Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Cotopaxi Hike to Pasochoa

Before our Ecuador trip is a distant memory, I AM going to get the posts that were ready to go posted.

On our first full day around Cotopaxi we were signed up to do the big hike to the summit of Pasochoa Mountain behind the hostel. The hike would be a steep one, gaining 2362 feet in 3.5 miles. I was nervous. In the night, I had convinced myself that I should not do the hike because A. I didn't want to be the slow old person trying to keep up with the 20-somethings, and B. I didn't want to re-injure my knee just nine weeks after surgery. This would be the first big test and I wasn't sure if I could or should do it.   But at breakfast, Drew convinced me that I should try and we could always turn back if the knee was not up to it. So up we went. The first part of the hike was on a steep path through scrubby forest, and I was too intent on keeping up to take many pictures.   But it wasn't long before I was confident I could hold my own with the group on the way up.  The knee felt good, and living at moderate altitude even gave us some advantage over the younger lungs in our group.  

Looking back the way we had come about half way through the hike.

Looking up the way we were headed. Our route would take us up the ridge on the right to the summit and around to the left and back down following the track on the left.

Our band of hikers.

Accompanying us on our hike were the pack of resident dogs from the hostel, including two Dachshunds.

With the summit nearly in sight, we continued up.

Gaining some serious altitude.

Almost there!
And we made it! About 3 hours of hiking got us to the crater of Pasochoa, 13,842 feet above sea level. No worries, this volcano is inactive.

The clouds swirled in the crater, making it unnerving to stand too close to the edge.

Our entire group after a lunch of sandwiches, cake, and hot tea delivered to the top by our guide. Thanks, Victor.

All five dogs made it to the top, as they do every day with a new group of hikers. My 33-inch inseam is apparently no advantage over the short little legs of the Dachshunds.

Since we had driven in the dark for two hours in a taxi to get to Secret Garden, I had no idea we would be close enough to Quito to see parts of it and even pick up some cell service.

What else would you expect at the top of a volcano but a mess of fused volcanic ash and clasts.  
Magma often squirts itself into solid rock along fractures and usually weathers differently than the surrounding rock, as shown by this dike.

Time to head down. The trail is actually so steep that the other hikers are hidden in front of us.

A brief stop in a spring area colonized by a strange type of wetland ground cover.

The plant is tough and feels like plastic.

What would cause this unusual alignment of scarps on the otherwise uniform slope? My guess is a dike in the subsurface allowing preferential movement of groundwater and/or erosion.

I was definitely the slowest hiker on the downhill, but not so terribly slow that the group had to wait a long time for me. What a relief. On the way down, I made sure to snap a few pictures.

This irrigation canal may have been built by the Incas, according to our guide.

Here is the lower forested part of the trail. Definitely not IMBA standard.

After 5.5 hours of pretty difficult hiking for two people who don't hike so often, we were happy to complete the journey and I was literally shouting for joy that my knee held up.          

Time for some post-hike hammock time to let the blood run out of our tired legs and share a recovery drink.

We stayed in that position for quite some time, then moved to the hot tub, and recovered just enough to eat a tasty dinner of quinoa stuffed roasted pepper and socialize a bit before retiring to our casita. We both agreed that this day was the highlight of the trip so far.

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