Entries from Ecuador
January 27, 2023
Today was our second acclimatization hike and a travel day as well. It was another perfectly clear day, about as nice as I have seen here. There is a bit of a haze in the valleys from eruptions and perhaps a bit of an inversion. Despite the haze, we were treated to views of Cayambe all day, from a variety of angles.
We are now relaxing at La Casa Sol and mentally relaxing, with our harder objectives lying ahead. Now we just hope this dry weather doesn’t run out for Cayambe and Antisana!
RMI Guide Dustin Wittmier
January 26, 2023
As our first real warmup, the team hiked Rucu Pichincha today. Of all my times on this peak, today was by far the clearest. We were able to identify numerous big mountains once we got off the Teleferico (gondola): Cayambe, Antisana, Sincholagua, Cotopaxi, Rumiñahui, Chimborazo, Iliniza Sur and Iliniza Norte. Being such a clear day also meant we did not get rained on to end the hike nor have to slip around on the muddy trails following a rain event.
We have been happy to be in Quito, adjusting to life in Ecuador, but are now ready to venture into the countryside. Tomorrow, we head for our second acclimatization hike on Fuya Fuya and will stay the night at La Casa Sol, just outside of Otavalo.
Awesome!! All the Best to you Dustin and Team!
Posted by: Dave Kestel on 1/27/2023 at 4:49 am
January 25, 2023
Everyone arrived with all bags in tow. That is as much of a win as we can ask for on day one.
Today, we ventured out on a tour of Quito and La Mitad del Mundo (literally, The Middle of the World). It was a particularly sunny day, and we spent a little time enjoying the variety of flowers at El Museo de Intiñan, the indigenous equatorial museum.
From there, our tour heads to El Panecillo, a small hill just south of the old town. Panecillo basically translates to "little bread loaf" as it is just a small rise that affords a person a nice view of Quito. If you make an early morning trip here, you can usually see Cayambe, Antisana and/or Cotopaxi from atop the hill. In the afternoon, mounting clouds tend to obscure the view.
We, then, headed down into the old town to have a look around at some statues, historic buildings, and old churches. But perhaps more importantly, there was a quick stop for empanadas and ice cream. Much of culture can be absorbed through food and discovering the taste of fresh guanabana ice cream is certainly a cultural experience.
Today is just the beginning of what we all hope is a safe, successful climbing trip!
Thanks for being our biggest fan Farmer Dave!
Posted by: Dustin on 1/26/2023 at 6:46 pm
Hey Dustin ,
You Rock! Looking forward to following along again!
Posted by: Dave Kestel on 1/26/2023 at 3:26 am
January 22, 2023
Well, a summit of Chimborazo was not in the cards this time. In Ecuador, we lack the same resources that are available to us in the United States for weather and avalanche forecasting. The team headed to the mountain physically and mentally prepared, but upon arrival it became apparent that we would not be climbing. Teams from the previous two nights reported deep snow above 5800 meters and the high camp staff gave us their snow report from the past several days. The guides ventured out to look at the structure of the snowpack and we determined that it did not even make sense to go to 5800 meters on a mountain known for avalanching. The team, being prepared for this possibility, was happy to sleep at a new sleeping altitude record for almost everyone and then practice avalanche rescue in the morning.
The morning was a touch lethargic, it's tough waking up at 17,400'. After a few pressure breaths, a handful of Ibuprofen and some pizza and eggs we were all feeling a touch better. Henry led the team in avalanche transceiver searches while we were also treated to views of the upper mountain. It was tough to look at the false summit on such a calm, sunny day and not be able to climb, but our decisions were confirmed when we looked up and saw some evidence of avalanche activity on the route this morning.
Despite our lack of a summit on Chimborazo, the team is happy, keeping in mind that we did summit two big mountains on this trip already (Cayambe and Antisana). It has been a great two weeks of hiking, climbing and learning expedition-related skills. We will have a celebration dinner tonight in Riobamba and be headed back to Quito tomorrow. If you have a loved one or friend on this trip, everyone has been challenged to learn ten more words in Spanish, so make sure to give them a pop quiz when you pick them up from the airport! This is as much a climbing trip as it is a cultural experience.
