Entries from Ecuador
January 10, 2017
Buenas Noches from Antisana Base Camp.
It always amazes me how one difficult mountain climb puts the little things back into perspective. For our climb of Cayambe, we were on the move by midnight and did not stop until twelve hours later. Even after the climb is finished, exhaustion has set in so thoroughly that the only thing that really matters is one good meal and a warm bed.
The simple joys continued this morning after ten solid hours of sleep with fresh brewed coffee, a delicious smoothie, farm fresh eggs and warm bread. It’s not every day you wake up and feel so thankful for what you have. Suffering, if even for a day helps us remember what really matters.
After our lovely breakfast we packed the bus, said adios to Ecuador’s oldest hacienda and hit the road. Two hours later we found ourselves back to the busy life shopping for food at a market equal to Fred Meyer, having lunch at KFC and eating pastries from the mall’s bakery. Two hours after that, we were back in the boonies, driving across a landscape above 12,000 feet with not a house, or other road in sight.
By 3pm we had landed at Antisana Base Camp. This place is wild with Andean condors flying overhead, wild packs of alpacas coming right into camp and no other people anywhere. We are in a place of pure natural beauty.
Our elevation is 14,800 feet and the team feels great. The more time we spend at altitude the easier it gets. Everyone misses their families and friends but very happy to be in such a unique place.
We will train tomorrow and report before getting ready to climb.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff and Team Ecuador out.
January 9, 2017
Team Ecuador is excited to announce that we reached the summit of Cayambe this morning at 7:30am. We woke up, or should I say got out of bed at 10:45pm to clear skies and warm temperatures. We began our ascent at exactly midnight and had great climbing conditions the entire way up. Having been on this mountain ten times I have never had a summit day this beautiful! Not a breath of wind, temperatures in the 30s and views that you rarely get to see.
The team climbed strong and performed really well, especially for reaching 19,000 feet six days after arriving in the country.
We were grateful to be finished early because as soon as we reached camp, the perfect weather that graced us up high took a 180 and began snowing, raining and sleeting on us. By the time we got to town, the downpour was so intense we couldn’t hear each other at lunch because of the rain hitting the roof.
Now we are settled into the oldest hacienda in Ecuador and ready for a nap. We are relieved to have gotten the first big climb under our belts and look forward to Antisana in a couple days.
On The Map
Sounds very exciting, not to mention awsome!!!! Congratulations!!!
Posted by: George on 1/11/2017 at 10:44 am
Congratulations, team! Quite an accomplishment!
Posted by: George Nimmo on 1/10/2017 at 10:25 am
January 7, 2017
January 7, 2017
Hello friends and family!
This is Nick Hunt, reporting in from the high-altitude huts on Cayambe. I’m the co-leader of this trip, along with Adam Knoff, and I’m excited to be leading another trip down here in Ecuador with another great team!
We spent last night in the city of Otavalo, at a beautiful hacienda named La Casa Sol. This trip has been feeling a little more like a leisurely vacation so far, rather than a climbing expedition, and La Casa Sol didn’t disappoint. Hot coffee and fresh eggs in the morning, beautiful rooms and a breathtaking view of the mountainous region around us. As nice as it was, though, the team has been getting antsy and everyone was more than ready for our move to the mountains today.
After a relaxing morning at the hacienda, we packed our bags and made one last stop in town: the Otavalo street market. This market is the largest of its kind in Ecuador and stretches on for miles with all sorts of crafts, textiles, spices, and souvenirs. It can be a bit of sensory overload at first, but we spent a few hours shopping for friends and families at home, then waved goodbye to the city and headed for the hills.
The road to Cayambe is a legit 4x4 road and after driving a few hours, the bus could go no further. We exited the bus, loaded our backpacks and finished the approach on foot. A little more than an hour of walking lead us up in to the clouds and to our home for the next few days at 15,000 feet above sea level. The clouds parted just enough for us to sneak a quick peak of our first serious objective before dinner.
