Last month I was lucky enough to be one of the 44 participants chosen to take part in a challenge of a lifetime climbing Mt. Cotopaxi, a 5,897m high ice capped active volcano in Ecuador all to raise funds and awareness for our 3 Charity Partners: Alzheimer’s Society, Mind, and Prostate Cancer UK.
The preparation was pretty intense – on day 2 we walked 9 hours at altitude into a driving wind and camped overnight at 4,000m in the wind and lashing rain. That was followed by climbing the 4,750m peak of Mt. Ruminahui on day 4, which involved a seriously scary final ascent to the summit rock on which only two could stand at once (to stare down at the 2,000m vertical drop the other side).
None of that prepared us for the final night’s ascent of Cotopaxi. This involved a 1,100m vertical ascent through the night in extreme cold due to the wind chill, climbing in crampons, ice pick in hand, up a glacier only to be greeted at the top by acid rain and sulphurous fumes!
As I reflect on the journey, here are 2 things I will take away from the experience forever:
- Everyone has a story to tell. I am inspired by the other participants who took part in the challenge. Hearing the stories of why we had all chosen to take part during the training walks was one of the most enjoyable things on the journey – particularly from those who had personal connections to the charitable causes. For me it highlighted how much we can learn from one another if we take the time to connect and share our stories with others.
- We are all capable of more than we first think. The challenge was equal parts physically and mentally draining, and there were many moments when I thought the exhaustion would get the better of me and I would throw in the towel. The important thing I learnt was to just take one small step at a time … small bits of progress soon and up to a big achievement, and before you know it a campsite is in sight, where a comforting cup of apple and cinnamon tea is waiting.
I’ll happily admit this was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done – but hands down one of the most rewarding too!