Leave it to the Minnesotans to climb a volcano just to play in the snow!
Chimborazo, the volcano, is definitely popular around here. All Ecuadorians, especially our friends here in Riobamba, boast that Chimborazo is the highest point on earth (if you measure from the Earth’s center). This weekend, we FINALLY got to take a trip up to Chimborazo to really enjoy it! Unfortunately the weather wasn’t exactly perfect for the trip – it was cloudy and rainy, so you couldn’t really see the whole mountain from the ground like you can on clear days. That didn’t stop us though. Some brave, experienced, climbers start all the way at the bottom and climb to the top; this of us with average athleticism drive up part way and then hike up the rest of the way, following the larger paths. The area where we drove to was a short walk from the first refuge. One we got to the refuge, we observed the map a little to see where we were going. There are 2 total refuges that most people stop at (though the altitude is definitely harder on some people, preventing them from getting to the second refuge), and after the second refuge (about 50m past) there is a laguna. We hung out a little bit at the first refuge to get used to the altitude. We chatted and drank hot chocolate and after a while we were ready – I did have to run back to the car to get another jacket though. Believe it or not, I had a long sleeve shirt on, a sweatshirt and a rain jacket! Honestly, I wish I had brought a scarf and mittens too (keep in mind it’s summer here right now)!
While the trek isn’t the hardest in the world – thank the lord for the paths – it isn’t for the faint of heart either. Most of us don’t have trouble walking in a straight line, but the altitude can definitely hit you hard if you aren’t taking it slow enough (I’m pretty sure at one point we walked by someone’s vomit, and I have no doubts that it was due to moving to fast and reacting poorly to the altitude). Andrew and I felt pretty good during the journey up, but there were definitely times when we had to stop and just breath for a little bit to adjust.
There are honestly no perfect words to describe the experience – and definitely not the view – while we hiked up to the second refuge. We could clearly see snow higher up, but we were also walking beside a small, fast river the flowed down the volcano, and we were surrounded by greenery among the volcanic rocks.
Once we made it to the second refuge, we found ourselves playing in the snow… in the middle of SUMMER! We made snowballs, jumped around, and Andrew made a few snow angels! Don’t be fooled though, we definitely aren’t thrilled to be coming back to the snow anytime soon. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the laguna – it was cloudy, hailing, and cold, and probably not the best conditions for hiking, but we were glad that we did make it to the second refuge! Hopefully on a sunnier day we will be able to sneak away from class to take another stab at the volcano.
Overall though, we have been pretty lucky with the weather here, and by some miracle, the weather cleared up a little and on our way back the sun was out and shining! The river was glistening as we followed it back, and the plants looked bright and full of water. We even saw some alpacas munching on plants beside us! We were definitely exhausted by the time we made it back to the car, but we were also amazed by the view of Chimborazo behind us as we drove down the volcano. The view on the way down was just as amazing as we passed different plants, grazing alpaca, birds, and other animals.
We are definitely grateful that we had the opportunity to finally climb Chimborazo, and the view from school definitely has a more special meaning now that we’ve accomplished the climb!