We spent New Years eve asleep in a hotel in Quito. I wore my ear plugs and managed to get some rest. Explosions do not do justice to the sound the firecrackers make around the hotel compound. For days before New Years the evenings are filled with explosions. To me they sound like dynamite going off. The explosions are so loud that car alarms are set off every second burst of fireworks. Imagine a lone person walking down an empty street tossing a bomb every few steps. This is what it sounded like. Our hotel had an open courtyard where cars could drive in from a security gate and I imagine if someone was standing in the middle of the courtyard while one of these firecracker, (bombs) fell they would certainly be killed or at least wounded. The other fun thing the locals do is buy up papier-mâché dolls of local politicians or celebrities or even a custom made family member. They then burn them in the streets at New Years so the morning air smells of a burned out farm house. According to our guide this is the last year the government is allowing this practice so it's possible the explosions will also end making it easier for party poopers like climbers to sleep soundly.
January 1st 2009 we drove up to a 3900 meter camp site just below the next Volcano of Iliniza North at 5125 meters. This Volcano has a snow covered sister just to the south called Iliniza Sur and is visible to the left of the second picture. There is a Hut located farther up, (4600 meters) from the parking lot we stayed at. According to the guides it is being renovated and does not house many people as of this time. We camped in tents at the parking lot entrance. This meant we would have to climb 1225 meters the next day to reach the summit. There are some amazing pictures of Cotopaxi seen from the parking lot, (pictures 6,7,8) where it appears to float above the clouds. The air was very unstable while were in Ecuador and these pictures were taken during a short break in the clouds just at sunset.
We woke up at 3am on the 2nd of January and prepared our gear and ate some food. I tend not to eat very much in the mornings before a climb simply because of lack of appetite. We started up the trail around 4:20 am and stayed on a dirt trail until the slope became steeper, (pictures 9,10). At this point you start to get into loose gravel and the going gets slow until you come to some rock scrambles near the top. We summited at 9:45 am so it took us about 5 + hours. We made it back down slowly to the parking lot at noon, (3 hrs). Picture 16 is at the top looking out to Iliniza Sur and the remaining pictures are from the top which is quite exposed. There is plenty of room to stand but when we were on there the wind was howling very hard and it gave the impression that the entire peak was going to peel off. So I was feeling a little uneasy which is why it looks as though I am hanging on for my life at one point. The view was incredible!