Barefoot Expeditions: Galapagos Islands, Ecuador and Peru Travel Adventures

Cotopaxi: Things I learned the last time I climbed it.

[singlepic id=148 w=320 h=240 mode=web20 float=left]A couple of weeks ago, Jose and I took some friends to the summit of Cotopaxi. It was their first time there, they followed a strict training, they climbed a couple of non-snow (but still high) mountains. It was a tough group, there were bikers, marathoners, runners. All of them were counting every calorie they eat and burned. Very competitive crowd.

I learned that there is always something to learn when you climb a mountain, specially with beginners:

  • On their first time climbing a mountain, people worry about everything. They would ask things like: Should I eat meat or not? Should I take an extra jacket? Should I wear one or two pairs of underwear? Should I take energetic drinks?, Should I take a sleeping pill?  Should I eat one or two chocolate bars during the climb? Do coca leaves tea help with altitude sickness? Do you think we will make it?, etc, etc.
  • When I climb a mountain I do a lot of things in a mechanical way. After 10 years climbing I perform actions like packing my climbing stuff (all of it!) or drinking more water before leaving. Having a good rest before climbing. Looking at the sky and decide whether to take a second jacket or not. I do all of this in a rather unconscious way. After hundreds of climbs you can get to this stage but if you are a beginner please do prepare consciously for the climb. Your guide can lead the way but cannot prepare for you.
  • People face altitude and exhaustion in very different ways. There was a couple where the woman managed to summit without a problem. She was joking and had to take care of her boyfriend, a tough biker and runner who was falling asleep, and felt very tired. There was other guy that in the last few meters before the summit had to shout out every time he took a step forward in order to get the strength he needed for those last steps.
  • You have to be able to find the inner strength to complete the climb. Mountain guides will understand if you have to shout to make it. The thing is, we can’t do it for you. It is your climb. Your moment. Your way to deal with the taxing journey. We keep you focused.

  • You burn around 8000 calories climbing Cotopaxi. – According to the heart rate monitors some of the climbers were carrying.
  • People looks happier during the descent.
  • Rented boots are so uncomfortable. Almost all of them were not happy with the boots they rented. If possible, get a good pair of boots for the climb. Remember, it is a once in a life time experience. After you are done climbing you can donate the boots.
  • I will never see the crater of Cotopaxi volcano. It is maybe my 15th climb to the Cotopaxi and I have not been able to see the crater. Only in pictures and videos. I guess I will keep trying.
  • Some people think that their guide is their personal servant. Some mountain guides looked like their clients nannies rather than mountain guides. Remember, your mountain guide is not your servant. You are there to achieve a goal and if you cannot get your own glass of water then you might want to rethink the climb.

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