Entries from Ecuador
Well, our luck had to run out eventually. We’ve had a good run so far this trip, but Chimborazo proved to be our match. Our teams turned this morning just under 19,000’ due to a variety of compounding issues, but the climb still provided us with over six hours of engaging terrain, from challenging rock steps to steep and firm snow slopes. Although we would have all loved to have reached the top, everyone agrees we made the right decision to turn around early and are all glad to be back down safely, celebrating the successful conclusion of our seminar down south.
From a guide’s perspective, not summiting this morning provided us all with one last valuable lesson: mountaineering isn’t always about standing on top. So much of climbing is learning to recognize when a summit just isn’t in the cards and being able to make the conservative call. Chimborazo will be here for a while. We didn’t make it this time, but I like to think of that as an open invitation to return again some day down the road.
Tomorrow morning we will return to Quito, say our final goodbyes, and fly home to our families. It has been an incredible two weeks, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know this wonderful group of people. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to hear all the stories that never made it to the blog directly from your loved ones.
It’s been a great adventure!
Signing off one last time,
RMI Guide Nick Hunt
Hello from 17,500’ above sea level! We moved to our High Camp on Chimborazo today, getting ready for our last summit attempt of our trip. At 20,800’, this peak promises to challenge us and we’re taking the rest of the afternoon to rest and prepare. We’ll be hitting the sack early tonight and getting up early. Wish us luck! The weather is looking promising at the moment, so the team is optimistic. We’ll let you know how it went tomorrow.
RMI Guide Nick Hunt and the rest of the Ecuador team!
February 3, 2017
After a late dinner last night the team enjoyed a good nights rest at our hotel, La Cienega. Our agenda for today was quite simple, gorge ourselves on burrito’s and drive to our climbing hut on Chimborazo.
After a simple breakfast of sliced fruit and eggs we hit the road at 10:30AM. We made a short stop at a grocery store to buy water and last minute items before heading to El Rey del Burrito and the biggest challenge of our day, surviving lunch. The small restaurant, located in the bustling city of Ambato is home to the infamous 50cm burrito. That is nearly two feet of tortilla, meat and cheese! Fortunate for us, Jason, was willing and turns out quite up to the challenge, finishing the burrito as if were an afternoon snack! The rest of us were content with spectating. With full bellies we loaded back onto our trusty tour bus and our driver Victor speed off to Chimborazo.
We are all now safely nestled in at 15,000’ on the side of the tallest peak in Ecuador. We will get another well needed full nights rest before moving to our high camp tomorrow in preparation for our summit attempt. From everybody on the team, thanks for following along!
February 2, 2017
Another great day in the mountains and another summit! Today the Ecuador Skills Seminar team stood on top of Antisana, the second large objective for this trip.
Although the weather was windy and wet when we woke up this morning, we waited it out and were able to leave in decent conditions. The climbing on Antisana is quite a bit more technical than our previous peak of Cayambe, but all the training over the last few days paid off. Everyone was able to tackle the route finding, steep climbing, and exposure in good style.
We did end up climbing in to a cap on the summit, however, and everyone was covered in rime ice by the time we reached the top. Most folks had all their layers on to combat the chilly wind, but it was still fun for everyone!
Twelve hours after leaving camp we returned, and immediately got around to packing up our things and tearing down all of the tents. We traveled to a beautiful hacienda for the evening and are all looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow.
Sorry for the short post, but even the guides get tired on long climbs like today!
We’ll be moving to Chimborazo Base Camp tomorrow to prepare for our third and final peak of the trip.
RMI Guides Nick Hunt and Steve Gately and the rest of the Ecuador team!
February 1, 2017
Training day on Antisana. After a good dinner last night and plenty of rest, the team was up and in good spirits this morning. After a relaxing breakfast with coffee, hot cereal, and chill out music, we geared up and headed uphill to the training site for the day.
The lower flanks of Antisana’s glaciers are a rolling field of hard blue ice, making an excellent site to practice some of the more advanced mountaineering skills. We covered steep fixed line travel with ascenders, rappelling, and vertical ice climbing. Everyone had a good time today!
We wrapped the day up in the early afternoon, getting back to our base camp just after 1pm. This gave us plenty of time to crush some quesadillas for lunch and prepare for our summit attempt tonight.
We are going to have an early night tonight, and go for the top of Antisana this evening. Wish us luck!
We’ll check in tomorrow when we’re back down.
January 31, 2017
Greetings once more from Ecuador!
Today was what climbers like to call an “active rest day”. After our successful summit of Cayambe yesterday, our bodies need some time to recover and prepare for our next objective. But rather than just napping all day, we took the opportunity to exercise our minds and learn a few new technical skills.
We moved this morning from the hacienda to our Base Camp for Antisana, where we pitched a bunch of tents in the rolling meadows at the base of the peak. After a little bit of afternoon napping, we donned our thinking caps and filled the evening hours refreshing our knowledge on knots and practiced a crevasse rescue scenario around camp. This was followed by an incredible pasta dinner cooked by fellow guide Steve Gately. If he wasn’t such a good guide, he’d make a pretty good chef!
With full bellies, we crawled in to our sleeping bags to get another good night of rest. Tomorrow morning we’ll head out to the toe of Antisana’s glaciers for more training in the field.
Stay tuned for updates tomorrow as we prepare for our second summit attempt!
RMI Guides Nick Hunt and Steve Gately, and the rest of the Ecuador Team
January 30, 2017
Cumbre! Today we successfully summited Cayambe, our first big objective of this seminar.
