Our week of adventuring began with a 3 hour drive to a town called Riobamba, south of Quito. My main success of this journey was that I managed just under an hours conversation with our taxi driver, I have included pointing at things and saying the name in Spanish as conversation! So, we arrived at the office if our adventure agency to be assignee kit. This started with thermals and waterproofs ain 3 days and a well earned rest! d ended wiis crampons, crampon boots and an ice axe. It was at this stage I began to realise how little I had read about our adventure week and I worriee what Andy had signed us up for.
We headed out on Friday morning with our guide for the week Juan and we were met by a second guy called Leanardo who had a horse who carried our kit. The first days hiking was around 6 hours through landscape that looks incredibly similar to Scotland! We hiked up to 5000m, which was pretty tough with altitude, however we were aided by the drinking of coca tea, which has magic properties
Our guide Juan spoke pretty decent English and was able to help me with my Spanish a huge amount. Instead of letting me say it in English, he would make me say things in Spanish, then correct all of the made up words I used!
We spent the night in a refugio, which is a really basic cabin up in the mountains. As it turned out our guide is training to be a chef, so over the next few days we ate very well!
We spent Saturday morning hiking to the next refugio, where we arrived for lunch. After 2 days with Leanardo i had tried and failed to speak to him. He speaks Spanish but a slightly different dialect and my Spanish with a high number of made up words did not help. However, Saturday afternoon was my break through. I had just eaten an apple and tried to feed the core to Leanardos horse, called Conohito. This is the translation of our conversation.
Me: Your horse doesnt like apples?
Me: does your horse like carrots?
Me: in England, horses like apples and carrots
Leanardo: my horse doesnt like apples or carrots, he likes grass.
The bizarre thing is that i was really proud of this conversation!
So, the next day was the tough day. We went to bed early, ready to get up at 2am and leave at 3am. This meant the first 3 hours was hiking in the dark with head torches. This was pretty tough going as it was uneven ground and the dark means the view is fairly limited to 2m in front of you. At anout 6.30am it got light and we put on our crampons. It is worth noting by this stage the few flakes of snow that had begun as we left had become a full on blizzard. The crampon boots we had to wear i would liken to ski boots, so not the most comfy footwear.
We arrived at the summit at 7.30am, where we were met with driving snow, so we quickly began to descend to get out of the snow. If im totally honest i was not really enjoying this day at all. I was cold, wet, tired. On arrival at the summit i started crying, which actually is pretty impressive at that altitude! As we began the descend down, Leanardo took hold of my hand to walk me down, i had to actually convince him i was ok before he would ket go of my hand. I get the impression that people from his culture are a little more tough!
we made it off the mountain eventually, well by 10am actually, after 7 hours trekking. From my side there was a lot of relief in not having to walk in driving snow any longer. I have realised that i am more of a fair weather hiker, definitely not a hardcore one!
So, we got all packed up and had a very fond farewell to Leanardo and his horse Conohito, then back to our hostel for our first shower in 3 days and a well earned rest.