Sunday, September 23, 2012

Guagua Pichincha & El Padre Encantado

The road to the trail head was so steep that we (well, the boys)
had to push the truck part of the way. 
As I've mentioned before, I am in an Andinismo class (mountaineering). Every weekend there is a trip, but this weekend was the first time I could go on one. The hike was to Guagua Pichincha and El Padre Encantado, just west of Quito. Erin and I took a bus all the way to the south of Quito and then met up with our group which consisted of 11- 7 Ecuadorian guys and 4 American girls. Unfortunately, the night before the hike I went out with some friends and went to bed around 4:30... so I was pretty dehydrated and exhausted at the beginning of the hike. We took a very fast and bumpy ride to the trail head and began by walking through a gorgeous field of the paramo ecosystem. From there, we began the climb up Padre Encantado.

Paramo ecosystem
Rock climbing on Padre Encantado
Most of the mountain was sandy so it was difficult to climb, combined with the altitude. Near the top there were a lot of volcanic rocks which we had to climb. When we arrived at the summit, we were in the middle of a cloud and everyone felt accomplished, but knowing we had an even taller mountain next. 
On the summit of Guagua Pichincha
Sliding down the side. 
We jumped down the sand on the mountain and walked across a ridge to Guagua Pichincha, which is over 4,700 meters (almost 16,000 feet!). The first part of the climb was up a grassy hill to the camp where people can ride motor bikes to. We ate lunch and then started the second part of the climb which was incredible. We first hiked a sandy trail through the volcanic rocks up to a point with a big cross. We were in the middle of clouds again so it was a really pretty hike. Near the top of the mountain we had to rock climb again until we reached the summit. 
Erin and I on Guagua Pichincha
To get down, we decided to slide down the other side which was a steep, sandy hill. It was fun for the first few minutes but then it just got dangerous and people behind us accidentally kicked small boulders down the mountain that we had to dodge. Thankfully, no one got hurt and we hiked down through the meadow again, rode the truck to a restaurant where we ate humitas, and then bused back to our houses. It was an amazing experience and a hike well worth it. It was definitely one of the hardest hikes I have ever done since we were with big Ecuadorian guys who never stopped to rest. I pushed myself really hard and it paid off! 

The amazing view climbing Guagua Pichincha

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