Entries By dustin wittmier
January 27, 2020
Our Ecuador Volcanoes team is pleased to announce that we reached the summit of Cayambe, Ecuador’s third highest peak, this morning at 9:30 am.
Unfortunately we were dealt a messy hand fist thing when an electrical storm descended onto our team at 15,800 feet. With axes, ski poles and any other metal object literally glowing from the static electricity, we had no choice but to retrace our hour long start and return to the hut. With hopes almost dashed, I suggested a second round but the caveat was we needed to move fast and efficiently putting high demands on those willing. With a long stretch already under our belts, only three climbers opted to try again. Through a full white out, many crevasses, tired legs and burning lungs, all three made it to the top! No matter who went and who didn’t, everyone made the right call.
After a long drive back to town and a great late lunch we are all headed towards a rest day. We are all healthy and in good spirits. stay tuned for tomorrow’s rest day excitement.
RMI Guide Dustin Wittmier, Adam Knoff and Team.
On The Map
I can’t imagine being in an electrical storm at 15,800 feet let alone having to retrace your steps back to the hut. Whether you tried to make the summit again or not…I wish I could shake the hand of each and every one of you and tell you all to continue to believe in the greatness you have within you!!!
CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU ALL!!! Sounds like a fun rest day is in store. ENJOY!!!
LUMTA 1TF : )
Posted by: Geri Kuehn on 1/28/2020 at 9:58 am
Congrats on another summit!! Safety first for all of these mts! Enjoy your day. Looking forward to more news.
Posted by: Jane on 1/28/2020 at 4:30 am
January 26, 2020
Hello friends, family and all other followers! The team is currently at Refugio Ruales Oleas Bergé, situated at 15,100’ on the SW flank of Volcán Cayambe. We arrived yesterday afternoon in good spirits after pushing through a few downpours on the 4x4 truck ride to the hut. A late dinner was accompanied by tales of past climbs and some impromptu mountain trivia. Other teams in the hut were prepping for a summit bid, we headed to bed early and wished them good luck.
This morning we woke up to some fresh snow and in and out of a cloud. No big deal, our primary goal was to get to the toe of the glacier and do some skills training. Our review of climbing skills was a success, the guides looked at each other in astonishment as literally every team member performed a textbook team arrest position on the first try!
Weather-wise it has been a pretty good day, giving us high hopes for tonight’s climb. The team is fit and seems to be acclimating well, tonight will be the true test!
RMI Guides Adam Knoff and Dustin Wittmier
On The Map
I’m as impressed as your guides are. You’re an awesome team!!! Believe in your ability. You got this!
You can take a man/woman and measure them, examine them, analyze them and dissect their statistics but you cannot look into their heart. That’s where the thirst is—-the hunger. That’s where desire turns to fire.
By M. L. Carr
Posted by: Geri Kuehn on 1/28/2020 at 9:29 am
Wishing all a successful summit and a safe trip. Thx for the great blogs!!! Mom
Posted by: Jane on 1/27/2020 at 6:40 am
January 24, 2020
Yesterday as our team of acclimating, moth parenting, cloud touching gringos strolled up Rucu Pichincha, a storm was unleashing 40 miles to the south. In Espanol they might say it was raining perros y gatos, but luckily we never felt a drop. Ever since the team arrived, our weather has been a bit squirley leaving us to wonder if we might actually get wet somewhere along the line.
As we packed Victor’s magic bus today, the clouds swirled above but not as noisily as the traffic around us. Forty-five minutes after departing our gracious hotel hosts, we gathered speed around a four lane roundabout and were literally shot out of the city like something breaking free from a strange orbit. Three hours and 50 miles later we found ourselves at a beautiful crater lake named Largo Mojanda. As Americans we want to pronounce this with a true "j" sound, making this lake sound like some kind of volcanic jelly, but in Espanol, the "j" sounds like an "h" and the "o" is long giving it a more majestic feel.
The mountains we climbed don’t take as much tutoring to figure out. Fuya Fuya is the name of the twin peaks we ascended leaving only images and not so much phonetics to the imagination. Much like yesterday, the weather held and we were blessed with another summit and beautiful vistas of the deep blue lake and surrounding peaks. The climbing wasn’t difficult but watching Jerome plunge into the frigid water was. When he asked me it it was okay to swim, I looked at him and said, “I don’t know, is it?” I certainly wasn’t risking my skin against fresh water volcanic flesh eating trout. He went in but came out quicker.
