Hello blog followers for the freshly started Ecuador Skills Seminar. Adam Knoff here, I am the team’s fearless leader and occasional dispatch sender.
As our group assembled this morning for our first full team meeting, there were no delusions about rule number one of international travel- expect the unexpected. Half of us are still missing bags, one of our team members hasn’t even arrived yet and the weather forecast for the next three days looks more unsettled than the streets of Quito.
I am pleased to say despite all these immediate challenges, everyone is in good spirits and excited to face the adventures ahead. But one day at a time right? After breakfast and a nice team orientation meeting, we all piled into a comfy bus and took a roundabout tour of some of Quito’s classic sites. From the old town we headed north to the Mitad del Mundo, or middle of the world, for some wacky equator tricks and small history lesson of this magical line.
Now back in the hotel we are resting up for a nice family dinner tonight and our first push to altitude tomorrow.
Hey Shannon—Good luck and safe hiking…Bush
Posted by: Bush on 1/14/2014 at 4:51 am
Hope you are all well. Love Dad.
Posted by: Nick Boekenoogen on 1/9/2014 at 8:06 pm
Day two of the Ecuador Skills Seminar started well with a healthy breakfast, the thankful arrival of Shannon who missed his Quito connection by a bitter ten minutes no thanks to mad airline boondoggling. He did manage to save the day when he was able to pick up my “lost” duffel, which flew down a day later than I did but must have told Shannon’s duffel it was uncool to arrive on time so we are still one bag short for the group.
After our morning rituals were complete it was off to our first mountain which, by most people’s standards is no gimme with its summit pushing 15,700 feet. No gimme indeed but a 3,000-foot gondola ride did help our cause. Nick and I keep wondering why we don’t have such a luxury to take us to Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier and all we could figure out is because Rucu Pichincha has erupted a few times in the last fifty years, a cable car makes good sense.
The hike went off without a hitch, or major rain event which was forecasted but never materialized and the team enjoyed a great first Ecuadorian summit. Thank you volcano gods!
After the hike we returned to the hotel to pack, rest and prepare for tomorrow’s adventure. Everyone is doing great and getting along famously.
Tomorrow we leave the big city for the big mountains. Yippee.
On The Map
At last, we are ready to go! As of 6:30 this morning, all luggage and personnel were present and accounted for, just in time for our departure from Quito. After another hearty breakfast at our hotel, we checked out from our rooms and met up with Victor, our driver for the next few days. The pile of equipment in the hotel lobby was a sight to see, but we quickly transferred our gear to the bus and got under way. We had fun in Quito, but everyone was excited to leave the big city behind and get one step closer to our bigger climbs.
A couple hours on bumpy roads took us up to a beautiful alpine lake and the start of our second acclimatization hike. Our goal this afternoon was the summit of Cerro Fuya Fuya, a fantastic peak with a craggy finish, topping out just shy of 14,000 feet. We dodged another bullet with the weather, too! Despite a brief bout of rain showers during our morning drive, by the time we started uphill the rain had stopped and we even caught a few glimpses of blue sky!
After our descent from Fuya Fuya, we piled back in to the bus and drove to Otavalo and our hacienda for the evening, La Casa Sol. We spent the evening eating, drinking, and packing for our upcoming attempt at Cayambe, the first major peak of our trip. Tomorrow we’ll visit the Otavalo market in the morning for some souvenir shopping and the drive to our Cayambe basecamp in the afternoon.
Spirits are high with this team and we’re all having a great time! Stay tuned!
On The Map
January 12, 2014
Today was a travel day, leaving Otavalo behind and heading up to our basecamp on Cayambe. We kicked the day off with another excellent breakfast at our hacienda before checking out and heading to the Otavalo street market. What an experience that was! Colorful textiles, aromatic foods, and handcrafted arts filled the crowded aisles, stretching as far as the eye could see. After loading up on souvenirs, we piled back into the “magic bus” (so named because of its wifi hotspot and epic Journey soundtrack) and headed up the dirt roads to Cayambe.
After passing a tourist bus stuck in the mud and waiting patiently for a large herd of cows to move out of the road, we pulled over about an hour’s walk below the huts. There we left the bus behind and transitioned to walking the rest of the way, giving us one last chance to stretch our legs.
We met Diego, one of our local guides, at our hut and promptly moved in to our new abode. This hut redefines the alpine camping experience! Fireplace, fully stocked kitchen, dining hall… It was glamorous indeed! A home-cooked lasagna dinner and high-stakes board game rounded out the night.
Tonight we’ll rest and head uphill tomorrow morning for a day of mountaineering skills practice. It’s gettin’ real!
