Day 3 – Getting acclimatised

We had packed so much into our schedule that we didn’t have a lot of time to get used to the altitude we would be working in over the coming days. Quito, the capital of Ecuador and starting point of our expedition, already has an elevation of 2850 metres above sea level, making it the highest capital city in the world. To put this in perspective, Germany’s highest peak, the Zugspitze, is 2962 metres above sea level. You could say we were aiming high with this expedition! Over the next few days we would be taking samples from some of the highest glaciers in the world. The thin air at such a high altitude was sure to add an extra challenge to our work.

And so, we decided to climb Pichincha on Day 3 so we could get ourselves as acclimatised as possible. This active volcano in Quito is much taller than 4000 metres above sea level. We were literally following in the footsteps of Alexander von Humboldt, who had climbed the volcano himself 200 years before us. Unfortunately for us, the view wasn’t great that day and the rainy, windy weather meant we had to work even harder to reach the top.  But we made it! And we even managed to take a few test photos with Dirk’s camera robot. The cloudy sky may have ruined our view, but it also provided great lighting for capturing snaps of the flora and fauna.

The Pichincha is Quito's "local mountain". The active volcano has two peaks - we climb to the closer Rucu Pichincha (4696 meters).

It was good to have the chance to check our equipment again at that altitude, too. Despite underwhelming weather conditions, we were very happy with our first day in the field.

Not the best visibility, but: A view of Quito from the Rucu Pichincha
There is a lot to discover when climbing the mountain: The Chuquiragua has great symbolic power and is for the Andean mountaineer what the Alpine rose embodies for the European.


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