"Oso! Como estas?" ---- "Bear! How are you?" "Bien." ---- "Good." "Chino! Como estas?" ---- "Chinaman! How are you?" "Bien." ---- "Good." "Vamos!" ---- "Let's go!"
And so it went for our 7 hour ascent, until we reached the Cotopaxi summit (5897m, 19,347 ft).
Apologies for the anticlimax, but frankly there isn’t tons and tons to report. I mean, normally, I’d try to add a little spice with the typical climber’s “and there I was…” sort of introduction, but when one is a guided client, the entire point is to avoid said “and there I was…” situations.
Oh, of course life has a way of always interesting. A few vignettes…
… such as yours truly coming down with a head cold and fever the night before the climb, resulting in much phlegm, coughing, general misery, more or less nullification of any acclimatization preparation, a slower-than-normal but still not-too-shabby pace (normal pace is 6 hours to summit), and a still clogged ear that has me screaming “what? what?” constantly, much to the annoyance of my friends
… such as having the distinct pleasure of being tied in with my friend the Falconer, who adopted the nickname “el oso” along with me as “el chino” to make things easier for our guide Miguel, and the distinct displeasure of having to tie in with Captain Kilimanjaro, aka the guy who kept name dropping all the mountains he had attempted to climb in the past (unsuccessfully, I might add), aka the guy who asserted that Missouri and Chicago were quite close to each other and that most of America was “pretty flat”, aka the guy who literally could not go 30 seconds without spouting off yet another inanity, aka quite possibly the most annoying person south of the Equator, aka the guy I yelled at on the way down because his lack of preparation and abundance of ego meant he didn’t turn around when the guides suggested he do so, which resulted in a super slow descent down a blazing hot snowfield (sounds weird, but try standing in a room full of mirrors pointed at you when the sun is overhead while wearing your warmest snow clothes and you’ll soon figure out what I mean), which resulted in yours truly getting sunburned and dehydrated unnecessarily
… such as seeing climbing legend Fred Beckey in the same hut and talking to his climbing partner Amar from Connecticut, and realizing that at any given moment, no matter where you are on the planet, John Peterson’s presence can and will be felt. (For those of you non-climbing history geeks aka pretty much everyone reading this, an Fred Beckey is a living legend; a pioneer of our sport, still going strong at 83 years of age. An analagous situation would have been if Eddy Merckx dropped in on your local bike ride, or if Pele wanted to play some pickup soccer at your high school fields, or if you went to get some extra help with your calculus homework and you showed up at the tutoring office, and the entire Mission Control from Apollo 13 was there just for you, but you get the point.)
… such as finally reaching the summit that smells like New Jersey (turns out sulfrous fumes emanating from a volcanic crater and the Meadowlands smell pretty much the same — home sweet home!), clouds beneath you, and other gigantic peaks peeking, pokingingly through — Cayambe, Antisana, Rumiñahui, the Illinizas, Norte and Sur. Surrealism lived.
Anyhow, we came, we climbed, and it was good.