November 14, 2012
I decided to take teleferico cable car again, but this time I would climb Mount Rucu Pichincha. Now that I had shoes and rain gear, I was all set. I tried to get there as early as possible but with traffic and stopping to buy some water and food, I ended up on top of the cable car at 11:15am. The weather looked terrible and I knew by the sound of thunder hiking up that I had maybe an hour and half to reach the summit before all hell would break loose. Julianna had told me to make sure not to climb when it was raining because of lightening storms and rock fall. So I was fully aware.
The hike starts at 12,467 feet and travels up to the summit at 15,695 feet. Things were going great and there was very minimal route finding the first three quarters of the climb. I then reached a couple of easy rock steps and a drainage filled with scree. It was hard to see any form of trail because of the poor visibility, so I would mark the way with rcok cairns every 30 meters so I could find my way back. I traced my way through wet rock and found a path to the summit. I was in a moderate whiteout at this time and the only reason I knew it was the summit was that I could not go any higher and there was a huge sign congratualting me. I had booked it, summting in 1 hour and 45 minutes. I didnt hav emuch time to celebrate as right after I looked at my watch, I looked up and it starting hailing heavily. Within seconds, the ground was turning white, so I quickly donned my rain jacket and pants and B lined straight down to the junction with the trail.
I was a little concerend. Not because of the hail, but because of the thunder that I heard growing increasingly loud. I began to shift into survival mode and started running. I wanted to make it back down to the gondola station before the storm got any worse. The intervals of lightening and thunder were growing closer. I counted five seconds, four seconds, three seconds, two... I had to cross a section of the trail with overhanging buzzing powerlines. With the water on the ground and the power lines in sight, I booked it. I was running out of breath, so I had to slow down. I thought to myself that maybe I should have stayed put in a small rock cave when the storm had started. But then I spotted a small hut minutes from the gondola station. I ran to the hut and took a deep breath of relief. A few minutes later an Ecuadorian man who I had passed on the way down also appeared. We were both relieved and i got a chance to practice some Spanish. Good thing we made it to the hut in time as there were four times that lightening struck 5 meters from the hut. We waited for the storm to clear and then hiked back to the gondola.
Electrical storms are pretty sketchy - try to avoid them.
I headed back to meet Juliana and Joshua for diner.