Entries from Ecuador
January 23, 2018
Muchas Gracias to everyone who followed our team as we set out to climb two of Ecuador’s highest mountains.
The RMI Ecuador Volcanoes climbing adventure wrapped up yesterday back in the city we started in but our day was anything but ordinary. On Sunday morning we all packed up at Chilcabamba eco lodge after a great day’s rest. From there we made our way up to the Jose Ribas Refuigo located at 16,000 feet on the northern slopes of Cotopaxi.
At 11 pm, our final day together began. We knew the weather on this giant volcano had not been good for at least three days so we were hoping by the time we arrived and settled in things would be improving. This hope was dashed even before we arrived at the hut. From the time we stepped off the bus to the time we put on our crampons and readied ourselves for the climb, nothing had changed. The winds blew a steady twenty with much higher gusts. Add on top of that a snow so wet I was calling it white rain, and you have yourself a pretty rough climbing day.
We all left the hut together at 1:30 am along with 25 other motivated but not necessarily optimistic climbers. 30 minutes into the climb we all resembled walking popsicles but our psych remained high. Things quickly began to deteriorate the higher we went. By 17,000 feet, the mountain had made our decision for us. There would be no summit attempt.
Other teams continued on past our retreating group but we saw them back in the hut a few hours later tired, cold and completely encased in ice. They gave the climb a valiant effort but no one came close to reaching the top. I’d like to think we made the smarter choice.
After our short attempt we phoned the magic bus and had Victor arrive early so we could escape the angry mountain. By 9 am were bound for Quito. Waking up at 11 pm always throws the body for a loop so a good lunch led into a nice siesta which then led into one of the most enjoyable final evenings I can remember.
Thanks to our beer loving Iowa boys, we found ourselves in the beautiful old town of Quito, drinking great locally crafted beer at Bandido’s Brewery. The pizza was top notch, the setting unique and the beer superb. The company could not have been better. We told stories of our adventure and made plans for climbs to come. This journey could not have ended any better!
Thanks to everyone on the team for being so supportive, flexible and positive. From a guide’s perspective we could not have asked for better!
Ecuador Volcanoes Out….....
RMI Guide Adam Knoff
January 21, 2018
Greetings from 16,000’! The team loaded the bus from Chilcabamba this morning at 10:30 after a leisurely breakfast. After being obscured for most of our stay at Chilcabamba, Cotopaxi made a guest appearance from
amongst the clouds as we rambled down the rough roads to the park entrance. The brief view of “the Crown Jewel of Ecuador” and the full days rest reinvigorated the team and the psyche was high as we pulled into the parking lot and prepped for the 45-minute hike up to the Refugio. We were greeted with strong winds on the hike and were very excited to reach the shelter of the hut and some hot drinks. The afternoon was spent resting and after an early and delicious trout dinner we are off to bed. The winds continue to howl as we settle into our sleeping bags and we are hoping for a respite when we wake in five hours for the climb. Stay tuned!
RMI Guide Jordan Cargill signing off.
January 20, 2018
Hello to those following our Ecuador climbing adventure.
I will begin by saying we did not summit Cayambe yesterday because of difficult route conditions. The morning started as most climb mornings do. An eleven pm wake up call, a bathroom visit the body doesn’t ask for, hot liquid, cold bread and and the ever present feeling of “why the heck am I doing this?”
The weather outside was clear and the temps warm. As we ascended the clouds rolled in giving us light snow and a wet mist.
As we got higher the temps dropped and the snow became more difficult to walk in. The wind was blowing 10 mph and a light snow was falling. With only 400 feet to climb before gaining the summit ridge we turned around because of deep post holing and deteriorating weather.
The team was disappointed but understood the reason.
After the climb we regrouped, packed up and loaded the trucks ready to bounce our way back to civilization. The road to and from the Cayambe Refugio is the roughest I’ve ever been on. Usually a great way to start and end the adventure of climbing the highest point on the Equator.
Once the adventure ended we met our bus at a gas station where we loaded up on post climb necessities such as Pringles, coke and ice cream. This held us over until dinner.
Five hours after leaving the mountain we arrived at our hacienda called, Chilcabamba, tucked quietly away in the beautiful countryside under the shadow of Cotopaxi.
After a well deserved shower, beer and honest night’s sleep, we awoke to appreciate this lodge’s full beauty. Although we couldn’t see the mountain, the surroundings offered enough to observe. Hummingbirds floated outside the windows and flowered trees waived in the wind.
The rest of today will be spent resting, drying gear and preparing for the climb to come. There is nothing better than a full day’s rest after an exhausting day in the mountains.
Stay tuned for more mountain climbing.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff saying Buenas noches from Chilcabamba.
This post is misleading — factually accurate but not the full story. It was not just “difficult route conditions” that prevented the team from summitting. A three-person rope team (one guide, two clients) fell into a crevasse near the summit of Cayambe as the result of an avalanche after the team was trail breaking on a steep slope. Thanks to the skill and professionalism of RMI and local guides, the injured climber safely made it to the hut for further evaluation.
