Pichincha integral

If you’ve spent any time in Quito you will have been aware of the old volcanic peak of Pichincha as it is the highest point close to the city and marked by the cable car which takes you on to the plateau below the summit.

It is possible to catch the cable car up Pichincha and walk for a couple of hours to reach the scramble to the summit. However offered the option of the full traverse of the volcanic ridge I wasn’t going to turn that down.

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Climbing Cayambe

It’s taken me a while to get around to writing about Cayambe. For some in our group it was their first alpine ascent, for some their first 5000m peak. So I didn’t want to take anything away from that achievement for them. It’s certainly an epic achievement, a great volcano/mountain to climb and a wicked view from the summit. There’s not many places you can climb a volcano and see others surrounding it which are still active.

But for me, it was the first guided ascent I’ve done in 6 years and reaffirmed why I hadn’t done any sooner.

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Lake Cuicocha

After a few days in Quito we headed out for acclimatisation walks and Lake Cuicocha was a beautiful place to have on the list.

We’d spent the night in Otavalo, a nearby town which was very friendly and laid back. After a morning wandering round the market and having coffee in a cafe we drove to Lake Cuicocha.

Lake Cuicocha is a 3 km wide caldera lake at the foot of Cotacachi Volcano. The name comes from the Kichwa, a variety of Quechua language and means lake of the guinea pigs – referring to the two humped islands.

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Must see places in Quito

Ecuador definitely changed my opinion of South America. It’s a vibrant and positive place which was friendly and accessible.

We used Quito as a based for our mountaineering trip but there’s plenty in the city which must be seen too. I loved having some free time to explore, especially getting off the beaten path.

Here’s some places you must seek out while in the city. Bear in mind Quito is a massive city, covering 370 square km. This means taxis can be essential to getting around.

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Tatras: Dolina Chocholowska round

I met the ridgeline and immediately got pushed back by the wind. As I braced myself I looked across to the mountains and questioned my route for the day.

Dolina Chocholowska round 26.5km

With only one day left in Zakopane to go hiking I caught the bus to Dolina Chocholowska. I’d wanted to visit this valley so I could tick off all of the major valleys in the Polish Tatras and complete another round of mountains.

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Tatras: Kosceiliska horseshoe

With low winds and amazing sunshine forecast I decided a traverse of the Tatras was in order. I’d originally planned to do this route in reverse but having not worked out the bus times to get to Kiry I opted to walk from Kuznice which is simpler and worry about how to get back on the bus later.

I’ve called this route the Koscieliska horsehorse but its a bit of a misnomer as while it is a horseshoe shape, the route traverses the 2000m mountains along the main ridge from the centre of the national park to descend into the Koscieliska valley. Nevertheless its a great route, with outstanding views.

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Gubalowka Ridge from Zakopane to Chocholow

I wanted to visit the poplar thermal baths at Chocholow and decided to run the red route across the Gubalowka ridge to get there. Whilst it was dry it was very windy so not ideal for being in the mountains so this made a great alternative.

North of Zakopane and out of the Tatras, this hill is mostly farmland and gentle rolling hills. If you’re not in the area for long it wouldn’t be on your list to do, but if you have time it’s a nice alternative to the mountains.

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Morskie Oko and over the Krzyzne pass

Everyone who heads to the Polish Tatras visits Morskie Oko as it’s a popular beauty spot. Whilst I usually look to get off the beaten track I had decided a bus ride around there would provide a great opportunity to walk back to Zakopane over the mountains.

To Morskie Oko

The walk into the Morskie Oko hut from the bus stop is a very boring 8km walk along a tarmac road. There are horse carriages but I’d opted to walk and save money, and as I was staying at the hut that night I didn’t have anything else to do that day.

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