Climbing Rucu Pichincha near Quito.
19.01.2013 - 19.01.2013 19 °C
This was the daddy of all telefericos I had taken in all of South America. We travelled to the La Gasca area in the West of Quito to catch the teleferico, which transported us from circa 2900 m up to 4000m. Quite a jump in altitude, it is significantly colder at the top that at the bottom. The air reminded me of that at Laguna Quilatoa or La Paz. Thin, thin, thin. The teleferico was a nice change from some of the belts and braces contraptions I have seen running (the recent teleferico to the Mindo waterfalls springs to mind). French built.
From the point of departure of the Teleferico we began the climb up to the peak of Rucu Pichincha. The walk (sometimes really climbing) up was really enjoyable, and we kept getting glimpses of Quito.
We made quite quick time on the way up, passing a number of people on the way including one chap who looked like he had all his worldly possessions on his back. People inconveniencing themselves in a big way like that always interest me. It must have been a fair struggle to the summit with that gear. There is the other extreme as well. Seeing plenty of people attempting to climb this moderate but high altitude mountain in tight jeans, sandals, loafers or club clothes does make you wonder. On our return from the summit, one guy stopped and asked us ´how long to the top?´. A shirt, jeans, and loafers. Where was he off to. A summit disco? I told him about and hour, hour and a half. I wondered would he ever make the top dressed like he had just come from a club or off a yacht. Perhaps he was aiming for maximum convenience, he just could pop out on the town after his trot to the summit, without the need to shower or change, lynx in hand. Tyler and Lucy saw him in the line for the teleferico soon after us, therefore he didn´t make it to or near the summit. I mean, what exactly did he expect. Another chap from Denmark we were chatting to at the summit seemed insistent on running down the mountain slipping and sliding the whole way down, as if being pulled all the way down by his thighs attached to an invisible impatient German shepard. I saw him fall twice on his arse, he must have fallen lots of times. He seemed relaxed and easygoing on the summit. Lots of daylight left, expensive camera on his front, I just thought......´strange´, that one.
Me and Tyler
Me and Lucy, and a bloody hand which we found hilarious at the time
The view of Quito and the surrounds from the summit of Rucu Pichincha is smashing. It is cold on the summit, winds whipping. The other peaks of the Pichincha Range like Guagua Pichincha, Padre Encantado and Condor Guachaman can also be seen. We relaxed and enjoyed the moment after the climb. We posed under the stupidly helpful sign.
Apparently the Ecaudorian government is considering making it mandatory for guides to need to be hired to climb the mountain, particularly the trickier rock face climb to the summit. Total rubbish. Moving carefully, slowly and sensibly anyone with coordination and common sense can climb this mountain. I didn´t need any specialised gear (trekking boots and decent clothes to climb in excepted), so why should I need a guide to lead me up a mountain? Some mountains of course a guide is needed, without question if you have little or no real mountaineering experience (me pretty much) and/or require the use of specialised equipment (crampons or ice picks etc). Me and Tyler followed our friend Lucy to the top, she had climbed it many times before. But that doesn´t change the fact that me and Tyler could have managed fine without Lucy. Why should I have to pay lots of money to do something I can do myself armed with my own arms, legs, shoes, and common sense. Yes, it is a horrible thing when someone falls of a mountain or gets killed climbing one such as Rucu Pichincha, but many times this happens because the person was negligent or started operating (or didn´t recognise) way outside their comfort zone and experience.
Mountains ARE dangerous, always have been, obviously that`s the attraction to a greater or lesser extent. As Geroge Mallory allegedly replied to the question "Why do you want to climb Mount Everest", "Simply because it is there". They always have been, always will be. He later died on that, the greatest of our home`s mountains, exactly proving nor disproving anything, except that mountains simply are. People will always get injured or killed so long as they are being climbed. But the idea of imposing mandatory guides on a mountain like Rucu Pichincha is ridiculous. Resonable climbing and walking thousands of feet up is within most adults comfort zone (or slightly outside of it). Therefore ok, not something to be mandatorily monetised. Lucy has climbed the mountain over 40 times, should she be told she needs a guide to climb it? Rubbish.
But the reasoning does swing both ways. A lot comes down to people knowing their own limits. If you are really unfit, have not acclimatised to the altitude, have bad legs, or are terrified of heights, well, don´t climb mountains like this; something bad might happen. Common sense. Seeing people climb up the really steep, alternate loose rock route to the summit was interesting (the one with ´Pasa de la Muerte´ - Death Pass, we took the gentler but longer route). Lucy said it is very easy to get lost there. Many from what I could see were `kitted out` in their running shoes, t-shirts and shorts. Easy on the equipment folks, never mind the winds, altitude, or immeadiately apparent danger of the route. Laughing and joking, no impression of any experience between them or any realisation of how potentially treacherous that route was. One look at that climb makes you think ´Hmmm, there`s one that really should not be climbed without specialist gear or unless you really know what you are doing´, but yet on they go, an unfortunate accident waiting to happen. Three people were killed on this mountain last year. Climbing such a route on nothing more than a whim, without gear or expericene is ignorant and shows a total lack or respect for the mountain.
Ecuadorian Government, please don`t legislate to make this beautiful mountain guide-only. It is ridiculous. You can´t legislate against nature or for common sense. Perhaps ensuring people have the right gear and a low-down of the dangers would be more appropriate. Disco stus, stupid tourists, and fast-running impatient Danish chaps, please don`t give it a reason to do something ridiculous....
I want a better camera soon.