Cuenca Part I (Cojitambo)

by kelseyjphotography

Hello Hello,

I can’t believe it has been a whole week since we have last spoken.  And what a whirlwind week.  I am going to break up my posts a bit, so over the next few days you will get to enjoy some of my Cuencano Adventure!

First up was the brewery, the one and ONLY place you can find a Stout in ALL of Ecuador.  In downtown Cuenca, very colonial (1500’s) was this tiny place called, La Compania Brewhouse.  It is a local Gringo hangout and we had a good time.  If you ever go, don’t get the nachos, it was literally a chip and the Guacamole, it was more Mayo with maybe a slice of Avocado, so a heads up, skip that!

But now onto my Favorite part of today’s post.  COJITAMBO.  The one thing I have been dying to do was go rock climbing at least once in the 3 months while I have been here.  I got the chance!!!! And I didn’t just get to go rock climb, I went to the #1 place for climbing in ALL of Ecuador, better than Banos in the Jungle, and better than the Cajas National Park (there will be a post on the Cajas later).  30 minutes outside of Cuenca is a small town (also known for their rock quary) called Cojitambo.  A somewhat tribal town with the indiginous mountain people, high above Cuenca which we know is at 9500 ft in elevation, this was higher.  The mountain of Cojitambo is 110 routes ranging from climbing levels 5.4 (really really easy) – 5.14 (you pull yourself up with the strength of your pinky finger).

To get to the base of the mountain we first had to trek (not just hike) about an hour up and over up and up (not down and up), huffing and puffing (thank you costal living), legs on fire, I don’t know that I am going to be worth anything before we even start….hike.

Our guide was Juan, a professional guide for over 30 years, not just in climbing but moutaineering, ice climbing, and several other adventurous sports!  I was surely in good hands. He even has climbed El Capitan in Yosemite like 4 times!  My partner was a girl named Lisa, from Germany.  She was really awesome, she climbs back home and was here in Cuenca studying for a month the effect of influx with the ex-pats here in Cuenca since 2009-2012 (a jump of 200 ex-pats to 2000 in just four years).

Now I don’t know exciting this will be for most of you reading so I will do my best in explaining how much of a big deal this is for me and why I am so excited!  The climb I did with Juan and Lisa was my first outdoor 5.10a-5.10b climb (that is a fairly advanced climb and there are not a lot of foot holds…just have to trust your toes!).  A side note: my fingers felt like the prints on them had disappeared because of holding the rocks as much as I could grasp them.  It not only was my first outside 5.10, but it was also my first Multipitch climb as well (and not to mention the fact I haven’t climbed in about 4 months since being here)!  That means that one rope length is 1 pitch, I climbed 3 of those totaling 350 feet or approx. 30 stories high. Ahh, I am getting excited all over again just thinking about it!!  It was intense.  There were points in the climb when I would just look at the rock and be like, “now how do I hold on to this flat (no bumps) rock and climb up it?”  Somehow I managed, with a lot of problem solving and thinking I slowly and consistantly made my way to the second pitch.  The 1st half was a killer, my legs were shaking, my toes were holding on to what seemed like nothing, and my fingers well I don’t know how they managed, but they did.  I finally made it to the belay station, and we were standing on a tiny ledge (we were bolted in, so don’t worry).  We then climbed our way to the second belay station, that was a more relaxed climb, still intense but there were a few more foot holds than just the flat surface slab.  And then the finale….our hands were shaking, our legs felt like jello and we pulled ourselves to the top of the mountain!  I DID IT!

A lot of firsts and to say the least…in Ecuador!  I could not have asked for a better experience.  An amazing day of climbing, we climbed for a solid 8 hours straight and we were rewarded with a nice chicken sandwhich and a small bag of Chifles (my new favorite chip)!

Here are a few photos of the view from up top and a few of when we were halfway though the climb at the belay station.  Enjoy 🙂

PS – it was freezing so after we got down I bundled in: leggings, gauchos, a cami, a long sleeve, a T-shirt, a heavy fleece lined hoody, and to top it all of with another fleece lined ski jacket.  No judging on the fashion statement haha (when one only packs for the coast).