Thanks for following along.
Hey Dustin, Bummer you and your team couldn’t go any higher but like all you guides say, “It’s not the summit, that is a bonus, it’s the experience and getting back home that is the most important”
Posted by: Dave Kestel on 1/23/2023 at 7:32 am
January 20, 2023
Upon arrival at Antisana basecamp, we had no views of the mountain and a light drizzle. Upon departure it was beginning to storm again: rain, hail and lightning. But right in the middle was a perfect weather window for climbing.
We awoke to fog in camp, which we continued to ascend through until reaching about 17,300’. From that point, the clouds would remain below us and we climbed into a starry, calm night. We reached the summit just a bit after sunrise and it was perfectly still, so we hung for a while.
The route on Antisana is not particularly long, but it is complex, featuring heavily crevassed terrain. At the bergschrund, a steep pitch of belayed climbing takes you to the summit plateau where an additional 20 minutes of high-altitude walking takes you to the summit. Due to these various complexities, our group took just over 10 hours round trip for a route that ascends 4,080’.
Back at camp we enjoyed a lovely breakfast before spending several hours in transit to the town of Latacunga and Hacienda La Cienega, where many members of the team reported sleeping eight or nine hours straight through. The wine and comfy beds were well deserved.
We are now sitting on the bus, making the several hour drive south towards Chimborazo. We will stop in the town of Ambato for hilariously large burritos before continuing to Riobamba, where we will stay the night. Summit day on Chimborazo is Saturday night into Sunday morning and we are hoping for continued good weather.
RMI Guide Dustin Wittmier and team
Holy Smokers that is Awesome to climb in clear skies at the summit!!! Way to go !!!!
Posted by: Dave Kestel on 1/21/2023 at 3:08 am
January 17, 2023
Yesterday, ALL TEAM MEMBERS AND GUIDES reached the summit of Cayambe around 6am EST. For those of us living in or around Seattle, we felt accomplished having completed such a hard activity before we would normally even be awake. Most climbers were back to the refugio by about 8am, a very speedy descent. Route conditions were ideal on Cayambe, when you would step out of the trail it was just a light dusting of snow on top of a supportable crust, meaning there was very little plunging, and the crampons would bite into the hard surface during the cold night. Although the route is in great shape, this is always a challenging mountain. At 18,500’ the route ascends a steep headwall for about 300 vertical feet before passing through crevassed terrain. Additionally, sleeping above 15,000’ for two nights and then going to nearly 19,000’ on day seven of an expedition is a quick jump in altitude and everyone seemed to handle it well. Now we turn our sights towards Antisana.
On our way to Antisana we are staying in two different haciendas. Last night we were at the rustic Guachala, which was built in the early 1500s. It has it’s charm and is steeped in local history; we also enjoyed a quiet dinner and breakfast under the watchful eye of the two house dogs, always hoping for a scrap. This morning we packed up and got ourselves closer to Antisana. We are using the beautiful yard at Casa Ilayaku to learn skills for our next climb (tent setup and running belays) as well as more expedition skills for future endeavors. Tomorrow we will go to Antisana basecamp via 4x4 vehicles and spend the night in tents before taking our shot at the summit.
RMI Guide Dustin Wittmier
Hey Dustin and Team! This is all Great to hear. Keep looking up! All the best to you!
Posted by: Dave Kestel on 1/18/2023 at 3:20 am
January 16, 2023
100% summit success on Cayambe!
The team is now looking forward to a day of rest and relaxation before heading towards Antisana.
Photos and a more interesting blog forthcoming
RMI Guide Dustin Wittmier
That is SO Awesome Dustin!! Congratulations to you and your team!!!
Posted by: Dave Kestel on 1/17/2023 at 8:12 am
Ahh!!! That’s amazing! Congratulations, everyone! <3 So appreciative of the blog updates :)
Posted by: Hannah on 1/16/2023 at 8:40 pm
January 14, 2023
Our warmup stretch is coming to an end as we head to the Cayambe today. It takes a handful of days acclimatizing in cities and shorter day hikes before it makes sense to be sleeping above 15,000' at the Cayambe hut. All members of the team completed both acclimatization hiked, Rucu Pichincha (15,354') and Cerro Fuya Fuya (14,039'), in good style.
