Illiniza Norte

First and foremost it is a great privilege and opportunity to be a guest writer on the blog I am the luckiest brother to have family like Caitlin and Alex.

Of all the days here in Quito Saturday was the earliest, Alex and I got up at 5 trying not to wake Caitlin’s peaceful slumber, even though the Chivas were still out and about. A Chivas is esecially a party bus for Fiestas de Quito. With a few eggs for protien and some delicious fresh squeezed orange juice from the Megamaxi we headed down the street to meet up with Eric and Dave fellow teachers of Caitlin and Alex, also avid hikers.

A 1.5 hour drive got us to the town of Chaupi just of the highway from Quito. From there we started off on a dirt road, forded two streams and found ourselves at a dirt parking lot at approximately 4000 meters. This was to be our trailhead. Our destination, Iliniza Norte, the northern peak of a huge ancient volcano.

The trailhead with Iliniza Sur on the Left and Iliniza Norte on the right.
We left the car around 8:30 am. Eric is like 6’6” and Dave has been acclimatizing for the past 5 years so Alex and I brought up the rear taking in some amazing sights on our trek up to the Refuge, our halfway point at 4785 meters.
At the Refuge we met a couple other climbers as well as a concessions operator who offered us soup, tea, water and many other snacks. The Refuge is a stones through from the saddle between Iliniza Norte and Iliniza Sur. From here we could see down into the ancient Volcan crater which today holds an emerald green glacier fed pond.
The lake.
Let me reflect, this morning at 5am we woke up to a soggy situation with bleak hope for the weather today. Luckily by the time we got to the trailhead the streets had dried and the clouds had burned off…mostly. Throughout the hike we were given windows of opportunity to view the peak we were climbing as well as Iliniza Sur and Cotopaxi (next weeks hike for Alex and the crew).
The latter half of the summit trail was a direct route up the eastern spine filled with sections of loose sulfur rich gravel/scree, and rock scrambles with up to 6′ fairly vertical walls to crawl up. This trail lead around false peaks and steep drop offs. Most of this section we were blessed with decently clear skies, once and a while we were given a glimpse of Iliniza Sur, a snow capped technical glacier climb topping off at 5,248 meters.
The crew, on the spine during a small break where we met a German girl who graduated high school from Platteville, WI. Iliniza Sur in the background.
The summit was crowned by an iron cross and will be the highest peak Alex and I have climbed. 5,128 meters, roughly 16,800 feet.
The summit. Left to right Eric, Iron Cross, Alex, and Dave.
The scree route is the fastest way down, take one step and you slide one more. I would like to think the softness of the scree saved the knees a little. Here Eric is decending the scree route. Above and just right of Eric is a small hill, above that hill is a cloud, between the hill and the cloud somewhere our car is parked.
According to the new pedometer Alex got from his mom we walked 8.7 miles for 18,547 steps. Calculating in 1,126 meters we conquered one heck of a hike.
The chant of bacon cheeseburger alleviated some of the pain we felt in our legs throughout the hike. Dave did not hold anything back as he talked up a restaurant now famous for its bacon cheeseburger. About a half hour drive from the trailhead we stopped for these amazing burgers, we didn’t even open the menu.
The restaurant building.
I think this picture of Alex expresses how good the burger was and how excited we were to eat it.
The ten days here and around Quito have been fantastic. An amazing countryside surrounded by mountain ranges with snow capped peaks and deep river cut valleys. The kind of culture that influenced me to walk for miles around town seeing different streets and meeting unique store owners. The mountains are just as amazing as the City itself, and if I may be a salesman, Alex and Caitlin have found an amazing apartment with a view that would cost a fortune in the States, best of all they have two spare bedrooms so we can all come visit.
The best brother-in-law a guy could ask for. The best sister a brother could have. Thanks for letting me visit your wonderful home and thanks for letting me guest write.
Love you both,
David O’Neal
p.s. this blog thing is not easy, I have a new found respect for all the work they do.

2 thoughts on “Illiniza Norte

  1. The picture of the lake is really cool. It looks like a black and white photo except for the water itself.

    Thanks for the nice hike description.

    Alex's mom


  2. well David, I'l agree the blog thing isn't easy, but it makes it a lot easier when you have something awesome to write about. I'm looking forward to exploring some of Ecuador myself here in a few weeks. The hike looks awesome!


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