Either post the full story or suspend posting after accidents. RMI otherwise runs outstanding expeditions and the guides are fantastic, but fluffy posts hurt the blog’s credibility and disrespect those involved.
Posted by: CS on 1/25/2018 at 9:39 am
Praying the weather gods give you a second summit as beautiful as you had before!
Posted by: Jane on 1/21/2018 at 5:38 am
January 18, 2018
Hola from 15,000 feet on the southern flanks of Cayambe.
I would first like to apologize to anyone who was expecting a blog post yesterday. We had technical difficulties which we discovered too late in the evening, so today’s post will include yesterday and today.
I will begin at breakfast yesterday. Casa Sol, our beautiful hacienda high on the the hill overlooking the busy market town of Otavalo, treated all of us very well getting us energized to hit streets for our big shopping extravaganza.
After packing the bus we rolled into town ready to negotiate and spend. The textiles and indigenous goods made for great photos as well as gifts. A few of the guys couldn’t pass up the sexy alpaca sweaters for themselves so I’m anticipating a strong fashion outing when we get back to Quito.
After shopping we drove back south to the actual town of Cayambe where we transferred bags from the bus to the trucks and started up toward the Refugio.
If roads got as bad as these in the states, they would be considered more mountain bike tracks than 4x4 roads.
Nevertheless, our trucks got us all the way to the front door. The temps up here are cool and the mountain weather sporadic at best but we still managed a good hour hike up hill to scope the route and stretch the legs. We topped out at 15,700’ giving a number of climbers a personal high point which likely won’t last long.
After getting settled we had a nice dinner from the full service kitchen then learned the classic Midwest game of Uker from one of the three Iowans in the group. The sun down here rises at six and sets at six so by 8:30 the entire team was ready for bed.
Upon waking the next morning we knew something was different. Even with no beer on the mountain, everyone felt a bit hungover. A product of our first night’s sleep at a new altitude. We warded off the headaches with some active breathing, scrambled eggs and good old fashioned Excedrin.
After breakfast we retraced our steps going a bit higher to the toe of the Hermoso Glacier, starting at 16,000 feet. From here we reviewed the skills needed to climb the mountain safely. The weather continued its moodiness, first snowing, then scorching, then blowing, then back to snowing. It couldn’t make up its mind so by 12:00 we decided to head it down. Now, after a great lunch, some more hot cocoa and a quick debrief, it’s time for a nap. Dinner is at five and our wake up call is at 11 pm. We are all psyched to try our hand at Ecuador’s third highest peak starting tonight.
Stay tuned for a summit post tomorrow.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff saying buenas Noches for now
Appreciate the updates. Hope everyone is doing well. Stay safe and Happy Trails to everybody !!!
Posted by: Sue Romanick-Schmiedl on 1/19/2018 at 6:25 pm
Euchre is the best!!
What a cool adventure, we need some Alpaca Fashion posed photos for sure!
Posted by: Ashley on 1/19/2018 at 7:04 am
January 16, 2018
This morning we woke with the sun and glanced out the window of our hotel room expecting a continuation of yesterday’s deluge. We were pleasantly surprised to find the streets of Quito damp but no active precipitation. Optimistic for the day’s objective, Cerro Fuya Fuya (13,998), the team rallied in the lobby of Hotel Mercure at 7:30 ready to load the bus. Some severe rush-hour traffic delayed the bus about an hour and a half so the team took the unexpected opportunity to indulge in one to seven of Hotel Mercure’s incredible chocolate filled croissants.
By 9:00 the bus was loaded and we embarked on the three hour drive to Fuya Fuya. We arrived safe and sound at the azure blue Lake Mojanda, the trailhead for Fuya Fuya. We were pleasantly surprised to find the summit out of the clouds. Eager to take stretch their legs and take advantage of the weather window the team set out at a good clip.
About 20 minutes in we stopped to rest before initiating the patented Knoff acclimatization strategy, about 5 to 10 minutes of all-out effort up a steep section to raise the heart rate and let the body know it’s time to make some red blood cells. The team kick-started their engines with some pressure breaths then launched following the superhuman pace of our local guide, Peter. Panting and hearts pounding the team crested the hill and we gave them the exciting news that they wouldn’t have to do that again for the rest of the trip.
We cruised the rest of the way through the alpine meadows and up a short pick scramble to the summit at a casual pace. The team arrived in style and were rewarded with gorgeous views of the crater lake and surrounding ridge-line.
The descent to the bus was quite direct and steep through the muddy meadows and the team quickly learned that the summit is really only the halfway point. The team managed the slippery terrain in style only sustaining a few muddy backsides which the bus driver made sure we acknowledged and toweled off before embarking.
We are currently enjoying the day’s true summit of beers and good conversation as we settle in to the beautiful Casa La Sol for the evening.
Tomorrow will take us up the rugged mountain roads to the base of the equatorial behemoth, Cayambe and the start of our first big objective of the trip.
