RMI Expeditions Blog
In the midst of a great trip with a wonderful group, one of the hardest parts of a guides job is to make the decision to turn a group around and head back to the hut, knowing some climbers will continue up and likely summit.
Last night we woke to a thin cloud and light snow at 15,874’. The group got ready and was optimistic due to the warm air and fresh snow that would make walking the first 1.5 hours on rocky trail easier. However, we had a similar experience on Cayambe that resulted in an electrical storm.
With over 70 people setting out from the hut to climb we got out mid pack and made our way to the toe of the glacier to put crampons on. During this first stretch the moon was bright, reflecting moonlight off the white snow so headlamps didn’t have to be turned on.
As we ascended the glacier, the new snow accumulation had increased from 3” at the hut to 1 foot + at 17,800’. As we pulled into our second break the guides had begun chatting about snow stability and while at the break dug 2 snow pits to better assess what we were traveling on top of. The results were a foot of new snow overnight on top of a 2 inch consolidated snow layer that moved with enough energy early on in the test to reconsider climbing higher. There had been a meter of new snow in the last week without much sun or heat to help consolidate the snowpack.
The terrain above us consisted of larger crevasses and steeper slopes, when combined with new snow avalanche conditions this made for hazards that we could not safely manage. We showed the group a second test and explained our concerns. The guides and climbers are naturally disappointed to have missed another summit and safety has to take precedent. In talking with the Ecuadorean guides, this month has been wetter with more unstable weather patterns then historically seen in December.
We are currently heading back to Quito for showers, packing and flights later tonight. We’ll wrap up a fun trip in that new friends were made, we saw lots of beautiful scenery and spent time in the mountains. We’ll also look forward to the unfinished summits of Cayambe and Cotopaxi on another trip. Thanks for following along.
December 11, 2019
Everyone was sad to say goodbye to the Chilcabamba Eco Lodge this morning as we had really enjoyed our stay and were getting used to the comforts of hacienda life, not to mention the friendly, cute puppy that accompanied us nearly everywhere we went. However, Cotopaxi was on display again for us this morning against a clear blue sky to the south, so we packed our things and drove through Cotopaxi National Park to the trailhead as clouds began to build and encircle the mountain. It was a quick 45 minutes of hiking with full packs through thick clouds, but we stayed dry! The hut is luxurious for accommodations at almost 16,000’. It’s decorated with climbing memorabilia, photos of Cotopaxi and other peaks around the world, and they even recently installed a small bouldering wall. After a light lunch, we’re now tucked into our sleeping bags for an afternoon siesta before dinner and listening to waves of hail and sleet outside. It won’t be long before we get up later tonight to make our summit attempt of Cotopaxi. Our hope is to wake to clear skies above, as has been the trend in recent mornings, and work our way to 19,347’ on this beautiful volcano. Everyone is feeling good and fired up to get to some thinner air! We’ll check in tomorrow with an update. Thanks for following along!
On The Map
Best wishes for a fabulous experience! Love from David’s wife, at sea level in Dallas.
Posted by: Cindy Spence on 12/11/2019 at 6:21 pm
December 10, 2019
We had a restful night here at the Chilcabamba Lodge last night. The Team woke to clear and sunny skies and a spectacular view of Cotopaxi. The Chilcabama Lodge is a rustic hacienda with thatch roofs, that has been given just enough of a facelift to maintain its charm and more then enough creature comforts to enjoy our time here. We set out for what ended up being a long walk to a waterfall that we could not access. However, along the way we enjoyed the beautiful rolling farms, lush vegetation and fun conversation for about four hours. We are all back enjoying some down time and anticipating afternoon rain showers. This group has really bonded well and the trip has flown by. We will refresh a few items for our climb and pack our bags for Cotopaxi this evening before dinner.
December 9, 2019
We went to bed with rain and clouds and were hopeful when the stars and upper mountain were out at 11pm when we woke up. After a quick bite to eat and coffee we finished packing our gear and headed up the rocky trail to access the glacier. Our first hour was warm and there was some lighting in the distance. With clear skies above we continued towards the Hermosa glacier and slowly were overtaken by clouds, the lighting was now flashing in all directions. The electrical storm was not the violent ground strikes accompanied by thunder that most people would associate with but rather lighting that was spread throughout the clouds. The visibility decreased and we made the decision to descend back to the hut rather then see if the system would move out. After we returned to the hut wet snow began falling and the upper mountain didn’t not give us another window to climb higher.
We are currently down safe and headed for Chilcabamba for the next 2 nights. While we all would have liked to climb Cayambe, the weather window didn’t cooperate. We are all eager for a different outcome on Cotopaxi in 3 nights.
RMI Guide Mike King & Team
Greetings from Chicago!
Sorry you couldn’t summit today but super glad you’re all safe
Posted by: Kim Taylor on 12/9/2019 at 3:13 pm
December 7, 2019
We had a pleasant morning leaving the town of Otavalo with a quick walk to see a large waterfall and then an hour checking out one of the oldest markets in the Andes. The rich colors of locally grown crops and woven textiles were flanked by food vendors, jewelry booths and the occasional used hardware and home goods vendor.
The drive to Cayambe brought us through winding roads with green pastures that climbed up the lower flanks of the volcanic mountains. We met one of our local guides, Jamie, who has worked for RMI on many trips. The 4x4 ride up to the hut was without incident and we arrived to an welcoming hut for a light lunch. The clouds have been hanging low this whole trip and we have got a few views of the glaciers but none of the entire glaciated volcanoes that dominate this area. The Team is currently resting and hanging out after a short hike up to about 15,700’. Tomorrow we sleep in a bit since all we have to do is our climbing school and organize for the climb. Thanks for following along.
