Hello from Quito, Ecuador. The Expedition Skills Seminar - Ecuador has arrived in full, all bags included and is settling in nicely. Today the group had a busy itinerary starting with a top notch breakfast which of course is the day’s most important meal. Once fully caffeinated we spent a pleasant hour doing personal introductions and breaking down the week’s objectives. After our team’s bonding exercises of trust falls and human pyramids in the hotel lobby we put our well being in the hands of our tour operator and ventured into the heart of Quito where traffic can rival the adventurous nature of mountain climbing. We visited many historic sites including the Presidential Palace, Independence Plaza and multiple churches centuries older than the United States itself. This concluded our history lesson, next was science. From the old town of Quito we drove 45 minutes north to the “Mitad del Mundo” translated to the middle of the world. Don’t get this confused with middle earth, we saw no hobbits or elves. What we did experience were the wild supernatural effects of being directly on equator. Although no one earned their diploma for balancing an egg on a nail, we did see it happen. Other party tricks include failing a DWI balance test walking the actual line and watching the coriolis effect spin water in opposite directions five feet into each hemisphere. After the tour we rested, regrouped and went out for a well deserved team dinner. Everyone is in good health and excited to begin acclimatizing.
Albert, Say Hi to the Summit for me! Go Team! God Bless!
Posted by: Mom Gray on 1/3/2013 at 8:15 pm
Best of luck Casey, Adam and team!
Posted by: Big Mike Froelich on 1/3/2013 at 11:56 am
January 3, 2013
Greetings from expedition skills seminar, Ecuador!
Not all of our mountaineering challenges down here should be considered overly stressful. Granted we aren’t exactly roughing it here in hotel Mercure Alemeda, we figured starting the team off gently would ease us into the trip’s first acclimating hike.
Quito is flanked on its western edge by the frequently active Pinchincha Rucu volcano who’s 15,500 foot summit makes for a perfect first excursion to altitude. Oh ya, back to a gentle start. After another delicious breakfast the team loaded into a sporty looking minivan with a sporty looking driver to match and headed ten minutes up the road to the loading dock of Quito’s famous Pinchincha gondola. I don’t know much, but I do know riding from 10,000 feet to 13,800 feet is better than walking. Who knew? From the top of the tram, views of Quito ‘s expansive size and beautiful setting blessed us before our trail was soon overtaken by the rising cloud bank. Despite the apparent fitness of our team, much hard breathing was done welcoming in the lower oxygen levels. Soon we found our rhythm and pushed steadily upward further into the cold clouds until the sign on the summit said we were there. By that time we were all in gloves, hats and warm jackets. We then descended quickly before the rain hit.
The rest of the afternoon will be spent relaxing and exploring the neighborhood around the hotel. We are all psyched to be leaving the city and heading north.
Casey and Adam, you very successfully guided our entire expedition team to the summit of Cotopaxi on 16 Dec 2011. Your team will easily discover what great RMI guides they have. Happy New Year from Bill, Scott, and the four Mikes
Posted by: Bill HIll on 1/4/2013 at 8:03 am
This morning was a welcomed departure from the hustle and bustle of Ecuador’s largest city. Despite the plush hotel, easy Internet access and wild night life, our team was ready to relocate to the country getting us one step closer the big mountains we came here to climb. Although we haven’t seen any glaciated peaks yet because of the constant cloud coverage, the guides have thoroughly convinced the team they do exist. Such confidence was not instilled in our team when our driver today told us he knew where the trail head was to our second acclimating hike on a mountain called Fuya Fuya. Doing his best to convince us he was not indeed lost, it became undeniable when the road, if one could call it that, ended in the face of a giant bulldozer actually clearing jungle so the “road” could go further. Always expecting the unexpected, we made the best of the situation by pushing headlong up a muddy, steep trail hoping to find a lake we knew existed somewhere up in the mountains above. Surprisingly we did not find the lake but instead stumbled across the main road we should have been on in the first place. With a good laugh we headed back down the muddy trail to the waiting van and then got settled into our beautiful hacienda. Chuck, Jan, Albert and I had a great soccer match and the rest of us simply relaxed. A quick packing lesson prepared us for tomorrow’s departure to the mountains and a great dinner has now prepared us for sleep. The team is doing very well and in good spirits. Hasta mañana.
We had a nice leisurely start to the day today and met at 8:00 for breakfast and more importantly COFFEE! There was no rush today as our agenda was to visit the market of Otovalo. It just happens to be one of the largest open air markets in all of South America. There were hundreds of vendors selling everything imaginable. Lots of handmade goods and endless nick-nacks. Everyone enjoyed the market and had fun practicing their bargaining skills.
After the shopping spree we loaded up the vehicles and made our way towards Cayambe, which is the third largest mountain in Ecuador at 18,997’. It was a long and bumpy drive through the rural countryside. We stopped just short of the hut that we will base out of the next few days and hiked the remainder to further help with acclimatization.
The team has just finished a nice pasta dinner and are currently sipping some hot drinks and making our plan for the next few days. Everyone is doing well and looking forward to training tomorrow.