RMI Guide Jordan Cargill Signing off for the night.
Good luck to the whole crew for the Cayambe adventure!
Posted by: Kaki on 1/17/2018 at 7:31 pm
éclair! Trichez-vous sur les barres de datte?
Posted by: Thunder Goat on 1/16/2018 at 8:44 pm
Today we got wet!
The city tour is over, the team is gathered and the mountain was calling. On any other day a group of motivated hikers would look out the window, see falling rain and decide its not a good idea to stick with the plan. When that same team is on a schedule though, we gotta go when the bus arrives.
After a nice caffeine-laden breakfast, a short introduction to our local guide Peter, and some quick sneaking of the great chocolate croissants into our lunch sacks from the bakery, we were on our way to 15,700’ Rucu Pinchincha, a active volcano only ten minutes from our hotel in downtown Quito. Form the get go rain splattered the windows. We knew things could get interesting but we didn’t know how much.
After unloading from the van, a quick walk landed us at the ticket office of the gondola we planned to take form 10,000’ to 13,000’. The ride was uneventful with dense fog obscuring any views on the way up. Once at the top of the gondola we took refuge inside a building and put on our Gore-Tex for what looked like a rainy start. It was…...
Two minutes after beginning our initial walk, we turned around and headed back to shelter as the rain was too much. We decided to wait it out for twenty minutes which paid off because the rain let up and we made our move.
We got one good hour of walking in making it to the elevation of 14,700 feet before the rain and terrain turned us around.
Back at the shelter we all exchanged hard shell jacket performances reviews and admitted how nice it will be to get out of our wet, soggy clothes. On the ride down in the gondola lightning began flashing and thunder crashing, stopping the machine two or three times in a matter of minutes. Down at the station, the real downpour started.
So goes the unpredictable weather in the mountains.
By 2:30 we were all back at the hotel ready for some lunch and relaxation.
Tomorrow we try again on another peak north of Quito.
Stay tuned for more reports.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff signing off.
January 14, 2018
We rallied the troops this morning at 8:30 in the lobby of Hotel Mercure for Day 1. After a quick round of intros and several cups of coffee to stave off the jet-lag we met with our tour guide, Pepe to go and explore the world heritage city of Quito. Our first stop was a visit to the equator. With Pepe’s help we were able to conduct a number of experiments and confirm that the equator monument is in fact in the right location. Some of these tests included a demonstration of the Coriolis Effect where the water in a pan drains counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere then clockwise when moved across to the southern hemisphere. After a tour of several exhibits showcasing the indigenous history of Ecuador we moved on to investigate “old town” the hub of colonial Quito.
Parched from the intense equatorial sun, our first stop was a local brewery where the team slaked their thirst before checking out some of the exquisite colonial architecture. The highlight was Compania de Jesus, a church completed after over 150 years of construction from the 17th to 18th century. The entire interior is coated with gold leaf and exquisite wood carvings. After Compania de Jesus we continued to wonder the narrow streets of “old town” eventually arriving back at Hotel Mercure.
The afternoon allowed for some much needed rest and gear-checks before dinner at 7. We found some local cuisine that also happened to be playing the Vikings - Saints game. What a finish! We are back at Hotel Mercure now all fueled up and ready for our first acclimatization hike tomorrow. Stay Tuned!
Hope your first hike was great!
Posted by: Kaki on 1/15/2018 at 6:51 pm
Posted by: Thunder Goat on 1/15/2018 at 8:13 am
January 12, 2018
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.
Summit team and all congrats! I am in awe!
Posted by: Karen Norris on 1/12/2018 at 5:50 pm
Congrats to a great accomplishment in the beginning of 2018!! Wishing a restful few days before you start climbing again. Prayers for safety and success. MOM
Posted by: Jane Knoff on 1/12/2018 at 2:41 pm
January 11, 2018
Chimborazo Summit! RMI Guide Adam Knoff called in to report that the Ecuador Seminar Team reached the summit of Chimborazo early this morning. The weather was cold, and windy but climbing was good. Adam was also proud to report that they were the first team in two weeks to reach the true summit! They are back at the Chimborazo Lodge and will send a detailed report of their climb soon.
Nice work Team!! Not an easy summit. That final ridge is a never-ending slog at over 20,000’. I tried 3 times and only hit the true summit once.
Posted by: Peter Whittaker on 1/11/2018 at 8:50 pm
Very impressive team! Sooooooo pleased you were able to summit Chimborazo today.
Now it’s time for some well earned rest, relaxation, celebration…...
Posted by: Jacquie Byatt on 1/11/2018 at 7:48 pm
January 10, 2018
RMI Guide Adam Knoff checked in from High Camp on Chimborazo. The team ascended from the refugio this morning to 16,400’ and established their High Camp, setting up tents during a brief snow storm. Fortunately, the weather has passed, the skies are clear and things are looking good for the team’s summit attempt tonight. We look forward to hearing from them tomorrow, hopefully from the summit of Chimborazo at 20,564’.
We wish them a safe and successful summit day!