Pichincha is an active stratovolcano just west of Quito. It consists of two peaks, Guagua Pichincha, the active caldera with the last eruption in 1999, and Rucu Pichicha which is inactive.
Our hike to Rucu Pichincha began by taking the teleferico, equivalent to a gondola, to the starting point of the hike at ~12,700 feet. On this day the sky was relatively clear giving us some fantastic views of Quito. Although, at this point, the path was pretty clear, free of rocks, once we hit ~13,500 feet I needed to take some serious deep breaths during the more steep climbs. At about~14,000 feet the trail got more narrow with some more steep drop offs on the side.
We hit a point where the path required some simple rock climbing. I say simple, as it would be the case for most people, but given that I am afraid of heights, if at any point I slipped, I would have rolled down the side of this rocky mountain. To me, the hike became unenjoyable and I still wanted to return home and play with Annika. Julia, of course was perfectly fine but very understanding and when I mentioned turning around she was perfectly fine with it.
According to the map we were somewhat close to the crater of Rucu but given the steep climb at altitude, this could have taken us an hour or so to complete. We ran into 2 people suffering from altitude sickness. At our highest point, ~14,300 feet, we hit what seemed like the spine of the mountain, where if you faced east you looked down upon Quito, and if you faced west you looked down upon the cloud forest and eventually the ocean. Unfortunately the clouds obscurred our view west. Facing north or south you see volcano alley, with other volcanic peaks dotting the skyline.
Oh well...better luck next time if there is one.
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