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Mountaineers highlight peaks of Ecuador

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Southern living continues as the theme for the Los Alamos Mountaineers’ March presentation. Following February’s presentation of a trip to Antarctica, March features a talk on a trek to the high, volcanic peaks of Ecuador, in a travel tale told by Kelly Gallagher and Don Krier.
The presentation will be 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Fuller Lodge. The talk follows the business portion of the Mountaineer’s meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.
Ecuador features the greatest concentration of volcanoes in the world, rising between its coastal areas and inner rain forests. The spectacular glaciated peaks of Cotopaxi (19,348 feet), located in the Ecuadorian Andes, offer exciting and accessible high-altitude mountaineering. Cotopaxi — an active volcano with more than 50 eruptions in the past 275 years, the most recent in 1940 — lies on a long and narrow Andean valley surrounded by high volcanoes. Naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt said: “Cotopaxi’s shape is the most beautiful and regular of all the colossal peaks in the high Andes. It is a perfect cone covered by a thick blanket of snow...”
Beautiful though it may be, Cotopaxi’s elevation makes it a challenge. Gallagher recalls thinking she could not make the summit, as the cold and darkness (the climb was at night) pushed her to her limit. Krier said Gallagher showed great resilience and rallied in time for the final push to the summit, and the reward of a beautiful, clear sunrise.
The couple made their trip to Ecuador in late December 2013, starting in Quito and spending time acclimating to altitude before climbing Cotopaxi and three other volcanic peaks: Rucu Pichincha (15,413 feet), Guagua Pichina (15,692 feet) and Illiniza Norte (16,818 feet).
“Our goal, besides visiting a new country and having fun, was to gain mountaineering experience, especially at relatively high elevations,” Gallagher said. She and Krier will describe their acclimatization efforts and ice training, and share a bit of Ecuadorian travelogue, from the Indian markets to the hapless, but tasty cuy.
The Los Alamos Mountaineers, founded in 1952, promotes a variety of outdoor-oriented activities. For information on the Mountaineers and upcoming trip opportunities, including skiing, hiking, biking and horse-packing, visit lamountaineers.org.