January 6, 2013
Buenos Dias from the Cayambe hut. Today was the first “real” day spent training on our first “real” mountain. It always amazes me how a simple acclimatizing hike ten minutes from our hotel in Quito puts us well over 15,000 feet in a matter of hours accomplished in simple hiking boots and a day pack. So when I say “real” it must refer to something big. Our first mountain, Cayambe seems to fill those shoes. Sitting at 18,997’, even the shortest climbers on the team will have the privilege of saying their throbbing noggins broke the respectable altitude of 19,000 feet. Breaking this psychological barrier should make climbing Cotopaxi, a whopping 400 feet higher, a walk in the park.
This morning the group woke slowly having slept surprisingly well for the large jump in altitude. Our luxurious hut sits at 15,200’, a casual one hour hike below the tongue of the glacier. Regardless of our groups strong résumé, we began hiking from the hut revisiting breathing techniques, rest stepping and minor drooling. After an hour hiking upward, we chose our high camp location and cached some tents, stoves and climbing headwear. After a brief rest we moved to the start of the glacier where we revisited self arrest, cramponing and rope travel. This three-hour exercise proved more taxing than expected so upon our return to the hut, eyes were closing sitting at the table so our next training skill was napping at altitude. So far the groups favorite skill to practice. We then practiced knots and hitches before sitting down for dinner. The altitude and full day caught up with all of us so we are looking forward to hitting the sack early. Tomorrow we move to high camp.
On The Map
We are so excited to read your blog! Thank you for keeping us posted on your adventure. Like Kris says, you never cease to amaze me, Adam. I have been searching for ice skates the last 2 days, with no success, as our little lake is frozen glass right now. Can’t wait to get out on it.
All of our Love and Prayers. Aunt, Ginni
Posted by: Aunt Ginni on 1/7/2013 at 9:44 am
Adam and crew, finally got on the blog to see how the trip is progressing. Looks like a great group and you are enjoying the “pain” of altitude! I’ll pray for safety for your group. It amazes me what you can do! Stillwater is warming up to a balmy 35 today and xc skiing has been good. I’ll keep reading your blog and keep typing it up Adam. Love ya, Aunt Kris
Posted by: Kris Bowditch on 1/7/2013 at 8:18 am
January 7, 2013
The last few nights have been a bit windy to say the least and the rattling of the windows has been soothing to some of us, and not so much for others. So we’ve had a few traditional siestas during the day.
Our plan was to move up to a higher camp today, but due to weather and acclimatization we have decided to spend one more night here in the cozy hut.
Thankfully Adam greeted the team with plenty of pancakes and coffee this morning, which helped start the day. We then headed out to do some training not far from the hut and did a short hike to get a better look at our route.
A number of climbers arrived today and are planning on climbing Cayambe tonight, which is good news for us. Hopefully they will be successful and kick in a good trail to help us out.
Other than that all is well here at just over 15’000’. Everyone is happy and hungry and looking forward to dinner.
RMI Guide Casey Grom and crew
Go team. America is counting on you to bring home the glory. Or at least a good story.
Posted by: Scott Humphrey on 1/8/2013 at 5:49 pm
January 8, 2013
Hello to all following the Ecuadorean skills seminar. As Casey mentioned yesterday, the wind gods in this neck of the woods, or jungle, seem to be a tad upset with Cayambe the last few days. Last night the gale rocked our hut, shaking windows and spraying dust onto our sleeping bags and equipment all through the bunk room. As I woke my concern shifted quickly not to dirt in my eyes but to Jan who will get his merit badge as the only one to have spent a night in a tent. I don’t think too many of us were complaining though because the tent this morning looked very close to flying away. Unfortunately this same wind pattern continued throughout the morning making our projected second attempt at moving to high camp seem a bit detrimental to our actual summit attempt. As much as I wanted to give our team the experience of moving upward and making a high camp, discussions with Casey and Jamie helped me realize the effort needed to move up, pitch tents and get substantial rest was not advantageous to our climb tonight. What another day at the hut did allow us was more valuable training. The opening section to our route directly out of the hut offers impressive rock out croppings ideal for fixed rope travel and rappelling. After our outside time, that was certainly tested by the wind, we retreated back to the hut where we practiced rope coiling, knots and time killing activities. We are now preparing for an early dinner and retirement to our sleeping bags. We look forward to getting up early and gunning for the summit of the equator’s highest point.
On The Map
Thought the wind may have died down - seems to have arrived in NZ last couple of days. Good luck with progress up the peak. Brett
Posted by: Brett Vautier on 1/9/2013 at 12:25 pm
I once heard the founder of RMI (Lou Whittaker) tell a group “that climbing mountains is like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer, it only feels good when you stop.” And I’m pretty sure that our team actually believes this after today.
Climbing in Ecuador is much different than back in the states. There is no weather forecast to help, no route condition updates, and no reliable rescue if you get in over your head. You pretty much stick your head out the door and decide whether or not you’ll make an attempt or not.