On The Map
January 12, 2014
Our Ecuador Skills Seminar certainly began with its challenges. Missing bags, canceled flights and the works tested us early but once in the mountains things began to fall into place. The clouds held their releases for what seemed to be a private dry spell solely for us on both Pichincha and Fuya Fuya. On the way up to Cayambe, it was raining from the turn off to the parking area. When it was time to pack our bags and walk to the hut, the faucet turned off. On top of weather luck, our local guides Jaime and Diego secured the only working hut on the mountain. All of the large mountain huts we are used to staying in are under major construction. Three other teams are here to climb and they are all in tents. Only the best for us!
This hut helps tremendously with meals, packing and relaxing. Which we are all doing now after a great hike up to the glacier for some basic review of mountaineering skills. Again the weather was perfect and we have had stunning views of the upper mountain and lower valleys the entire time. Excitement is building for our alpine start tonight. Most people would cringe at waking up at midnight but when a mountain like Cayambe looms above, it’s hard to even get to sleep.
Wish us well.
On The Map
You have the World Geography classes at North Knox Junior Senior High School cheering you on!! Way to go Shannon and Team Ecuador!!
Posted by: Jill Doades on 1/14/2014 at 11:18 am
Great job handling the early challenges, guy. Now on to the fun stuff! Looking forward to hearing from you along the way and remember to be safe. Go team Ecuador!
Posted by: Greg Hunt on 1/14/2014 at 8:58 am
January 14, 2014
It is the end of a long, long day that technically began yesterday. I know this sounds a bit odd but my alarm was set for 10:45 pm last night, the 12th. This is one of the least appealing parts of climbing big mountains, knowing you have a huge day to come on average with three hours of sleep. But lucky for the guides and each other, our team was totally motivated. So began the ascent of the equators only snow covered place, Nevado Cayambe at18,997 feet.
From the hut, our route began with an hour and half of rocks and scree ascending 1,000 feet to the start of the glacier. Once on the glacier, newly accumulated snow, which had softened and then frozen, provided perfect climbing conditions up the long sustained glacier. By the time we reached the summit head wall, the temperatures were in the low teens, the wind was blowing and we all climbed to the top in our down parkas. And people thought we were going to Ecuador to get out of winter.
The summit was beautiful offering grand views of our next two mountains, Antisana and Cotopaxi, as well as Quito and Chimborazo. This is what makes the early wake up call, freezing temperatures and exhausted bodies worth it. We took seven hours to get to the top and rallied down in three. Unfortunately, both phones carried by Nick and me died in the cold before the top so a group photo will be coming later.
After getting down and packing up, we hiked 30 minutes down to meet Victor and the magic bus to be carried off to our next accommodations, Papallacta. Here we enjoyed a fantastic meal but most importantly, natural thermal hot tubs. Which reminds me, it’s time for a soak.
We are off to Antisana later today. Wish us luck.
On The Map
Great job everyone and congratulations for topping another peak. Go team Ecuador!
Posted by: Greg on 1/14/2014 at 4:28 pm
CONGRATULATIONS, TO ALL. I’M VERY PROUD OF YOU JENNIFER, STAY SAFE AND WARM. LOVE DAD.
Posted by: Nick Boekenoogen on 1/14/2014 at 1:37 pm
January 15, 2014
Leaving Papallacta behind today wasn’t easy. We only spent a single night there, relaxing our muscles in the natural hot springs, but I’m sure many of us were ready to call it home. Wifi, beds, good food, cozy cabins… But alas, we must move on and continue what we came out here to do. The glistening white slopes of Antisana are calling out to us!
Our day did began with some sad news, however. Two of our climbers made the difficult decision to head home early due to a debilitating illness. We will miss them on the rest of our journey and we hope for a speedy recovery once they get back.
On paper, today’s objective was to establish base camp at Antisana. In practice, however, it felt like our objective was to eat as much food as possible! After packing our gear, we ate a hearty breakfast at our hacienda, complete with fresh fruit, cheese, eggs, and bread. We loaded our gear and headed down the road toward Antisana. En route we stopped at a beautiful eco-lodge nestled at the base of a rocky cliff, famous for its native condor population. There, before our breakfast really had a chance to digest, we sat down for a delicious four course lunch. In truth, most of us probably could’ve stopped eating after the appetizers, but our insistent hostess made sure we finished the full meal. From there, another thirty minutes of driving brought us to the field that we’ll call home for the next few days.
We spent the evening setting up camp, practicing various knots, hitches and bends, and (you guessed it!) more eating! Now the night is coming to a close, and everyone is inside their tents, resting up for another full day of training tomorrow.
