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Entries By henry coppolillo

Ecuador Seminar: Wittmier & Team Return from Chimborazo

Well, a summit of Chimborazo was not in the cards this time. In Ecuador, we lack the same resources that are available to us in the United States for weather and avalanche forecasting. The team headed to the mountain physically and mentally prepared, but upon arrival it became apparent that we would not be climbing. Teams from the previous two nights reported deep snow above 5800 meters and the high camp staff gave us their snow report from the past several days. The guides ventured out to look at the structure of the snowpack and we determined that it did not even make sense to go to 5800 meters on a mountain known for avalanching. The team, being prepared for this possibility, was happy to sleep at a new sleeping altitude record for almost everyone and then practice avalanche rescue in the morning.

The morning was a touch lethargic, it's tough waking up at 17,400'. After a few pressure breaths, a handful of Ibuprofen and some pizza and eggs we were all feeling a touch better. Henry led the team in avalanche transceiver searches while we were also treated to views of the upper mountain. It was tough to look at the false summit on such a calm, sunny day and not be able to climb, but our decisions were confirmed when we looked up and saw some evidence of avalanche activity on the route this morning.

Despite our lack of a summit on Chimborazo, the team is happy, keeping in mind that we did summit two big mountains on this trip already (Cayambe and Antisana). It has been a great two weeks of hiking, climbing and learning expedition-related skills. We will have a celebration dinner tonight in Riobamba and be headed back to Quito tomorrow. If you have a loved one or friend on this trip, everyone has been challenged to learn ten more words in Spanish, so make sure to give them a pop quiz when you pick them up from the airport! This is as much a climbing trip as it is a cultural experience.

Thanks for following along.

RMI Guide Dustin Wittmier

Leave a Comment For the Team (1)

Hey Dustin, Bummer you and your team couldn’t go any higher but like all you guides say, “It’s not the summit, that is a bonus, it’s the experience and getting back home that is the most important”
Great Job!!
Farmer Dave

Posted by: Dave Kestel on 1/23/2023 at 7:32 am

Ecuador Seminar: Wittmier & Team Summit Antisana!

Upon arrival at Antisana basecamp, we had no views of the mountain and a light drizzle. Upon departure it was beginning to storm again: rain, hail and lightning. But right in the middle was a perfect weather window for climbing.

We awoke to fog in camp, which we continued to ascend through until reaching about 17,300’. From that point, the clouds would remain below us and we climbed into a starry, calm night. We reached the summit just a bit after sunrise and it was perfectly still, so we hung for a while.

The route on Antisana is not particularly long, but it is complex, featuring heavily crevassed terrain. At the bergschrund, a steep pitch of belayed climbing takes you to the summit plateau where an additional 20 minutes of high-altitude walking takes you to the summit. Due to these various complexities, our group took just over 10 hours round trip for a route that ascends 4,080’.

Back at camp we enjoyed a lovely breakfast before spending several hours in transit to the town of Latacunga and Hacienda La Cienega, where many members of the team reported sleeping eight or nine hours straight through. The wine and comfy beds were well deserved.

We are now sitting on the bus, making the several hour drive south towards Chimborazo. We will stop in the town of Ambato for hilariously large burritos before continuing to Riobamba, where we will stay the night. Summit day on Chimborazo is Saturday night into Sunday morning and we are hoping for continued good weather.

RMI Guide Dustin Wittmier and team

Leave a Comment For the Team (1)

Holy Smokers that is Awesome to climb in clear skies at the summit!!! Way to go !!!!

Posted by: Dave Kestel on 1/21/2023 at 3:08 am

Ecuador Seminar: Wittmier & Team Recap Cayambe Climb, Prepare for Next Peak

Yesterday, ALL TEAM MEMBERS AND GUIDES reached the summit of Cayambe around 6am EST. For those of us living in or around Seattle, we felt accomplished having completed such a hard activity before we would normally even be awake. Most climbers were back to the refugio by about 8am, a very speedy descent. Route conditions were ideal on Cayambe, when you would step out of the trail it was just a light dusting of snow on top of a supportable crust, meaning there was very little plunging, and the crampons would bite into the hard surface during the cold night. Although the route is in great shape, this is always a challenging mountain. At 18,500’ the route ascends a steep headwall for about 300 vertical feet before passing through crevassed terrain. Additionally, sleeping above 15,000’ for two nights and then going to nearly 19,000’ on day seven of an expedition is a quick jump in altitude and everyone seemed to handle it well. Now we turn our sights towards Antisana. 

