On June 29, 2015, at 8:15 am, J, I and our guide, Ossy, left the Hacienda Rumiloma on the outskirts of Quito for Rucu Pichincha. Reminiscent of Mt. Elbrus, you travel up the first section by way of gondola. The gondola was constructed in 2005 as part of an ambitious amusement park, restaurant and hotel complex that failed not long after it opened. The gondola is all that really survived and it’s a bit depressing to see the closed shop fronts below.
Mountain hikes here start in the paramo – the Ecuadorian highlands. Wild flowers abound – white and yellow daisies that grow flat to the ground, violets, red bell shaped flowers, yellow blooms on bushy shrubs about waist high. Parts of the hike were like walking on a carpet of flowers.
As we neared the summit, there was some class 4 and 5 scrambling – using your hands as you scale the tumbled down rocks. The summit was spectacular. I never feel as totally in the present as on a summit.
Going down was fun. We learned to down climb – facing the rocks, youbcontinuously look down for your next step, as though you’re on a ladder. It was surprisingly similar to the backward stair climbing I had practiced so diligently as part of my training. (I tried to do that part in flights I knew I was the least likely to encounter other people.) The rest of the trail down was runnable – that fantastic feeling of flying where you gather just enough momentum to take you up the next uphill bit.
Of note, as we neared the parking lot we ran into the Climbing 4 My Donor group from the UK – a group of heart- lung transplant patients whose Twitter feed I had been following. So impressive. They had just climbed Rucu, were planning on Ilianza Norte and were substituting Cayambe for Cotopaxi due to the level of sulphur.
We spent another night at Rumiloma and then it was off to Illiniza Norte – our experiences in climbing up Class 5 rock without ropes, the rock that almost hit J and our first mountain hut to be posted shortly. As a preview – sunset from the hut at Illiniza Norte.