January 15, 2014
It’s hard to believe our trip is already half over! We have seen some incredible places and have had the opportunity to climb three peaks so far: one big mountain and a couple of smaller peaks. Along the way, the team has really come together and has definitely gotten in to the “groove” of expedition climbing. It’s great to see everyone working together to set up camps, take care of chores, and take care of each other.
Today was a technical skills training day. We slept in until 7 am, then loaded in to a couple of 4x4 vehicles and began an exciting off-road drive to the base of Antisana. An hour or so of hiking brought us to the toe of the glacier, where we donned our crampons and ice axes for the hike to our training area for the day. Today’s topics were crevasse rescue, rappelling, and fixed line travel.
After a few quick demonstrations, everyone had time to practice the various skills at a number of different stations. As guides, our job was easy today! Everyone was helping each other master the techniques and all we had to do was stay out of the way and watch the magic happen! It was great to see folks working as a team and to see everyone so eager to learn and help out.
Back at base camp, it’s almost 7 pm now and everyone is tucked away in their tents. Half of our team is going to wake up in just a few hours for a summit bid; the other half has opted instead for another day of rest and technical skills practice, giving themselves the best odds on Cotopaxi in a few days.
That’s all for now! Wish our summit team well tonight as they head up for the first ever RMI attempt at Antisana!
Best of luck, be safe and stay warm. Love Dad.
Posted by: Nick Boekenoogen on 1/16/2014 at 8:30 pm
Good luck everyone. Hope both teams see the top. Take care!
Posted by: Greg Hunt on 1/16/2014 at 6:29 pm
January 17, 2014
Today is a tough one to put into words. Amazingly bitter sweet is the only honest way I can aptly describe the team’s fruit basket of emotions after the outcome of today’s Antisana summit attempt.
When the alarm again went off at 10:30 pm, this time in a grassy pasture three miles removed from the base of the mountain, I couldn’t help but cringe. It was only when I flopped out of the tent that my spirits lifted. It was perfect out! A full moon illuminated Ecuador’s most elusive glaciated summit and from what we saw the day before, things looked promising. To lay it out, our climbing team was comprised of four team members and three guides. Two of our team members went back to the states early due to illness and three more decided to forego the climb to focus more on the skills side of this program. Don’t forget, we have the highest mountain yet to come.
We ate a small breakfast and did our best to make sure those still sleeping were adequately bothered by the climbers heading off with no sleep. A 30-minute jeep ride brought us to the start of the moraine and 60 minutes later we were putting crampons on to begin heading up the glacier. I had to put moon screen on so not to burn my cheeks, it was that bright.
Six hours of the most beautiful, engaging and aesthetic mountain climbing I’ve ever done in Ecuador landed us on a nice flat spot just as the sun was rising. The moon was still full and the alpenglow was incredible. The bitter was about to balance the sweet. Five-hundred feet below what we thought was an inevitable successful summit was a crevasse running the entire width of the glacier. Farit asked if we could jump across and I told him we didn’t practice that skill yet. He shrugged and said “ok”. Our sweet hopes for a proud summit were instantly dashed. So goes the unpredictable nature of mountain climbing.
After returning to camp where the rest of the team was practicing skills, a rapid pack up ensued and it was into the magic bus and off to a beautiful hacienda resting almost on the foothills of Cotopaxi itself. Hot showers, cervesas and clean beds were a welcomed reward to get us psyched for what’s to come. Our third and final mountain awaits tomorrow. No matter the outcome, knowing the trip is coming to a close will also be bitter sweet. Shaun and Nichole, we miss you.
Best of luck on your next attempt. You guys can do it! Go team Ecuador.
Posted by: Greg Hunt on 1/17/2014 at 10:07 am
January 17, 2014
The great weather continued today as we left the comforts of the beautiful Chilcabamba Eco Lodge and ventured up to the Jose Ribas Refugio at 16,000’ on Cotopaxi were we are posed to make our third major summit attempt of the trip. Everyone is in great spirits, feeling strong and acclimatized, which is not an easy feat when at 16,000’!
We are waiting for our local, in-house (or should I say in-hut) chef to complete our dinner feast of soup, chicken, crackers, and rice; the wafting smell is oh so enticing right now. This sustenance will get us through until the alarm beckons us to rise and climb.
Tomorrow is our summit day on Cotopaxi. Wish us luck!
On The Map
Congratulations team, great work, you should all be proud. Can’t wait to hear all the details. Love Dad.
Posted by: Nick Boekenoogen on 1/18/2014 at 12:04 pm