Climbing Volcán Pasochoa – Ecuador

There are several hikes that are within reach of Quito on a day trip, but the main issue is getting to the trail-heads on public transport.  Given that I’d already climbed Rucu Pichincha last year, the one I particularly wanted to do was Volcán Pasochoa, but it seemed like it was going to be difficult or expensive to get there on my own. Plus I really would prefer not to hike by myself (I’ve been trying to find a hiking group ever since I arrived).

So imagine my elation when I saw an event for climbing Volcán Pasochoa come through one of the expat Facebook groups I’m part of.  I immediately deposited the $10 in the bank account (why doesn’t Ecuador use PayPal??!!) and was in!

Of course, the day of the hike turned out to be the worst day weather-wise since arriving in Ecuador 3 months ago.  Usually the days start out with brilliant sunshine, and then the clouds come over by about lunchtime.  But to start with rain… It didn’t bode well!

Still, at 6:30am I headed up to meeting point at the Universidad de las Américas (UDLA), hoping that by some miracle it would suddenly clear up.  I was just about to send a message to Nicolas saying I was piking and going home, but ended up sticking it out and heading off in the school bus with 10 other intrepid souls.  Turns out I’d gatecrashed the UDLA Outdoors club!

UDLA bus to take us to the trail head of Volcán Pasochoa

Yes, we went in a school bus

It took about an hour to get to the trail-head of Volcán Pasochoa, and the weather still looked pretty ordinary.

View from the start of the trail - Volcán Pasochoa

Start of the trail – Volcán Pasochoa

Nicolas started us off with a warm-up – we each had to introduce ourselves, say a little about ourselves and then choose a warm-up exercise to get our bodies prepared for hiking.  I was the only non-Latino in the group, which I get the feeling was a bit of a novelty.

Warming up - Volcán Pasochoa

Warming up and introducing ourselves

Introductions made and warm-up done, it was time to start the climb.  The first part was not very steep, though doing any form of activity at 3,200m always give the lungs and heart a good workout.

Start of the hike - Volcán Pasochoa

We passed through (squeezed through in some areas) a small forest 

Small forest - Volcán Pasochoa

and emerged to a welcoming party of cows … who were not at all keen to let us pass.  They specifically came running towards us to block our path!

Cows - Volcán Pasochoa

These cows thought they were trolls … guarding the route to the summit of Volcán Pasochoa

After negotiating half of a ladder

Obstacle - Volcán Pasochoa

the climb began in earnest though the Páramo – Ecuador’s high grasslands.

Climbing through the Páramo - Volcán Pasochoa

The weather was not improving as we climbed higher, but at least it wasn’t raining … yet!

Climbing through the Páramo - Volcán Pasochoa

The fog kept rolling across, but we could see the summit of Pasochoa when we weren’t too far away.

Summit - Volcán Pasochoa

The summit of Volcán Pasochoa is at the top of the cliff

And I was very, very happy to finally see the “classic” view of the ridge-line (at least) of the volcanic crater on our way up.

Ridge-line of the crater - Volcán Pasochoa

I can only imagine what the view must be like on a clear day … a volcanic crater that drops away suddenly with vistas to the even taller volcanoes of the region.  But I did find the fog-filled crater really compelling – moody, and very, very mysterious.   Despite not being able to see much, this view was spectacular, and made the climb totally worthwhile.

Ridge-line of the crater - Volcán Pasochoa

We had a fairly quick lunch at the summit (4,200m above sea level) as the fog socked in around us

Summit - Volcán Pasochoa

Here I am at the summit of Volcán Pasochoa. I include my location on Maps.Me, just in case you don’t believe me…

before starting the return journey.

Volcán Pasochoa

It did actually start raining on the way down, turning the already very slippery mud track into an absolute nightmare

Very muddy trail - Volcán Pasochoa

Thank goodness Páramo grass isn’t blade grass, because the only way to ensure you didn’t slip and fall was to grab handfuls of it in order to anchor yourself as you very carefully took the next step.   Of course, with the rain, the Páramo was constantly wet, which in turn froze our hands and soaked our pants to the point where we couldn’t get any colder or wetter if we tried.

Wet Páramo - Volcán Pasochoa

Despite the less-than-stellar weather, I had an awesome time with the UDLA group, and I’m trying to arrange my schedule so I can do a few more hikes with them in January.  Wish I’d found these guys 3 months ago!!

Oh – I also discovered that at least several of the group spoke good English, though we spoke in Spanish the whole day.  I did suggest at the summit that because we’d spoken Spanish all the way up, we had to speak English all the way down – but they out-voted me.   I really didn’t mind 🙂  Great practice for me and I look forward to our next adventure together!

 

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