Our plans for tonight are simple. We are going to spend the rest of the evening taking care of ourselves, getting a good meal in us, and preparing our packs for a full day of training on the glaciers tomorrow.
The level of excitement is growing as our first objective looms overhead. We’ll check in tomorrow afternoon as we prep for our first big summit attempt of the trip. Stay tuned for updates!
RMI Guides Nick Hunt and Adam Knoff, and the rest of the ESS-Ecuador team
On The Map
Jimmy, How’s the air? Clean and thin I’ll bet! We know just how you feel, had about an inch of snow yesterday and temp dropped to mid 20’s. It shut everything down but back to normal now high 30’s lots of rain. How’s the knee holding up? Praying for safety and great climbs for you and your team. I guess you don’t use the term “break a leg” for mountain climbing so I’ll just say “ganbatte”! ( In Japanese it means, “do your best”) Love Craig and Jane
Posted by: Craig Lucas on 1/8/2017 at 6:18 pm
Hey Jimmy…..looks like an amazing adventure…continued prayer for safety and good weather…savor every moment…
Posted by: Terry on 1/8/2017 at 10:57 am
Good evening from Otavalo, Ecuador.
Today was a good day. It started as all the others have. Breakfast and coffee at the hotel, light rain on the streets and an eagerness to see something new. The exception was we left Quito. It is easy to fall into the creature comforts of city life but we know that bigger and wilder places await outside of the country’s capital.
Once loaded onto Victor’s magic bus, we weaved our way through the maze of streets which eventually took us to the Pan-American Highway heading north. After two hours of driving we arrived at the foothills of a volcano called Fuya Fuya. Even though it’s altitude topped out at 14,300 feet, it still posed a worthy hike. Unfortunately the weather had it out for us. Just like yesterday, a soggy rain fell all around and the prospect of hiking for three hours up a slick mud trail didn’t sound worth the benefits gained by going up 2,000 feet.
Much like yesterday though our team of determined climbers showed strong will so we stopped the van 5 km from the parking lot where our climb would have started and walked the road to our waiting van. This idea proved sound when five minutes after arriving the heavy skies opened up and soaked everything with a downpour no hiker would want to be in.
This is what Ecuador can do. So after Fuya Fuya we headed down into town for lunch and then moved 11 men and 20 duffel bags into our beautiful hacienda.
After a couple of hours settling in we gathered in the sun room, ordered some cervezas and listened as Nick taught everyone knots, hitches and bends.
The weather hasn’t been perfect but we still seem to have fun times.
Tomorrow we visit the largest crafts market in Ecuador. Pray for sun.
On The Map
January 5, 2017
Day two in Ecuador.
Not many places in the world offer such easy access to high altitude. Down in the lower 48, to reach 14,410 feet, the summit of Mt. Rainier, an average climber needs multiple days, a closet full of equipment and a certain set of skills not learned through a YouTube video. Down here is a bit different. For example, this morning we were drinking coffee in the hotel lobby, eating pastries and admiring our ten-pound day packs. At 8 am we loaded into a van, took a 15-minute drive to the base of a still active volcano, got a lift on a cable car to 13,000 feet and began walking.
The name of the volcano we stretched our legs on is Pichincha Rucu. It’s summit stands at 15,700 feet and can be reached in mere hours from the city.
Pouring rain greeted us at the top of the gondola but this is what that closet full of gear is good for. Putting on our rain jackets and pants we braved the storm like any fearless climber would and headed up the trail. It wasn’t long before we crested that 14,410 foot ceiling giving every member, guides aside, a new altitude high point.
An hour into the hike, the rain ceased and we broke 15,000 feet by eleven am. Unfortunately the final 300 feet to the summit is more of a rock scramble than trail hike and true to the days weather, a hail storm ensued so we made the decision to turn around and skip the slippery rock. The team reached a final altitude of 15,300 feet and to everyone’s credit did exceptionally well.
