sky to our east. Luckily we took the offer because it would be the last time we saw Cotopaxi that day. The weather was ever changing, but we spent most of our climb in the clouds. When we got our first good look at Illizina Norte from its base, our excitement grew rapidly. In minutes, our packs were on and we were headed to our first stop, La Playa (the beach). La Playa obviously wasn't a beach, but it was a sandy oasis with mangled trees and green succulents and flowers abound. We all caught our breath for a few minutes and headed onward and upward.
|Upwards from La Playa|
The environment seemed to change every thousand feet or so. The sandy, semi-arid desert around La Playa quickly gave way to a rocky terrain with some grasses still surviving, very similar to the Cascade Range in Washington State. Again, we stopped to catch our breath and refuel. Onward and upward.
|The Final Ascent|
|We Did It!|
Another technical climb down the same boulders we has just ascended led us to an area of soft sand/dirt in which we were able to "ski" down. It is wild how much faster our bodies can go down a mountain compared to up. We descended in less than half of the time it took us to climb Illizina Norte. To say that arriving at the green land cruiser was a relief is an understatement. Again, we dropped our packs and gave big hugs all around before taking the final photos our the mountain we had just conquered.
|Down at Last|
We endured another very bumpy truck ride back to the hostel led us to a couch, chocolate cake, and hot tea. We had planned on resting in our room for a bit before showering and enjoying a nice dinner with wine at our hostel. Unfortunately, mother nature had another plan for me. The exhaustion that haunted Mags and Ladina (our Swiss friend) on the way up the mountain began creeping into my body. I rested in bed hoping to solve the problem, but it just grew worse and worse. Within three hours of completing the climb, I was suffering from full on altitude sickness. It was one of the worst experiences my body had been through. The gusto I felt while scaling up Illizina Norte with a huge smile plastered on my face was quickly turned into Mags rubbing my back while I puked my guts out as my head pounded like a bass drum. What a night! Luckily, Mags was a saint and tracked down some altitude medicine and herbal tea along with providing mental support like nobody else could. I feel like I wouldn't have made it through the night without her. When I woke up yesterday morning at 6AM, I felt like myself again. Yeeeesssssssss! The sickness was over.
|Smiles All Around!|