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Cotopaxi is a perfect cone is visible from far away, tempting potential climbers.  Most people go by car half way up the mountain, sleep in the hut at 4800m and climb the remaining 1100m at night.  I decided to start from the base of Cotopaxi.  I was dropped off by taxi at 5pm near Laguna Limpioponga 3880m, and it took me 6 hours to get to the hut.  On the way it was so windy and cold that I started to worry about not having adequate clothing and boots.  When I saw about 15 other climbers getting ready to climb in the hut, roping up, wearing plastic boots and dawn jackets, I started to panic.  I staffed my pants with anything I could find, wrapped plastic bags around my boots, put crampons on and set off at 1am.  The first few hundred meters went well, despite strong wind and rain.  Later it changed into snow and I was beginning to struggle.  I was climbing slowly, knowing that there were a few people behind me, so I was not the last one.  But when I turned around I couldn´t see any lights below, I realized they went back.  I kept going up and checking the altitude every time I stopped.  Another 10 or 20 meters only, and it felt like 100m.  I thought I had no chance to get to the top, the altitude and tiredness was taking it´s toll.  I just wanted to get as far as I could.

The sky was begining to change color in the east, so at least I didn´t have to worry about the cold for much longer.  I passed some beautiful ice formations and was only about 300m below the top.  Well, at 5600m I already felt very weak and could manage no more than 10 slow steps at a time.  A group of people ahead already reached the summit and were coming back.  "Keep going, you´re not far now!" they said.  I knew I had to make it.  At 7am I finally arrived at the top, where 2 other climbers greeted me with smiles.  But I was so exhausted I though I was dying!

Of course I still had to make it back, and I know it´s just as difficult as going up.  I had to be quick because strong tropical sun melts ice, but I was forced to rest every 20m or so.  My legs simply refused to cooperate.  When I got back to the hut I had a sandwich and some hot water to drink and I felt better.  Another 3 hours walking down and I was picked up by the same driver who brought me there the day before.  I looked back at the huge cone of Cotopaxi and realized I just spent 20 hours walking and climbing.  Once again, this fantastic feeling of satisfaction and achievement was enough to justify the pain I put myself through.