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Ecuador Seminar: Weather Forces Knoff and Team Turn on Chimborazo

Deja vu happens to people all the time. A familiar face, feeling or experience happening in the present that one is sure has happened in the past. Most of the time this strange phenomenon passes quickly and the day continues on its normal path. Today was a different type of deja vu.  

One year ago at this very time of year, I was on Chimborazo guiding a team of climbers motivated to ascend this beast of a volcano. We were camped at the same camp, had the same tent sights and experienced the same weather. Unfortunately this weather was the kicker. From well below the mountain, a mean looking cloud cap obscured the summit and it was clear that wind, whipped up from the volatile tropics had a grip on the upper mountain with no intention of loosening it. Today, everything from our parking spot to the cloud formations was the same.

We reached high camp at 17,400' at the 3:00 p.m. This section of the climb was actually much more pleasant than expected. Beautiful backdrops of our climbers were framed against the moody upper mountain and the deep red volcanic rock making for amazing color contrast and Kodak moments.  

Once at camp, things began to change and the wind began to pour down the mountain making our tent houses flap. Through dinner the wind didn’t let up. Then around 8:00 p.m., as we were tucked in, things went calm. Exactly like last year. With this sign, I knew what was coming.   

By 9:30 p.m. the atmospheric fan was turned to high. Dust found every tiny opening in the tents covering our sleeping bags and getting into our eyes and mouths. From here on we knew it was going to be an uncertain climb.

At 2:00 a.m. we left our camp with winds so strong we needed to collapse our tents and put rocks on them to keep them from getting destroyed. Last year that’s what happened. Unfortunately an hour into the climb, having been protected by a large rock band, we turned a corner and were greeted with the full force of Chimborazo. With all the local guides urging us to turn back, we were left with little choice. Having only climbed 600 feet, we turned the group around.  

Sometimes the house deals some bad hands. Unfortunately on this trip, two out of three were not winners. Although we didn’t summit Cayambe or Chimborazo, we were blessed with a perfect day on Cotopaxi. We all feel psyched to be heading home soon but a bit disappointed we couldn’t get higher. All in all we had a great journey learning a lot while making life long memories.   

Now we are enjoying a welcome afternoon of football before heading back to Quito and ultimately back home. Thank you all for following our Ecuadorian adventure.   

Hasta Luego!

RMI Guides Adam Knoff, Dustin Wittmier and Team

Comments (2)

Good Luck Sue!!  Wishing you and your fellow climbers a safe and successful climb!

- Mychal (Mexico climb teammate)

Posted by: Mychal Wooldridge on

Glad you are safe!  Sorry that the wind blew you off the summit! Packers also were blown out!

Posted by: Jane on

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