From the lake we descended the bumpy cobble road to our favorite lunch spot and then to the hacienda for some rest, packing and preparing for tomorrow’s big move to 15,000' on the flanks of Cayambe. This is a big jump so wish us luck. But, before we go to the mountain we will go shopping! All faithful blog followers get a gift.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff
Awesome job guys. Sounds like you have an extremely strong team. Wishing everyone a safe and successful summit.
Posted by: Kevin Durbon on 1/27/2020 at 4:29 am
Glad to hear the weather has been good for your journey. Enjoying the pictures that are posted. Save up your energy. Sounds like you all have lots of hard work ahead. Remember…lots of people are cheering for you!!! LUMTA 1TF
Posted by: Geri Kuehn on 1/25/2020 at 10:13 pm
January 23, 2020
Today our Ecuador Volcanoes team set out on the first of many uphill travels planned for the next ten days. We like to think that our strategic planning plays a big role in our future success, which is why I ordered up some nice weather and arranged for a cable car to whisk us from 10,000 feet to 13,000 as to not over stress many sea level lungs.
Our goal today was to ascend the 15,400 foot Pichincha Rucu volcano, a stone's throw outside the city in order acclimate for bigger objectives down the road. With a starting zone of 13,000 feet, this hike is usually very manageable from the top of the cable car in five hours, give or take. Upon arriving at the upper station the weather, unsettled for the last two days, showed signs of grumpiness but played nice as we prepared go. A wild hitchhiker latched onto Jerome’s shirt and hand, quietly calling daddy, daddy, but after five minutes of hiking changed his mind, flying to Willie thinking his orange pack looked more suiting than Jerome’s yellow shirt. Both would make fine fathers.
Once on the trail we could not have asked for better walking conditions. Thick clouds kept the temps down which was nice but obscured our view of the upper mountain. The steep parts weren’t too slick so the entire team made good and steady progress upwards until there was no more up to be had. After a cloudy 20 minutes on top we descended down with no issues and still no rain which landed us back at the hotel around 4:00.
We ate a great meal and then prepared for the upcoming climb tomorrow. Stay tuned for more sports action.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff
Hey everyone…Just want you all to know I did write a comment yesterday. In fact I wrote it twice as best as I could remember what I said. I didn’t see it anywhere so Whynde…don’t think mama forgot you and the group. Today I can see my Comment so I’m thinking it’ll be good from now on. Wish I would have printed yesterday’s words of wisdom but…onward and upward. LUMTA 1TF
Posted by: Geri Kuehn on 1/24/2020 at 1:26 pm
Hello everyone…I sure hope you’re getting my words of encouragement to all of you. Love the group picture. I have a book titled “Believe in Yourself”. Today’s profound words of wisdom are thanks to Erma Bombeck. Most of you are probably too young to even know who she is. She took life with a grain of salt and a smile.
There are people who put their dreams in a little box and say, “Yes, I’ve got dreams, of course, I’ve got dreams.” Then they put the box away and bring it out once in a while and look in it, and yep, they’re still there. These are great dreams, but they never even get out of the box. It takes an uncommon amount of guts to put your dreams on the line, to hold them up and say, “How good or how bad am I?” That’s where the courage comes in.
Have a great day!!! Make good progress!!! Remember it just takes one step at a time!!! GOOD LUCK TO ALL OF YOU!!! LUMTA 1TF
Posted by: Geri Kuehn on 1/24/2020 at 1:18 pm
Today the entire team was assembled for the first time. With a couple last minute emergencies, the group is now down to eight. We are disappointed some folks had to cancel, however we are happy to report that all who planned to make it here are in country with luggage in tow.
After a quick orientation we were shuffled onto the bus for a tour of Quito and a trip to La Mitad del Mundo (The Middle of the World). This is not a reference to Middle Earth, but instead is a museum at the Equatorial Line. We were treated to a variety of scientific representations of the Coriolis Effect. Two members of the team were able to balance an egg on a nail. In reality, this is possible anywhere in the world but Dustin keeps a close eye on this activity for when it comes time to assign rope teams.
Our tour then proceeded to El Panecillo and old town Quito. It rained for most of the day, but we made the most of it and it cleared up just enough on top of El Panecillo to have a great view of the city.