After a quiet night at the quaint La Casa Sol we are now at the Otavalo Market. People choose from a variety of activities here: souvenir shopping, a visit to the pharmacy or for myself enjoying an affogato in my favorite coffee shop.
Thank you for following along and look for updates from us in the coming days. Tomorrow is skills training on the glacier and the following night we will make our summit attempt on Cayambe!
RMI Guides Dustin, Henry & Team
Wishing you all a successful and safe climb. Especially a certain member of the team.
Posted by: John (Dad) on 1/15/2023 at 5:40 am
You’re doing great, team!
Posted by: Andrew on 1/14/2023 at 10:20 am
January 12, 2023
Hello friends, families, Farmer Dave and anyone else out there who might be following our blog. We have just kicked off the first Ecuador Expedition of 2023. It started with a rainy travel day and a rainy day for our Quito city tour (although a few of us still managed minor sunburns). Today, we took our first acclimatization hike and were surprised/delighted to wake up to partially sunny skies!
The hike up Rucu Pichincha is really quite scenic. I think it’s my favorite day hike in the world that is more or less in a major metropolitan area. A gondola takes us to 13,000’ where we begin our ascent to the summit of Rucu Pichincha (13,354’). Along the way there are a variety of wildflowers and the final push to the summit is engaging, involving a short section of class 3 scrambling.
I should also mention that the team is in good health, especially thanks to the newly renovated penthouse spa here at the Hotel Mercure. Many of us have used this opportunity to cycle cold plunges and wet sauna or cold plunges and hot tubbing. Henry, the ultimate masochist, prefers cold plunge only, first thing in the morning.
Tomorrow we will depart Quito early to head north. The itinerary of this trip has us working our way from north to south, making attempts on Cayambe, Antisana and Chimborazo. These are the 3rd, 4th and 1st highest mountains in Ecuador, respectively. We also hope to capture a glimpse of Cotopaxi, which is normally on the itinerary but was scratched this time due to recent eruptions and a moratorium on summit bids. Better to witness that from a safe distance.
Two adventurous young women! Wishing them and all of you the best on both continents.
How great to stay in touch and be able to go along on your climb laptop-wise.
Posted by: Coreen on 1/13/2023 at 11:25 pm
It’s got to be Sarah that has a sunburn in the cloudy weather :-D That’s a Hillebrand special! Wishing you all a safe journey and glad for the blog updates!
Posted by: Hannah on 1/13/2023 at 12:32 pm
November 5, 2022
Today was the day! Cayambe summit bid.
The guides “woke up” at 11pm to check the weather outside and stepped into an uncharacteristically warm and cloudy night. Glimpses of stars came in and out of view with the wind dull and chilled. We decided it was go time and, given the hour we estimated it would take the team to gear up, we put our chips on an improving trend. Clear it did, as we donned our backpacks and set up the rocky, first section of the route. It takes us about an hour plus to get to the base of the glacier on Cayambe due to the varied, and sometimes involved terrain you navigate to get there. Our nerves quickly gave way to the necessity of focus on the tricky terrain and that’s when it gets fun!
After a quick break at the glacier to eat, put our crampons on, and rope up, we were climbing. That warm night gave way to a clear, chilly, moonlit night with views of the surrounding peaks and towns. With perfect conditions and beautiful weather, the team climbed in style for the 4000ft and 7 hours of ascent.
100% of the team stood on top of Cayambe today. An accolade not often achieved by teams attempting these tall peaks.
Proud of the grit, dedication, and attitude this team has. While it’s a shame the trip is ending, I know I’ll see these climbers back in the mountains soon enough.
This is the Cayambe Express trip.
RMI Guides Dominic Cifelli, Seth Burns and Team
Sign Up For Cotopaxi Express October 29, 2022 Emails
Dominic ,Joes going to want a cold coke, after climb like that !
Posted by: Daryl on 11/5/2022 at 7:52 am