Ecuador Seminar: Adam Knoff Wraps Up Their Chimborazo Summit Day
I am thrilled to announce that yesterday at 6:45am, three members of our Ecuador climbing team successfully reached the Whymper summit of Ecuador’s highest peak, Chimborazo. Myself and our local guide Peter were the two guides leading the summit rope teams and I will say without question it was in the top five most difficult summit days of my guiding career. From our high camp at 17,300’, the route made a moderate traverse underneath a giant rock feature called el Castillo translated as “The Castle”. The team moved together with good style through the rocks to the exposed ridge above. It was here the route began to steepen. From the top of El Castillo at 18,000’ to the crest of the Ventimilla Summit at 20,450’, you could literally follow the line of ascent by holding a pencil out in front of you and the track would not deviate from its vertical alignment. No other mountain I have ever guided posses such a steep, unrelenting route as Chimbo. I’m not sure why the local guides down here have such a disdain for switch backs but on all the mountains, not just Chimborazo, the routes take the most direct line possible.
Unfortunately this type of route doesn’t bode well for tired legs which have seen two giant mountains in the last five days.
By 19,000’, half of the team had decided to return to camp, which secretly I was most jealous of. After waking up at 10:30, powering down some instant oatmeal while standing outside freezing, then preparing for a climb we know is going to hammer us, the thought of camp always sounds better than the alternative.
Back on the route, the snow conditions began to change for the worse. Thank God for Peter Piston Legs who, without complaint, post holed, kicked steps and blazed the trail though an old track that was literally blowing in with snow by the time each climber reached steps kicked in by the rope team in front.
Through freezing temps, difficult snow and growing fatigue, we all continued upward. Once we gained the Ventimilla Summit, we thought the kilometer traverse across the summit plateau was in the bag. But nope, not at all.
We had heard that climbing teams were reaching the lower summit but no one had been to the true summit in over two weeks! This left us breaking trail at 20,500 feet, which not even Peter found enjoyable. With the only complaints coming in the form of gasps, we marched on planting our ice axes on top just as the rising sun formed an outrageous pyramid shadow stretching for miles into the waking countryside. With hugs and high fives we all felt a great sense of accomplishment to have knocked off the hat trick of Ecuador’s three highest peaks. Something I have never done in one trip.
After a hard descent we made our way back to the Refugio and then onto a beautiful lodge where we eased the soreness away with good food, wine, beer and stories. It was a great closing to two incredible weeks of climbing together.
We all have now just gotten to our hotel rooms in Quito. The Internet is alive and well worrying some and pleasing others. Work for most is unfortunately never far around the next corner.
As we prepare for our final meal together I can’t help but feel a bit bummed. This group has been truly great. I would climb with any one of them again.
From Quito this is Adam Knoff and Jordan Cargill signing off.
Thanks to everyone who followed along.
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