After the stroll, we came back to the hotel for some rest then headed out to a fantastic dinner. All of us gringos are feeling strong and psyched to be getting closer to our first “big” mountain.
This is Adam Knoff and team saying adios.
On The Map
Good luck on this new adventure Jim (Nixon)! Looking forward to hearing all about it when you return. Maybe you and Tom Garner need a Maine vacation this summer! All the best! Rich Aspinall
Posted by: Richard Aspinall on 1/8/2017 at 4:13 am
Looking forward to the Cayambe update. Best wishes
Posted by: Tom Garner on 1/7/2017 at 5:12 am
January 4, 2017
Hola from Quito Ecuador,
Today began with two guides, three brothers and five individuals coming together for the first time for the Expedition Skills Seminar - Ecuador. Most climbers flying into Quito arrive around midnight and don’t get to the hotel until after 1am. With an 8 am orientation and team introduction, we were blessed to have a hearty breakfast, strong coffee and warm sunshine to get the guys awake. I can say guys because we are a team with no females. From past experience I can say it is usually helpful to have at least one lady keeping the men in check but judging from our first eight hours together, I have a gut feeling we should be generally well behaved.
After our breakfast and intro the team packed up in Angel’s mini bus for a splendid three hour tour of some of Quito’s main attractions.
First we visited the “Mitad Del Mundo” or Middle of the World, where we stood on the actual equator. Here we observed visual confirmation of the Coriolis effect, balanced an egg on a nail and watched as gravity played tricks on both our minds and bodies. I would like to say we also saw aliens zipping overhead time travel portals open but unfortunately that happened last week.
After we left the center of the earth, we headed into old town Quito where we visited a giant statue of the Virgin Mary, a three hundred year old Cathedral and the Presidential Palace. Having felt let down by absent aliens on the equator I was hoping for a brief chat with Rafael Correal, the country’s President, as a consolation prize but we were told he was too busy. Go figure…..
After the tour we had a nice lunch, nap and gear check. All in all a pretty full day. Stay turned for tomorrow’s dispatch because we will be climbing a mountain higher than any team member has climbed before!
Wishing everyone well back home.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff & Team Ecuador
Darlene shared your photos and it looks gorgeous. I’ve been to Quito. Got bad case of food poisoning at a hotel there. Denny’s niece lived and worked there ten years and is married to a handsome Equidorian. Good climbing!
Posted by: Mary Jane stiles on 1/8/2017 at 2:38 pm
Sounds like you are having a terrific time, stay safe and have fun
Posted by: Darlene on 1/7/2017 at 10:31 am
Our successful Ecuador Volcanoes trip has sadly come to an end; but the good times didn’t end with mountain climbing, as this adventurous team decided to sample the classic Ecuadorian specialty dish, cuy, on our way back to the Quito yesterday. Cuy, Quichua (pre-Incan language) for guinea pig, is a traditional food reserved for special occasions; our special occasion was celebrating summitting two challenging Ecuadorian volcanoes (and turning around a few hundred feet shy of the summit on a third), enjoying the people and culture of Ecuador, and enjoying the comradery and companionship of our climbing team.
Once back in Quito and checked into our hotel, we had a few hours to roam the streets and explore the shops of the city before meeting back up for a celebratory dinner with our local guides. The past week and a half has been a whirlwind of adventure. Now, as we go our separate ways back home, we’ll always share our Ecuador Volcanoes memories, and hopefully we’ll climb together again someday.
Sometimes the stars just align, and they did for our climbing team on Cayambe this morning. Yesterday we traveled from Otavalo to the town of Cayambe where we transferred from a bus to four-wheel drive vehicles. A beautiful drive up into the Cayambe-Coca National Park soon became a unique cultural experience as the 4x4s were stymied by wildly rutted and muddy roads en route to the climbers’ hut. We got out of the vehicles and began harvesting “paja”, or tall straw-like grass from the roadside to through onto the road for added traction. After about 45 minutes all three of our vehicles made it through the troublesome areas and we continued on to the climbing hut at 4600m. Light rain turned to blue skies and we got some great views of the next day’s objective. We were cautiously optimistic about the changing weather pattern for Cayambe (we had seen Cayambe from various peaks over the previous week, and it always looked windy and stormy).
