Mountains are changing a lot. Iliniza norte was one of the first mountains I climbed 10 years ago as a beginner, it was a nice hike between rocks and sand, with a little bit of climbing in certain parts. The hardest part I remember from that first time was to experience the vertigo of standing on the edge of an exposed ridge. After that first time I climbed Iliniza Norte several times. But only now I am fully aware of how much has the mountain changed.
Last weekend I climbed Iliniza Norte and it seems that after the last few months of snow and rain, Ilinza norte is far from being a mountain for beginners. The south-eastern route is a hard climb from the beginning because it has exposed sections of rock climbing (there are loose rocks, you should climb “pushing” the rocks insead of “pulling” them).
There are also exposed ridges and a lot of accummulated snow in the northern side of the mountain — you should use gaiters. And close to the summit, there is the part that has always been tedious where you have to climb down and them climb up again. If you are not too confident climbing down, you shoud rapell down. Be very careful if it snows or rains, it can get very slippery.
For me, it is hard to say if Iliniza Norte is an easy or difficult mountain to climb. Last time it took me 12 hours to climb up and down from the parking at “La Virgen” with a beginner. But a friend of mine climbed from the parking lot at 4200 m to the summit at 5126 and back in a little more than 5 hours.
I still think that grading routes is hard and very subjective. I prefer to read a detailed description of a route, so I can make my own decisions of either climbing or not and how to do it.
Sometimes when I climb, I prefer not to look the graduation because I prejudice myself against something too hard or too easy. I prefer to climb what I think is for me, and in that way I think that I perform better.