Charlotte Kaufman - Ecuador

November 1, 2013

The morning of– the eyes crease open. Ugh, it’s so early maybe I should just stay in bed.

Finally got out of bed– pack the bag and got dressed. Doing these things motivate me to get going. And so I do, I walk out of the house and hop the bus to meet my fellow fellows at EIL (The Experiment’s learning center where we have our Spanish classes in Quito). I am meeting them on Saturday because today, we decided to hike Pichincha, the beautiful summit that towers over Quito with snowy peaks. We had to wait a few weeks before doing it in order to acclimatize, but we finally organized a group and set a time to go.

We leave from EIL– We do so in groups of 4, because we have to take taxis to the top of the teléférico (the gondola that will boost us to the second half of the mountain). It is so warm in the taxi. We are all snuggled together, with our gear ready to go. It is so tempting to just sit in this warm taxi with a view over Quito and never get out, but within the next twenty minutes, we get onto the teléférico. It’s another moment of suspension, before the climb. We feel the air slowly becoming less easy to grasp as we inch higher and higher.

Then we are there– Already so high, but determined to get to the top. The first few steps are easy because I am astounded by the view and as I see the other members of the group walk, I am urged to do the same. After 10 minutes, we reached the first plateau. We stop to take pictures. When we return to the climb, reality starts setting. I know that I will need to trek for another few hours. I just don’t feel like doing it. Somehow though, I keep moving and as the hours pass, the peak becomes more distinct.

The final section– I am in the clouds. I cannot see more then ten feet ahead of me and I am dragging my heavy feet through sand in the cold. For every step I take forward, I feel like I fall back three. Still, turning around is no longer an option. The feel of the jagged rock on my frigid hands is comforting because I know it means I am on the peak. I simply need to scramble up a couple dozen feet and I will have done it.

Arrived– being 15,696 feet high is an indescribable feeling. I feel like jumping and screaming. I feel an overwhelming sense of companionship among my peers who summited alongside me. I feel like I have accomplished something bigger than myself. And, when the clouds clear at the perfect moment, revealing all of Quito, I realize how incredibly lucky I actually am. I am here, I am now and I am on top of the world, ready to soak it all in.

Charlotte Kaufman