I woke up this morning (actually last night at 10:30pm) and checked the weather. I was psyched to see a starry night without a single cloud in the sky, and very little wind. We ate a light breakfast, packed up, and left the hut at 12:15am. It took us about an hour to approach the toe of the glacier where we donned crampons and iced axes. We ascended moderate slopes up the Hermosa Glacier, avoiding the heavily crevassed peripheries. After tackling the Bergshrund and ascending a short pitch of steep ice, we found ourselves on the summit eight hours after we set out from the hut. Stunning views of the high peaks of Ecuador greeted us: Cotopaxi, Chimborazo, Antisana, and the Illinizas, all stood tall, unobstructed by clouds. The descent went smoothly and three hours later we were back at the climbers’ hut. The clouds kept threatening to cover up Cayambe on our descent, but they held off until the last 20 minutes before we hit the hut.
After an early wake-up call and a long day in the mountains, we are now settled in to our home for the night, Guachala, the oldest hacienda in Ecuador with history back to the 16th century. Our team will head back to Quito tomorrow for a celebratory dinner and our last night together in Ecuador.
On The Map
So much for a lazy rest day yesterday. Instead, we jammed the day full of activities. We spent the morning enjoying the world famous Plaza de Ponchos market in Otavalo, where we had a few hours to roam the streets, haggling with vendors for the best price on many handmade craft goods, from alpaca blankets to paintings to jewelry. After regrouping for lunch we ventured out of the normal tourist confines and explored the local market. Here, locals sell fruits, vegetables, sides of beef, whole-cooked pig, you name it…the sounds, sights, and smells were all exotic and a unique cultural experience.
After returning to our hacienda, we made a quick turn around and went on a short hike to the Cascadas de Peguche, a beautiful waterfall near our hacienda. Ok, we managed to get some rest in also.
This morning we are starting with a leisurely breakfast and then we will head for the Cayambe climbers’ hut. In order to reach the hut we will have to transfer to four-wheel drive vehicles and travel far into the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve. The climbers’ hut will be our home for tonight as we get ready for an early alpine start for our summit attempt on Cayambe. At nearly 19,000’, Cayambe will test our endurance, acclimatization, and climbing techniques. We will let you know how it goes. Hopefully we will return with photos of summit high-fives.
RMI Guide Mike Walter and team
On The Map
July 4, 2016 - 5:11 am PT
Here’s a quick update from the past two days:
Yesterday wet and windy conditions kept us in the climbers’ hut until after lunch, when the weather improved…slightly. We quickly packed our bags and headed up Iliniza Norte, scrambling up a steep rock ridge with fresh rime ice on it. Due to our late start and deteriorating weather, we turned around at Paso de la Muerte (Death Pass, ~5000m), a few hundred feet shy of the summit. Strong winds and very poor visibility accompanied us for the entire descent, but we safely arrived back at the hut with plenty of daylight. It was a fun day of climbing and great acclimatization.
Today we woke early to starry skies and light winds. After a light alpine breakfast we set out for Iliniza Sur. The good weather lasted all day and, after being challenged by steep snow and ice, rock climbing, and high altitude climbing, we arrived at the summit! Seven hours after leaving the hut this morning we strolled back in for a quick lunch and some coffee, before packing our bags and heading back down to the parking lot.
I am writing this dispatch on my phone (without service) as we drive north to our hacienda for the night. I’ll upload pictures tomorrow, when I can track down some more reliable Wi-Fi…be sure to check back, we got some great pics today! Priorities tonight are showers, dinner, and comfy beds!
Congrats to the whole team. Rue!! You’ve officially joined the badass club!!
Have fun on Chimborazo!
Posted by: Rhonda on 7/5/2016 at 6:40 am