symmetrical cone, with a white crown of snow. And the climb to the 5,897-meter summit (19,347 feet) is supposedly child's play - by Andean standards, of course.
That is, it is not technical and can not be attempted by experienced climbers , if they acclimate . While Cotopaxi is only one of many Ecuadorian Andes peaks studding the spine of the country, lies its appeal superlative title as " the active volcano near the sun." Other peaks can be higher above sea level, but due to the planet 's equatorial bulge Cotopaxi farthest from the center of the earth .
When I lived in Quito , on clear days , I would flash his sky-scraping shape, deceptively close . How could I not be intrigued ? Such a beautiful summer weekend , I took on the mountain, and faced the hardest physical challenge of my life. Each of the almost 6,000 meters of the mountain had to reach for his laborious, slow , tedious , and breathless , the last peak.
My rock climbing group had a lead of course , at the beginning of the ascent of the mountain hut at 4,800 m on the northern slope . However, in the thin air , I was already struggling just to reach the hut. The 4x4 was zooming through the scrubby grasslands of Cotopaxi National Park , then the dirt road into a lunar landscape of volcanic rock , before dropping our group in the parking lot at 4,500 m. There, in bright sunshine we had trainers for hiking boots , hoisted equipment on the back are traded and begun to traipse up the slope of treacherous pebbles .
It was like hauling a refrigerator, with each leg in plaster, and a bear is sitting on my chest. Fortunately, again a high-calorie lunch in the shelter myself enough to walk up to the glacier, where we practice the rest of the afternoon reinforced appropriate crampon and side effects of the icy snow. The sunset was glorious as the ocher - red of Cotopaxi , the slope cut sharply against the bare greenish- brown bottom of the foot .
By 19:00 we were all tucked into our sleeping bags to rest. The climb is done in the cold of the night , because the harsh equatorial sun dangerous softens the snow during the day. At midnight, the dorm was alive fitted with the clunks , zippers and snaps of devices. We marched in a clear moonlit night , we roped our guide, and go.
First, we were on our way to rubble in a long line of at least 50 climbers. The lights of Quito twinkled in the distant valley , as if seen from an airplane. Orion tilted in the pitch black sky. An hour later , we picked up on the glacier , dig our crampons into the snow. My guide , an Ecuadorian as strong as an ox, calculated along , sometimes sinking knee- deep into a crevice when he us past other groups trudge the path taken .
The cold made my nose run like a faucet , the amount was tightening a clamp around my head , and every time I looked at the dark mass of the mountain, the specified accuracies of the other climbers there were lights still go a long way. One step , another step , runny nose, another step , another , another step , another ... The night dragged on endlessly . I had never felt so weak in my life and kept begging for breaks.
All of a sudden a strip unnatural orange light appeared - dawn! I got a second wind and dug my toes into the hillside , with the desperate hope of a shipwrecked shore sighting . The growing light also showed how terribly steep mountainside was . Instead, I looked at the triangular shape of Cotopaxi shadow ahead on a blanket of cloud in the west . After several ribs, which falsely appear respectively as the last , we reached a flat surface the size of a basketball court, where dozens of others were standing around : the summit at last .
I was exhausted. I shuffled into the snow - rimmed crater. Looked through the crystal clear air made me feel I was on the roof of the world. Of the uniform carpet of clouds emerged a few scattered peaks, neighboring Chimborazo , Cayambe and Antisana , all lights in the rising sun. An icy wind bit through our layers , and already was our guide abseiling us together again for the screw down . The climb was a grueling six hours the magic top takes less than ten minutes, but I knew what would remain strongest in my memory ...