As you have most likely read in the last few dispatches its been pretty windy all week. Today was no different except that it was our summit day. It howled all night and even seemed to shake the 2,000 square-foot building we’ve been staying in. Some of us slept and others did not and around 10:30 pm Adam, Jamie and myself put some water on the stove and crossed our fingers that things would get better. After breakfast, hot cocoa and coffee we finished the last of our packing and headed out into the night.
It was windy right outta the gates. The wind was blowing between 30 and 40 mph with higher gust. It was worse right next to the hut and subsided once we got a short distance away. Luckily for us the first hour and a half we were slightly protected by the rock buttress we had to climb around/over. It by no means made it any easier, but it did allow us to reach the glacier safely. We took a short break put on the majority of our gear (all those things we just had to have finally were really needed) and started up the mountain. We were able to climb for about 2.5 hours before we found shelter from the wind in a small rock outcrop. It became very clear that the wind and weather were not improving as we had hoped. Right above the outcrop the winds seemed to be getting much stronger. We decided to forge ahead and see if it was really as bad as it sounded. Sure enough a few feet above the outcrop we were in the thick of it, the wind was fierce and everyone was fight to just stay on their feet. We attempted to move forward but it was quite clear that was not a realistic option. Adam and I estimated the winds to be between 50 to 70 mph and gust were outright ridiculous.
We quickly descended to the outcrop and decided that the risk was too great and everyone was happily in agreement. The team safely descend as the weather continued to deteriorate all the way back to the hut.
We took a short nap, packed up and retreated to our comfy hacienda and hot showers. Everyone is doing well and happy to be out of the weather.
RMI Guide Casey Grom and crew
This is Albert’s Mom speaking..special thanks to Adam Knoff and Casey Grom for guiding your team on such sn adventure!..... safely and to the summit! The blog updates and pictures were awesome and I wish you and all guides safe climb, be well and thank you! Pat Gray
Posted by: Pat Gray on 1/14/2013 at 11:08 am
Tx for text today..thankful for the good decision..disappointing for you ..but SAFETY FIRST. Good weather on the next trip up..Enjoy! the experience. Pics are amazing! Mom
Posted by: Pat Gray on 1/10/2013 at 2:27 pm
After a severe spanking on our first climbing objective, expedition skills seminar Ecuador has settled into a well deserved day of rest. Here at Chilcabamba, a beautiful rustic Eco lodge located ten miles north west of Cotopaxi, Ecuador’s most famous mountain, we have been treated like royalty. Luckily, whatever crazy wind dance some angry jungle tribe did to irritate the mountain climbers has seemed to run its course. So, by this afternoon many of the dark clouds and biting wind gusts seemed to have subsided which by dinner time treated the team to spectacular views of the mountain we are to attempt next.
Because Cayambe was such a struggle, we opened today up to doing anything, within reason, each person wanted to do. Armed with the the Spanish speaking skills of a two year old, I did my best to arrange a car to drive five willing folks to Machachi, the nearest town. When a pickup arrived with seating enough for four, shoulders were shrugged, the back seat was packed sardine style and twenty minutes later Ginger’s legs were numb. But so goes travel. After a few hours in town the team returned and a quality debrief of our Cayambe experience hopefully prepared us better for what’s to come on Cotopaxi. By 5 p.m. more training ensued and Clark was imitating self arrest in the front yard peppered with llama poop while Albert attempted to mock rescue Ginger out of the imaginary grass crevasse. Who needs a glacier? This segued perfectly into dinned and eventually into Jan and Gary kicking the guide’s tails in a heated game of cribbage.
The team is growing closer every day and can’t wait to attempt another climb. Stay tuned.
Love to hear Clark is covered in Llama poop! Hope you’re all having a great time.
Posted by: Charlie W-G on 1/11/2013 at 12:13 pm
Love the updates!! Glad you all had a needed day of rest!
Posted by: vicky vogt on 1/11/2013 at 8:51 am
January 11, 2013
Thanks to the Chilcabamba Eco Lodge the team has been well fed and all are well rested. After a leisurely breakfast the team finished packing for another climb before our ride arrived. It took as an hour to reach the parking lot at 15,000’. We hiked for about 45 minutes to reach the hut at Cotopaxi which resembles a modern two story house.
All is well and the weather is improving. We will spend the next few hours playing cards, getting some sleep and plan to awake at midnight. If things go well we should arrive on the summit of Cotopaxi near sunrise. We will call from there if the mountain allows us to do so.
Wish us luck!
RMI Guides Casey Grom, Adam Knoff and Crew
HOOOOOOORAH! Can’t wait to see the Summit picture! and very happy to get the phone call. Congratulations! Rest now and eat…soon you will return to reality with a super accomplishment and memory. Love, Mom
Posted by: Pat Gray on 1/12/2013 at 9:20 am
Glad to hear the weather is cooperating finally. Hope you were able to summit and if not, I’m sure you are having a blast! I am jealous and next time you can take me along just to be your interpreter!
Posted by: Ginni Fennema on 1/11/2013 at 8:52 pm