We woke up this morning (last night?) at 11PM and were greeted with the closest thing to ideal climbing conditions: clear skies, no wind, and cool temperatures. Whatever sacrifices were made to the weather gods last night clearly worked out for us!
After a quick breakfast in the hut, we geared up, turned on the headlamps, and began our long day of climbing. We started our climb with about an hour of scrambling over rocky terrain, making our way to the toe of the glacier. Once there, we donned our crampons, ice axes and climbing ropes to begin the technical climbing. Unlike most mountaineering routes in the United States that utilize many switchbacks to ease the pain of ascending steep slopes, the route on Cayambe is fairly direct, cutting straight up “the gut” of the slopes. You gain altitude quicker, but the climbing is bit more strenuous.
Our team persevered, however, and as we neared the summit ridge, we were ready to tackle the crux of this climb: a steep, exposed traverse through a maze of seracs and crevasses. Although the traverse is relatively short, gaining roughly 200 feet of vertical elevation, managing that type of terrain at 18,800’ above sea level is never easy. This team handled it in good style, though, and we gained the summit ridge just after sunrise this morning, giving us stunning views of Antisana, Cotopaxi, and Chimborazo as we walked the final 15 minutes along the ridge to the summit of Cayambe.
We successfully made our way down, and we are now relaxing at the oldest hacienda in Ecuador, giving our bodies a chance to recover as we prepare to move tomorrow to the base camp of Antisana, our second objective of this trip. I’m sure the entire team is looking forward to a good night’s sleep tonight!
RMI Guides Nick Hunt and Steve Gately, and the rest of the Ecuador team
On The Map
I am ecstatic to read this news this morning! Congrats to everyone, and sincere thank yo to the weather gods!
Posted by: Denise reynolds on 1/31/2017 at 8:20 am
Nice work ! Congrats Nick and team !
Posted by: Jim Nixon on 1/30/2017 at 8:26 pm
January 29, 2017
Winds plagued the mountain throughout the night, but luckily our hut kept us fairly sheltered from the raucous. The winds persisted through the morning with off and on showers as we enjoyed our breakfast of scrambled eggs, yogurt and granola. With the weather not letting up we opted to do some training inside our hut in hopes that it would dry out later and we would be able to to move up to the glacier for more training. We spent a few hours discussing anchor building and construction. The team enjoyed getting hands on and nerding out some of the more technical aspects.
Just as we had begun our second topic the skies cleared a bit and the sun popped out! We opted to gather our things, take advantage of the nicer weather and head up to the glacier for more training.
The climb up to the glacier takes about an hour and meanders its way through loose talus, sand and a few rocky steps. The wind persisted through this area and kept the temperatures cool. Once to the glacier we spent the next few hours discussing and practicing efficient walking techniques, cramponing, team and self arrest, as well as rope travel on a glacier. The winds died down shortly into our first topics and we were glad to stay warm and dry for the remainder of the session.
We started back down at around 1:30pm in hopes to get back early to rest and relax before dinner at 5:30PM. The rain has returned since our arrival back to camp and we’ll meet in a moment to discuss our summit attempt tomorrow morning! The team is excited and anxious for the challenge of their first volcano of the trip, Cayambe! It’s not uncommon to get afternoon rains here so we’re optimistic things should clear overnight, pray to the weather gods for us. Thanks for following along!
January 28, 2017
This is the Ecuador team checking in from 15,300’ on Cayambe. We have successfully made the transition from comfortable city living to our slightly less glamorous base camp, and our excitement continues to grow. Through gaps in the clouds, we are finally able to catch a few glimpses of what lies ahead, with the summit looking as good as ever!
Before heading uphill this morning, we were able to enjoy a little more of a relaxed start. We slept in a bit, partook in some fantastically hot showers, ate a good breakfast, and headed in to the Otavalo market. This market is the largest market of its kind in Ecuador, offering miles (literally) of artisanal souvenirs: paintings, textiles, wood carvings, clothing, you name it. It can almost be a bit of sensory overload when you first step in, with the endless stalls of crafts and cuisine. Our team did an admirable job of filling the extra space in the duffels with goodies!
When its all said and done, though, we were ready to move on and head to the hills. The real work starts tomorrow, so the evening tonight is all about taking it easy. We are just about to head in for a nice hot meal and then prepare for our mountaineering skills refresher course tomorrow.
RMI Guides Nick Hunt, Steve Gately, and the rest of the RMI team
On The Map
Hello again friends and family!
Today was another wonderful day! We officially moved out of the big city of Quito, heading towards our first big objective of the trip: Cayambe. As beautiful as Quito is, it’s nice to finally be underway and heading toward the hills.
Our long drive to the city of Otavalo was broken up with our second acclimatization hike of the trip, Cerro Fuya Fuya. Despite the gray skies and light sprinkles when we arrived at the trailhead, we geared up and headed uphill, and boy did it pay off!
Although never quite turning to blue skies, the rain stopped almost immediately and the clouds dipped in and out, giving us alternating views of beautiful vistas and white nothingness. We pushed on, and the entire team was able to celebrate our second minor summit of the trip, at just over 14,000’. This team is looking strong!
Once down from our successful hike, we headed to La Casa Sol for the night. Our plans for this evening include packing up for our move to Cayambe tomorrow, and practicing a variety of climbing knots before dinner.
Spirits are high and we’re looking good! We’ll check in tomorrow from our 15,000’ basecamp on Cayambe.
RMI Guides Nick Hunt, Steve Gately and the rest of the team