January 16th, 6:30 a.m. I woke up the morning of the climb feeling sick. After being pulled out of bed at sunrise by my always well-meaning, if not a little over-bearing, host father, I found myself slinking back to the refuge of my covers less than twenty minutes later with a acidic pool of caf̩ con azucar now weighted against my stomach. As I contemplated the state of well-being that my stuffed nose and dully aching head left me in, the irrational impression that if I did not attempt Cotopaxi today, I never would, overruled any notion of common sense that I might have had. I threw everything that seemed vital into my backpack, and headed out the door.

January 16th, 7:30 p.m. I perched my chin on my friend Lucas’s shoulder as we wove through the darkness of the Ecuadorean countryside in a heavy-duty SUV. Fabio, our guide for the trek, sat stoic and unwavering in the driver’s seat; he was an island of calm in the midst of the torrential downpour of adrenaline and anxiety that I was unleashing into the car. Why did you become a Mountain Guide?” I asked him. He turned to me