Friday, September 08, 2006

Cotopaxi - the highest active vulcano in the World.

Ready for the climb.
Originally uploaded by Henrik & Barbara.
The volcanoes in Ecuador are present almost in every direction you look. The highest active volcano in the World, Cotopaxi with its 5.897 meters, is sited 50 km from Latacunga. Fortunately it is not very active at the moment, so we hired a guide along with two other tourists, and began the trip up the volcano by car through the Andean nature. Cotopaxi is located in the middle of a huge National park and on the way we did a few stops, both to admire the nature – but also because we needed to acclimatize because of the altitude.
The goal of the trip was to reach the edge of the glacier approximately in 4.850 meters altitude (the same height as Mont Blanc!)

The forces that have created this and other volcanoes are enormous. Cotopaxi and other volcanoes of the Andean mountains were formed as the Nazca plate from the Eastern Pacific slides under the South American plate. In this process rocks heats up and expands, and the free flowing rocks and material is what we know as the lava. Materials mixed with gas and which are ejected from the crater these are called pyroclastic products and these includes bombs, lapilli and ash.
The latest big eruption destroyed Latacunga. It took 45 minutes from the start of the eruption to the lava reached Latacunga 50 km. from the crater…

The actual climb started at 4.500 meters and ended near the refuge at 4.800 meter. At first it doesn’t sound like much – only 300 meters! How hard can it be…? But imagine that the amount of oxygen in the air you breathe is low, you walk in deep volcanic dust and it feels like you are walking up vertically, then 300 meters is a lot! We used about one tough hour to reach the goal, and the prize was a stunning view! Not even the pictures we took can illustrate the magnificence of the panorama view. The Andes spread beneath us in every direction – as long as the eye could reach. From the drive we knew that wild cows, wild horses and herds of Lamas was grassing way beneath us – but from were we stood - in that height - we could see nothing but the great mountainous landscape - and the eagle sitting on the top near us.

After a well deserved lunch, we continued the trip a little longer, until we reached the edge of the huge glacier covering the whole top of the volcano. The glacier begins in 4.850 meters, which is where our trip ended. It was amazing to see the contrast between the white glacier, the blue sky and the bare brown and reddish colours of the volcanic mountain.

On our way down, our guide, the Frenchman and the Dutchman went ahead of us and out of sight, this gave us a feeling that we where the only two people on the mountain in complete silence with no wind moving.
This is the kind of moments that makes you feel very lucky.

Our next destination will be Baños where we will have even better opportunities to observe the active volcanoes…. Baños got evacuated a couple of weeks ago because of an angry volcano, but it should have cooled down now. Lets see...


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