This was the day that I won’t forget since it was a freezing day to wake up from. A very cold day waking up at 5:00 AM in order to get ready for the 6:30 AM pickup at the guest house. One good thing about traveling with Intrepid is about finding out each other’s interests. Well, on this part of the trip, everyone unanimously elected to go climbing this volcano so we were all together for this one and helped each other out by gear-checking each other to make sure everyone had enough water and food since this was not provided by the travel agency. We also made the decision to take the ski lift to cut the time in climbing the volcano because without it, it would take another hour or so. We didn’t want that. We wanted to get to the top and back down as fast as possible.
Once the van came by, we all went back to the travel agency to put on our gear since the drive to the volcano was not that far away. There was a lot of gear that we’re putting on: top and bottoms for snow coverings, boots, helmet, ice pick, cramps for climbing the glacier/rocks, backpack, mittens, and gaiters (to prevent snow in getting in the shoes/socks). Mind you that this was not including the inner layers that people had on underneath this. Once everyone was geared up, we got loaded on the van and off we go as the sun was barely rising in the sky. Off to the ski lift and then it was real climbing from then on.
This climb was a painful one, reminding me of the hiking trip to Machu Picchu but with more technical pains involved. I don’t know why but I forgot to tape my heels to prevent any kind of blisters. My boots gave me some major problems every time I lifted my feet to climb upwards as they were brand new so the heels got this trapped, pinching feeling and they were heavy as well so climbing was tiring and difficult. What made it worse were 2 things: the first was the cold and altitude. The higher we climbed, the more the cold and altitude put pressure on us climbers to work harder. Everything at sea level is easy but not so easy when it’s upwards. Gravity fights back and the ice and snow can make it worse. The second issue was wearing these ice cleats once we reached a certain point. The hiking guides determined that it was going to get pretty icy and snowy mixed with the rocky, difficult-to-climb conditions so they made things different as well as walking anywhere was made more awkward.
Despite all the issues, I fought through it all – the pain, the cold, and the sweat. I didn’t want to complain so I just kept going at it. Sure, there were breaks here and there which recharged my batteries but once you stop, the cold starts attack you and what made everything worse was the sweating. I was over-heating with all those layers but I was drenched with perspiration and that wind and cold have no discrimination about making you shiver down to your bones. I found that 10-15 minutes of a break was long enough before I would start to freeze myself to death.
I tried to enjoy the view as I walk by but sometimes when you’re damn tired, you cannot really afford to look.
And before I knew it, we were at the top of the volcano! We made it! In fact, everyone in our group made it! We made the climb at 12 o’clock noon and we spent several minutes to take pictures and enjoy the accomplishment of doing it. I even brought a bottle of Gatorade for everyone to share which would have been the champagne version of it.
After doing what we had to do, we started to descend. There was no point being there as it was starting to get cold again but more importantly, I saw why we had to go anyway. The weather was starting to get worse by becoming very cloudy, very windy, and even snowing. This was going to force other climbers on their way to the summit to abandon resting at all and to continue on the climb. Because if they don’t, people could get lost which would have been a very bad thing. Even our own guides knew what was going on and advised us to speed up going downhill so we didn’t get lost somewhere or someone happened to slip in the abyss downhill.
Trying to go down fast while climbing down was difficult at certain times. I even fell once but utilized the method that was taught to me to save my fall and to prevent myself from complete dropping all the way down the volcano. But for the most part, going downhill was so much easier to do. Once we got to a certain point, we took off the spikes and pulled out a mini plastic slide pad to go sliding down-hill. I had a lot of fun on this part especially on very long downhill sections. And yes, I spun out of control and crashed several times doing it.
By the time we reached the bottom, it was snowing hard. I felt bad for those still on the volcano since at least I could wait in a van with the heater running on. That’s why I was so glad that we took the ski lift to cut time on the ascend. The money was well the price! Once everyone was assembled back on the van, it was back to the tourist office to turn in our wet and smelly gear. Good thing they wash their stuff after every use (I saw their laundry machines in the back running).
What was interesting at the end was that they gave us this nifty certificate or diploma saying that we successfully climbed the volcano. Apparently, not everyone gets to the summit.
Oh, I was so tired that once I got back to the guest house, I took a shower and changed clothes and then went to take a nap. I was having some muscle pains so before I left the tourist office, I signed up for a hot springs tour. I wanted to reduce inflammation by dunking myself in some hot springs (termas), spending about 2 hours there. I felt a hell of a lot better once I came back even though it was at 12 AM midnight even managing to get in a cold shower. That’s when I realized that I would only get to sleep in 4 hours just so I could get up at 6 AM to wake up early to make the early bus on time with the rest of the group. Great another bus trip coming up. Another zip-zip trip.
Politur Travel and Adventure was the name of the travel agency for climbing and I thought they did a great job getting me and my traveling companions to the top.