Every semester we hike Pichincha with the students. (Of course it's a completely optional activity since we are hiking up so high in altitude.) At the beginning of the trek I'm never totally sure whether I want to go and the hike gets steep pretty much immediately. This time I wasn't planning on doing the whole hike as we typically have to take a group back once they reach the cave (pictured right below) (or even before sometimes) because they know they won't make it to the top. 

 

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Bryan and I were supposed to be in "Team Despacio," as we lovingly call it but when we reached the cave one of our RCs was having some stomach trouble and asked me to switch places and head to the top with the team who had been resting and eating and were ready to go. I quickly shoved some food down my throat, guzzled water and off we went to the top.

 

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(Me, Annie, and Lauren)

The weather was great in that it wasn't too sunny but it also wasn't too cold or raining. However that also meant that the mountain views were totally fogged in. But trek along we did and sure enough we eventually made it to the top! I got to stick pretty closely to a student who kept losing her balance on the rocks and it was fun to partner with her and get to know her through that experience.

 

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Even though I'm not sure that I want to do the 8-hour hike when we start, I always end up appreciating the time. There is nothing quite like walking slowly and steadily alongside someone to begin to build relationship and have conversation. It's a very physical representation of what I often do later in my office with some of them. Something about coming back down the mountain too just makes conversations start. It might have to do with the giant sand slide that we catapult down, thigh high in sand and going full speed hoping to not lose balance, once we are past the shale at the top.

 

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I really appreciated the group dynamics with this particular group. They were so encouraging of one another. No one was pushing to get to the top or especially to get there first. They waited patiently and gently spoke encouragement to those who were fearful of crossing a certain rock or scaling a height.

 

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