By the time we returned to the hotel most of us were pretty exhausted. Many team members' flights arrived late last night so people were given the choice to run around town or just relax in the rooms. I think most chose sleep!
We are all in good spirits, healthy and ready for our first acclimation hike tomorrow up Rucu Pichincha.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff
January 19, 2020
Deja vu happens to people all the time. A familiar face, feeling or experience happening in the present that one is sure has happened in the past. Most of the time this strange phenomenon passes quickly and the day continues on its normal path. Today was a different type of deja vu.
One year ago at this very time of year, I was on Chimborazo guiding a team of climbers motivated to ascend this beast of a volcano. We were camped at the same camp, had the same tent sights and experienced the same weather. Unfortunately this weather was the kicker. From well below the mountain, a mean looking cloud cap obscured the summit and it was clear that wind, whipped up from the volatile tropics had a grip on the upper mountain with no intention of loosening it. Today, everything from our parking spot to the cloud formations was the same.
We reached high camp at 17,400' at the 3:00 p.m. This section of the climb was actually much more pleasant than expected. Beautiful backdrops of our climbers were framed against the moody upper mountain and the deep red volcanic rock making for amazing color contrast and Kodak moments.
Once at camp, things began to change and the wind began to pour down the mountain making our tent houses flap. Through dinner the wind didn’t let up. Then around 8:00 p.m., as we were tucked in, things went calm. Exactly like last year. With this sign, I knew what was coming.
By 9:30 p.m. the atmospheric fan was turned to high. Dust found every tiny opening in the tents covering our sleeping bags and getting into our eyes and mouths. From here on we knew it was going to be an uncertain climb.
At 2:00 a.m. we left our camp with winds so strong we needed to collapse our tents and put rocks on them to keep them from getting destroyed. Last year that’s what happened. Unfortunately an hour into the climb, having been protected by a large rock band, we turned a corner and were greeted with the full force of Chimborazo. With all the local guides urging us to turn back, we were left with little choice. Having only climbed 600 feet, we turned the group around.
Sometimes the house deals some bad hands. Unfortunately on this trip, two out of three were not winners. Although we didn’t summit Cayambe or Chimborazo, we were blessed with a perfect day on Cotopaxi. We all feel psyched to be heading home soon but a bit disappointed we couldn’t get higher. All in all we had a great journey learning a lot while making life long memories.
Now we are enjoying a welcome afternoon of football before heading back to Quito and ultimately back home. Thank you all for following our Ecuadorian adventure.
RMI Guides Adam Knoff, Dustin Wittmier and Team
Good Luck Sue!! Wishing you and your fellow climbers a safe and successful climb!
- Mychal (Mexico climb teammate)
Posted by: Mychal Wooldridge on 1/20/2020 at 1:14 pm
Glad you are safe! Sorry that the wind blew you off the summit! Packers also were blown out!
Posted by: Jane on 1/20/2020 at 5:03 am
January 18, 2020
The team has arrived at High Camp on Chimborazo, 17,300. It has been a roller coaster of emotion watching the weather. One minute it looks perfect and the next it is cloudy and windy. So we are just doing everything we can to be ready for a summit push tonight. Dinner will be ready at 5:30 pm, with a little charcuterie spread preceding. We be sleeping in tents on a gritty, windy mountain but we are not barvarians! We will eat the finiest dried meats, cheese and olives the Mega Maxi grocery store has to offer.
We will be up climbing under the stars (hopefully) on the switchback deprived trail tonight. It literally goes straight up.
Wish us luck!
Hoping all has gone well. Enjoying your descriptive blogs.
Posted by: Jane on 1/19/2020 at 6:06 am
The last few mornings we have had would not by most standards be considered relaxing or “vacation” worthy in most people’s worlds. Although we were able to “sleep in” on Wednesday morning, there is something about being at 16,000 feet surrounded by coughing, restless climbers which is simply not conducive to quality rest. Thursday evening we were up at 11:30 pm, so this morning is a welcomed relief from those high altitude toss and turners.
With 9,000' feeling like sea level and our second 500 year old hacienda feeling like the royal Hilton, this morning was a gift for the mind, body and soul. I must confess that in our last hacienda, Dustin was convinced a ghost had visited our room floating above him making his whole body tingle, which is a legit claim considering the place’s history, but with equal haunting tales following us to our current hacienda, we slept too hard to notice if calling the ghost busters was reasonable.
