Just 2 years ago, Tungurahua was in volcanic activity and erupted. The idea of climbing it was out of the question back then but today its accessible to visitors and climbers. Its name comes from the Quechua language and it means “Throat of Fire”. As Ecuador’s ninth highest peak at 5,023m, the climb is usually done in 2 days but my friends and I decided to give it a shot in 1 day.
The climb begins by Pondoa, just before reaching Baños (about 2.5 hours from Quito). Be well prepared to carry the essentials for bad weather (waterproof jacket and pants, gaiters, hiking boots, headlamp, plenty of water, etc.). The climb begins with a humid and muddy terrain that is steep and it took us about 2 hours to reach the refugio. Most people sleep over at the refugio and continue the climb the next day.
This refugio is pretty much abandoned and does not have the facilities like the Cotopaxi refugio. Although there was drinkable water there and it helped a lot. After a 15 minute break, we continued the actual climb to the top. Its very steep and sandy (we call it arenal) with lots of loose rocks. It seemed endless but you have to take it slowly, step by step. Sara and Brittany took the lead with other people and Hernan and I stayed behind at our own pace. After a while, it became impossible to see them with all the fog.
For moments I felt that I was too tired to continue but we took short breaks for snacks and water to get some more fuel and kept going. As mentioned before, there are lots of loose rocks so it’s important to wear a helmet in the “arenal” section. This is a serious climb, especially if you do it in one day. It’s a climb that gets very mental as you have to motivate yourself and others to continue.
As Hernan and I were reaching the top, we saw some people coming down and Brittany and Sara were super relieved to see us. They turned back with us to see the crater but it was foggy so we couldn’t really see it. We took some photos and we started to descend. I was super tired but happy to reach the crater (we couldn’t continue to the summit (about 30 more mins) as it was getting late.
After a few minutes of descending, it started clearing up completely and I told Hernan that we had to go back to see the crater. The girls continue descending. When we reached the crater it’s when I knew that all the pain and suffering of the climb had been worth it. I climb mountains not only because I’m passionate about them, but because it makes me feel more alive. Seeing that crater was a beautiful moment that I will always remember. If it was easy to climb with mountain, more people will do it. But it definitely pushed me to my limits, almost as much as my first big climb of Cayambe.
The descent was brutal, especially for the knees. The climb down after the refugio was the most painful and challenging one for me, as my legs were burned out and we had to climb in the dark with headlamps. Another volcano, another goal. 10.5 hours of climbing in one day. The pain was worth it but I don’t think I’ll climb Tungurahua in the near future. Maybe next time it’s better to climb it in 2 days and make it to the main summit.