Day 9 | Friday 26th July 2013

Cotopaxi Climb

We get the nod to go from Ossy at 12-05am.  Mad panic to get kit organized – what we take, what we leave behind. Getting the layers right, putting on gaiters, plastic snow boots and a harness for the first time.

We start a little late – 1-20am, obviously in the dark.

Format as follows_

12 climbers – teams of 2 – with a guide – all roped together.

  • Andy t and martin caswell plus Topo (guide) – he climbed Everest with Ossy this year with no oxygen.
  • Bob N and Nigel
  • Eddie and Sue
  • Chesh and Matt (with Fabrisio – filming as a 4th person in group)
  • Wynne and a guide
  • Pete croke and Keith Mort
  • Christine with ossy

Very windy day – 35km/h winds made climbing conditions very difficult.

First 90 mins was a walk over mud and volcanic ash to the glacier summit.  Martin lead and I was second, all roped up to our guide “Topo”.

We then stopped to put on our crampons and started to use our ice picks.

In the early part of the glacier, there were many crevasses to cross – at least 10. The largest involved , lying on your stomach and crossing over on  a ladder – 50m drop into the crevasse.

(Bob Norster and Nigel, were made to jump over the crevasse , bob didn’t quite make it and had to be pulled out by his guide!) – his guide didn’t trust the ladder.  Bob was more than a little shaken up by this, not surprisingly.

We would stop every 90 mins to take on fluid and food – water (hot – stop it freezing) and a liquid energy gel – which did eventually freeze.

The ice climb seemed endless, with many false horizons of the summit. The climb was steep , often straight up in a line rather than meandering curves. Passed Bob and Nigel ½ way up who were considering giving up as it was so difficult.

Sun up was 5-30am – beautiful views though couldn’t quite appreciate them, due to sheer exhaustion and breathing difficulties due to the altitude.

We reached the summit at 8am (weather was turning at this time – cloud coming in).

To my surprise, my first view of the summit was of Bob lying on his back on the floor, exhausted and not feeling very well.  I can’t repeat what he said to me ‘but don’t ever ask me to do this again’ was the jist of the theme.

We couldn’t see the classic crater due to mist which was an anti-climax. Sue and Eddie next appeared on the summit.  Eddie was equally exhausted and also lay on the floor of the summit for a few minutes, after a huge effort to summit.

We were at summit for 15 mins and then went down. After ½ hour we stopped because when Bob and Eddie joined us for a break they were unwell – our guides took some of the weight from their backpacks and fed and gave them lots of fluid.

Coming down took almost 3 hours as we were tired. I led this time and slid down on the crampons.  Crossing the crevasses this time was even more hairy as you could see the drops in daylight.

Got back to Jose Rivas hut by 12 midday.

In total 9 summited:

Bob Norster – first
Andy t and martin
Sue and Eddie
Christine and nigel
Matt and Chesh

Unfortunately 3 persons didn’t make it due to ill-health or accidents:

Wynne –developed a chest infection had to turn back after 1.5 hours, due to shortness of breath and feeling unwell.

Pete Croke – fell early in the climb at 15,400ft and hurt his right knee.  He had to be stretchered off the mountain.  A Brazilian doctor (climbing) had diagnosed an avulsion of his right quadriceps tendon and strapped him up.

It transpired that he had torn his quadriceps tendon and fractured his knee cap.

Keith Mort was with Pete. Due to the time it took to sort Pete out, Keith was then not allowed to progress with his climb, due to the risk of avalanche.  However, once I arrived back at Jose Rives Hut and examined Keith’s neck, I realized he had developed a problem too.  He had developed a sore throat and a very impressive neck swelling, that turned out to be a haemorrhage into a thyroid cyst, that had developed due to altitude.  A rare complication indeed.  The cyst was subsequently drained on his return to Wales.

We had a Quick drink , collected our gear and then walked another ½ hour down to our bus in the car park.

As a collective, we waited 1.5 hours for chesh and matt to get down from their climb. We picked up John Edwards, who had been walking around Cotopaxi National Park on the way to our next destination.

Pete was taken to hospital in Quito, where he was met by Amber. An MRI of his knee, confirmed the avulsion and the need for an operation to repair the tendon. The plan was to fly him home by air ambulance and have surgery at the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend.

We next headed by bus for our next accommodation, Hosteria La Cienega, a 500 year old Hacienda, just off the panamerican highway south of Quito.

This was a lovely old house with old fashioned rooms.

Had a lovely meal, with a live band.  Great night sleep.  Again awoke at night for a wee.  Had to crawl to the toilet on hands and knees as my calves were so stiff after the Cotopaxi climb.

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