After a thoroughly caffeinated breakfast we packed the van and headed south towards Chimborazo. The bus first landed us in the bustling town of Ambato where we shopped and enjoyed watching Jonny try to expand his stomach with an intimidating 20” burrito. He opted to not complete his task in the name of comfort for the remaining bus ride which ultimately brought us to my favorite hacienda called, Abraspungo, located in Riobamba, a short hour drive from Chimborazo. Here we were greeted with a lovely hot tottie and a host who speaks perfect English. Dustin and I can steer the ship with our first grade Espanol, but I would consider it equal to loosening the handle bars of a mountain bike and sendings down a hard single track. We crash a lot!
Once moved in we continued our skills training the appropriate way, with shorts, beer and a perfectly manicured lawn. Dinner followed and was superb! All in all, this is how a rest day should feel, which is good because tomorrow we start our hardest and final mountain of this wild adventure. Chimborazo is the farthest point from the center of the earth and sometimes feels like it has no end. We need to be strong, determined and ready to rock if the summit is going to be found. We will touch base from High Camp tomorrow.
January 16, 2020
I am pleased to announce that our Ecuador Seminar team successfully reached the glorious summit of Cotopaxi today at 6:45 am, a mere six hours after leaving the hut in near perfect weather. As we gathered outside preparing ourselves for launch we were greeted with a stunning view of the Southern Hemisphere’s most notable constellation, the Southern Cross, perched directly over the summit which was illuminated beautifully in half powered moonlight. With almost no wind and warm temps, our climb was a drastic contrast to the experience on Cayambe. There were certainly more climbers sharing the mountain but all in all the climbing was very manageable and the route was perfect. Along with the the great weather, we were blessed with a stunning view of night time Quito, 50 miles to the north looking like a long orange fire against the backdrops of numerous volcanoes.
Upon reaching the summit we were bummed to be missing two of our team members still struggling to overcome annoying chest infections but we took plenty of pictures to show them the crater and expansive vistas. After an almost flawless descent I provided a bit of unneeded excitement by taking the wrong trail off of the glacier resulting in steep screen sliding but we found the hut and eventually the bus, waiting patiently in the parking lot ready to zip us to showers, internet and cervesas.
As I write this I am sitting in another 400+ year old hacienda, beer in hand, showing our gracious hosts the incredible pictures of this mornings climb. All I keep saying is what a great day and climb it was. We all hope Chimborazo treats us the same way.
Our journey is well past it’s first week so we want to let all of those following the blog know we are grateful. We all miss our families and loved ones and hope you can send positive thoughts for one more climb.
Tomorrow is a rest day as we transfer south to this planet’s actual tallest mountain. Ask google why.
Adam: congrats! Your team is lucky to have you and the weather is something I hope for the next time!
Posted by: Deborah Rutter on 1/17/2020 at 6:12 am
Fantastic everyone ! Congratulations! Wishing you good weather and climb for Chimborazo.
Posted by: Linda Dempf on 1/16/2020 at 4:40 pm
January 15, 2020
Hola from 16,000 ft on the northern flanks of Ecuador’s most famous mountain, Cotopaxi. We apologize for not sending a dispatch yesterday because we were so excited to get here, we simply forgot. I assure all of you faithful followers the effects of altitude on memory are minimal, I just forget things naturally.
Once moved in last night we endured a very restless evening because apparently the workers knew we were coming and couldn’t stop painting, pounding, dragging and talking well into the night. So this morning we drank our coffee, packed our bags and headed to the glacier for some skills training unrelated to our climb. The weather is a vast improvement over the weather on Cayambe and all the teams that climbed last night made it to the top.
Not it is 4:30 pm and the hut is busting with tourists and climbers hoping to attempt tonight as well. Everyone is in good spirits and excited to climb! We all feel our chances are good.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s dispatch.
Wishing the best climb to the Knoff led team. Mom
Posted by: Jane Knoff on 1/16/2020 at 12:30 pm
Team Knoff -
You are in the best of hands with your guide team!
Keep the “rest step” in sync and you’ll be on the summit in no time! And remember to breathe… Ahhhhh….
Most importantly, support each other and make it a trip of a lifetime, because it’s exactly that!
PS - Adam, I’ll be with Davis on Orizaba in a few days. RMI is the best!
Posted by: Tom Mulvey on 1/15/2020 at 10:20 pm