Ecuador Skills Seminar 2013 is coming to a close. Although we did not attempt to climb the tallest of our three chosen mountains which should have taken place today, we settled for a 17,500 foot consolation prize, Illiniza Sur. We left our hostel this morning at 1 am and began the two hour approach to the hut at 1:45. Forty five minutes into the hike we had to stop and don rain gear to ward off the cold mist that was beginning to soak us. By the time we reached the hut the mist had turned to snow. Sadly the weather was not the only thing going south. By the time we were ready to depart, Jaime our local guide was too ill to continue, Suzanne was too knackered from her battle with a loose gut and Jan began to have stomach cramps. By the time we filed out, only Gary and Clark were able to ascend with both Casey and myself. With a one to one ratio the steep, technical terrain we encountered was greatly entertaining. Not to mention the weather broke just as we were approaching the glacier. From bottom to top and back again, this climb was a fantastic way to end our time together as a climbing team. I am really bummed we could not all stand on top together but tonight we become a party team. It is always important to remember the summit isn’t everything. Tonight we are all ready for a grand fiesta of both food and spirits. Our time in Ecuador has been packed with good laughs, good climbing and great people. We will miss it. But now we are all deeply anticipating the reunion with family friends and ice climbing. Thanks to everyone who followed along and gave support. Hasta mañana.
Yesterday we drove five hours south of Quito to Ecuador‘s highest mountain, Chimborazo. News from other local guides provided mixed information. We heard there was a bit of new snow on the route which contrary to popular belief actually makes the route safer. What we found was nothing of the sort. For many years the north side of Chimborazo has been melting making rockfall an increasing concern. Having a bad gut feeling I could not ignore, I spoke with the other guides and we decided climbing up with ten other climbers ahead of us was too risky on a route with substantial rock fall hazard. During the night two team members began having diarrhea and a guide threw up. I took this as a sign and began to reevaluate the situation. Over breakfast the guides laid out an alternative mountain that we felt would have a much better chance of success given the teams health and über challenging route on Chimborazo. A discussion was held and a difficult but good decision was made to abandon Chimborazo and go to Illiniza Sur. This will be a more technically challenging but safer and shorter climb. We are all a bit bummed to not be giving our main objective a shot but also psyched we are all still together. We leave the hostel tonight at eleven and will send word of the climb tomorrow. Stay tuned.
We are all watching your precarious adventures biting our nails from the coffee shop in Los Angeles. Worried sick that Clark will get a blister or lose his beauty sleep (he can’t afford to!). He said he was tired of walking the dog everyday but don’t you think this is a bit extreme, Clark?
Wishing you all safe passage home!
XO, from all of us here at sea level
Posted by: Ted Craig CJ on 1/16/2013 at 3:29 pm
Sorry to hear about the hardships but I had to go back to work today and that’s no fun either…haha I hope everyone feels better and you can all end the trip on a high note.
Posted by: Albert on 1/15/2013 at 3:33 pm
January 14, 2013
The team has traveled south and we have arrived at our last climbing objective, Chimborazo. It took us about five hours to drive here from Quito. This is the biggest mountain here in Ecuador and it stands proud at 20,700’.
We have currently just downed our dinner and are getting ready for bed. Everyone is doing well and ready to climb so we can return home to our loved ones. I’m keeping it short as we will be getting up early for this one.
We’ll update tomorrow.
We’re thinking of you and your team and praying that you all stay safe.
Mom and Dad
Posted by: Polly and Ed on 1/15/2013 at 7:17 am
Have a safe and rewarding climb.
Posted by: Albert on 1/14/2013 at 8:52 pm
Domingo. This is the Spanish equivalent to Sunday. And as we all know, on the seventh day of God’s exhausting work week he rested. Granted he did create all living things, the land and sea as well as the heavens so deservingly so he earned the right to sit on the couch and mourn a Green Bay packers loss. Our team simply climbed a 19,000 foot mountain which God would dismiss as child’s play but we are mere mortals. Regardless, Sunday greeted our freshly washed group at La Cienega with beautiful sunshine and happy humming birds. After breakfast we loaded the van and rolled back to Quito to celebrate Ginger and Albert’s time with us. By mid afternoon the team had sniffed out the most American sports bar this side of the amazon and watched what us gringos consider “real” football. Jaime keeps calling it hand ball and for some reason I can’t find a witty comeback. All I can say is God is a Green Bay packer fan. After football we rested some more and then headed out for our fair well dinner. We have all passed this one Mexican restaurant with a short mariachi man standing on the corner blowing a toy trumpet trying to persuade any hungry looking gringo into his place. Because I seem to promise this funny little guy we will come in next time, I figured it would be bad karma to pass him up again. So Mexican it was. Sadly they can’t serve beer after 4pm on Sundays because too many people were getting sloshed after church and crashing their cars, so I had to sooth my jalapeño burns with red wine. The food turned out to be great so the team went back to the hotel content. We now head south to Chimborazo. Albert and Ginger, we will miss you. Wish us luck.
On The Map
January 12, 2013
As the phone call from earlier today said, we had an absolutely phenomenal day climbing Cotopaxi. The team as a whole was saddened by the withdrawal of Ginger from the climb itself but but we were all so impressed by her selfless decision to remain at the hut and not attempt the climb do to a nagging chest infection. When climbers put their team first over their ego and personal ambitions, it reveals much about their true character. Ginger we missed you today. After descending from our surreal summit, we quickly packed up at the hut and marched the 15 minutes downhill to the waiting van. Our amazing local guide, Jaime Avila went home to Quito to prepare for his return to Chimborazo and the rest of us are now resting peacefully at a 400 year old hacienda south of Quito. I simply can’t remember a nicer day in Ecuador.
Voicemail Message: Hello! This is Adam with Casey, Jaime and the crew on top of Cotopaxi! Ginger stayed behind at the hut this morning as she was not feeling well. Everyone else is on top on the most beautiful day we could have asked for. It is almost a fair trade - I would give a day like we had on Cayambe to have a day like this on Cotopaxi. It is a beautiful, beautiful place to be. Everyone is feeling great and all is well. We will check in later from La Cienega.
On The Map
Well done on reaching the summit - and great to see you had such a fantastic day for it! Enjoy being back to ground level (still higher than anywhere here in NZ!). Brett
Posted by: Brett Vautier on 1/13/2013 at 12:25 pm
Congrats on a successful summit. Good luck on your third MT.
Posted by: Jane on 1/13/2013 at 10:32 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
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
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
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
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