On The Map
December 6, 2019
We said goodbye to Quito this morning and made our way north out of the city. Patchwork buildings turned to patchwork farms and lush green at every turn. We eventually made our way up a cobblestone road to start with our day’s objective - an acclimatization hike on Fuya Fuya. Our arrival on the shores of Laguna de Mojanda had everyone excited to get out of the bus and get moving. We hiked for the next couple hours through the tall grass accompanied by our local Ecuadorian guide, Pablo, and found ourselves perched on the eastern summit of Fuya Fuya feeling strong at almost 14,000’. The clouds and rain were kind to us on our ascent as we took in some amazing views of the lake and surrounding hills. The rain finally caught up with us, but only briefly as we made it back to our shuttle only a little damp and headed downhill. We’re now enjoying hacienda life tucked into a eucalyptus grove in the hills above Otavalo. Tomorrow we’ll visit the most famous Indian market in Ecuador to explore and shop, then point our shuttle southeast in the direction of our first big objective. The team is feeling strong and excited to make the switch to climbing mode. We’ll check in again tomorrow from the lower slopes of Cayambe!
RMI Guides Mike, Jess and Team
On The Map
December 5, 2019
This is Mike checking in for the Ecuador Team. Apologies for missing yesterday, we just had to much fun getting to know each other and walking around Quito. We went to the equator and watched a bunch of parlor tricks relating to the Middle of the Earth. We also learned about the art of Amazonian head shrinking. We concluded the day walking through the beautiful streets and plazas of Old Town which was built in the mid 1500’s.
This morning we met up with one of our Ecuadorean guide,Pablo, for an acclimatization hike on Rucu Pichincha. We rallied up in taxis to the teleferico (gondola) which takes you to 13,500’. The views of the greater Quito valley were spectacular. From there we hiked to 15,700’ and got some views but we were mostly in the clouds with cool temperatures. The goal today was to stretch the legs and lungs a bit and just get out to see the beautiful Ecuadorean countryside. The trail wandered through grassy slopes and a lot of flowering shrubs.
Everyone is back at the hotel for some rest and packing. We will head out tomorrow for another day hike and travel towards Cayambe for our first climb of the trip. Thanks for following along
On The Map
Posted by: Bernie lanigan on 12/5/2019 at 4:09 pm
November 16, 2019
We had an amazing night to climb the highest peak in Mexico, 18,491’. The skies were clear, near full moon and warm air in the first 2 hours out of Piedra Grande Hut.
By the time we got done meandering through the labyrinth there was a cold breeze and the temps dropped as we neared the toe of the Jamapa Glacier that dominates Pico de Orizaba’s Northside. The Team got their crampons on and up we went for what seemed like forever. The climbing is similar to Rainier’s glaciers. There had been some new snow in the last 10 days and a rain event that was proceeded by a lot of wind and a cold front. The result was a thick ice crust on the lower glacier. The guides had begun talking about turning the climb due to the inability to arrest a fall in these conditions if they persisted in the steeper slopes. Fortunately the snow softened and the team reached the summit around 8:15 am.
During the descent the clouds came in and we descended to the hut. With wet clouds rolling through camp and temperatures dropping we loaded up and road down the bumpy road to Senior Reyes’ climbing hostel. Beers, showers, beers, food, packing and sleeping in that order gets us to the airport tomorrow afternoon. It’s been a fantastic Mexico Volcanoes trip with a great group of climbers.
RMI Guides Mike King & Dustin Wittmier
On The Map
November 15, 2019
We got an early start from Puebla after a fun and relaxing rest day. The drive to Tlachichuca takes us through agricultural communities and around a massive Audi/VW manufacturing plant that appears to have just sprung up in the middle of nowhere.
We will pack our bags for the Orizaba climb before enjoying a light lunch at Sr. Reyes' 100+ year old soap factory turned climber’s hostel. From there we load up in some 4x4 trucks that crawl their way through sprawling corn fields and dense pine forests until we get to Piedra Grande Hut where we will spend the night. Aside from the packing, the only other objective today is to go for a hike into the lower portion of Orizaba’s labyrinth section to stretch the legs and lungs a bit. This gives the Team a chance to see what the first 3+ hours of the climb will be like. Hopefully we are checking in next from the summit of Orizaba tomorrow morning. Thanks for following along.
Trust today’s climb went well. I see a lot of nasty weather around Mexico City.
Posted by: Roger Coffey on 11/16/2019 at 11:43 am
November 14, 2019
The guides got up at 11:30 pm to head up onto the ridge where you can see any approaching storms for the East and West. There was a low lying blanket of clouds and west wind of 5-10 mph. Hoping not to get into a similar lightning and thunder storm from previous years we waited 45 minutes before waking up the climbers. The approaching cold front kept the clouds low through the night which afforded us a great temperature to go climbing. The first stretch takes you through the “knees” of Ixta and is a steep scree slope with some scrambling straight out of high camp.
Once on the ridge we began the up and down of what seems like 7 false summits. As we crossed the rapidly receding Ayoloco Glacier, the trail begins to narrow and we were close to the summit crater. At 17,160’ it was still dark and the teams began their descent with increasing winds and cold/damp clouds started rolling over from the West. The descent back to high camp was smooth and we enjoyed an amazing sunrise with the dark silhouette of Pico de Orizaba in the East.
The Team is in Puebla now for a rest day and tomorrow we will head for our last climb of the trip on North America’s third highest mountain, Orizaba.
On The Map
Good luck tomorrow
Posted by: Roger Coffey on 11/14/2019 at 11:41 am