After Quito came Latacunga, a town about 100 kilometres south of the capital. Latacunga as a town isn’t exactly bursting with tourist attractions but it is an important hub for anyone wanting to visit some of Ecuador’s most popular natural attractions: (1) Cotopaxi volcano, (2) Chimborazo volcano and (3) Quilotoa Crater Lake….
(2) Chimborazo Volcano
So, while Frida accompanied a few thousand locals watching the five our long parade, I decided to try and summit the highest point on earth. We know what you are thinking now – ‘Isn’t that Mount Everest?’ Well, thanks to it being situated on the equator, Chimborazo is actually the closest point to the sun on our planet, 2km closer than Everest!
Myself, my Swiss friend, Jeremy and our guide arrived at the first refuge on Chimborazo around 16:00. We had dinner a couple of hours later and were in bed before 19:00. Good sleep is apparently quite important to reduce the effects of altitude sickness so of course Jeremy and I didn’t sleep for one single minute. Probably partly blamed on a few nerves but primary reason was definitely the high altitude. We were sleeping at 4800m, far higher than I have slept before so trying to get my heart rate and breathing to a normal rate was impossible. We ‘woke’ up at 23:00 for breakfast, packed our gear and wrapped up warm before we headed out into the snow. The climbing speed was slow, very slow! I normally like to race to the top or end of something as fast as I can so taking the smallest and slowest of steps felt very strange. But, of course I trust a guide that has already summited Chimborazo 300+ times and whose PB to the top was just 4 hours, half the 8 hours recommended. The first 3 hours were quite comfortable, I spent the majority of the time thinking about my breathing and my head torch pointing down at my snow-covered boots. At 600m we reached the start of the glacier and clipped into our crampons. It wasn’t long after when things started to get tough. Trying to find grip on the soft ice took a lot more energy and the 60° gradient didn’t make it any easier. Add to that the ever-thinning air, at this point oxygen saturation was 56% less than at sea level. The higher we climbed the more we rested, and the more we rested the more temptation there was to close my eyes and take a nap in the snow. Jeremy and I are pretty sure that we snoozed off for a micro-second whilst walking a few times. 6.5 long hours after we set off from the refuge we dragged our lifeless bodies up over the last lip and on to the top of the world. The sun was coming up and the sky was painted with almost every colour imaginable. Just the three of us alone on the top of the world standing it silence, trying to take it all in. If I’m honest taking it all in was the hardest part. At the time it was very hard to do, all I remember at the time was how cold I was standing still, the temperature being well below freezing. Luckily, I have a few photos and videos to remind myself. We don’t need to talk about the 4 hours back to the refuge…the longest 4 hours of my life. So that was that, not the highest peak from sea level in the world or anywhere near the most technical climb but it still feels quite special to say I am one of the very few humans who has stood at the closest point to the sun on our little planet.