On our way to Antisana we are staying in two different haciendas. Last night we were at the rustic Guachala, which was built in the early 1500s. It has it’s charm and is steeped in local history; we also enjoyed a quiet dinner and breakfast under the watchful eye of the two house dogs, always hoping for a scrap. This morning we packed up and got ourselves closer to Antisana. We are using the beautiful yard at Casa Ilayaku to learn skills for our next climb (tent setup and running belays) as well as more expedition skills for future endeavors. Tomorrow we will go to Antisana basecamp via 4x4 vehicles and spend the night in tents before taking our shot at the summit.  

RMI Guide Dustin Wittmier

Leave a Comment For the Team (1)

Hey Dustin and Team! This is all Great to hear. Keep looking up! All the best to you!
Farmer Dave

Posted by: Dave Kestel on 1/18/2023 at 3:20 am

Ecuador Seminar: Wittmier & Team Reach Summit of Cayambe

100% summit success on Cayambe!

The team is now looking forward to a day of rest and relaxation before heading towards Antisana.

Photos and a more interesting blog forthcoming 

RMI Guide Dustin Wittmier

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

That is SO Awesome Dustin!! Congratulations to you and your team!!!
Farmer Dave

Posted by: Dave Kestel on 1/17/2023 at 8:12 am

Ahh!!! That’s amazing! Congratulations, everyone! <3 So appreciative of the blog updates :)

Posted by: Hannah on 1/16/2023 at 8:40 pm

Ecuador Seminar: Team Acclimates and Prepares for Cayambe

Our warmup stretch is coming to an end as we head to the Cayambe today. It takes a handful of days acclimatizing in cities and shorter day hikes before it makes sense to be sleeping above 15,000' at the Cayambe hut. All members of the team completed both acclimatization hiked, Rucu Pichincha (15,354') and Cerro Fuya Fuya (14,039'), in good style.

After a quiet night at the quaint La Casa Sol we are now at the Otavalo Market. People choose from a variety of activities here: souvenir shopping, a visit to the pharmacy or for myself enjoying an affogato in my favorite coffee shop.

Thank you for following along and look for updates from us in the coming days. Tomorrow is skills training on the glacier and the following night we will make our summit attempt on Cayambe!

RMI Guides Dustin, Henry & Team

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Wishing you all a successful and safe climb. Especially a certain member of the team.

Posted by: John (Dad) on 1/15/2023 at 5:40 am

You’re doing great, team!

Posted by: Andrew on 1/14/2023 at 10:20 am

Ecuador Seminar: Wittmier & Team Explore Quito, Take a Hike

Hello friends, families, Farmer Dave and anyone else out there who might be following our blog. We have just kicked off the first Ecuador Expedition of 2023. It started with a rainy travel day and a rainy day for our Quito city tour (although a few of us still managed minor sunburns). Today, we took our first acclimatization hike and were surprised/delighted to wake up to partially sunny skies! 

The hike up Rucu Pichincha is really quite scenic. I think it’s my favorite day hike in the world that is more or less in a major metropolitan area. A gondola takes us to 13,000’ where we begin our ascent to the summit of Rucu Pichincha (13,354’). Along the way there are a variety of wildflowers and the final push to the summit is engaging, involving a short section of class 3 scrambling. 

I should also mention that the team is in good health, especially thanks to the newly renovated penthouse spa here at the Hotel Mercure. Many of us have used this opportunity to cycle cold plunges and wet sauna or cold plunges and hot tubbing. Henry, the ultimate masochist, prefers cold plunge only, first thing in the morning. 

Tomorrow we will depart Quito early to head north. The itinerary of this trip has us working our way from north to south, making attempts on Cayambe, Antisana and Chimborazo. These are the 3rd, 4th and 1st highest mountains in Ecuador, respectively. We also hope to capture a glimpse of Cotopaxi, which is normally on the itinerary but was scratched this time due to recent eruptions and a moratorium on summit bids. Better to witness that from a safe distance. 

RMI Guide Dustin Wittmier

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Two adventurous young women!  Wishing them and all of you the best on both continents.
How great to stay in touch and be able to go along on your climb laptop-wise.

Posted by: Coreen on 1/13/2023 at 11:25 pm

It’s got to be Sarah that has a sunburn in the cloudy weather :-D That’s a Hillebrand special! Wishing you all a safe journey and glad for the blog updates!

Posted by: Hannah on 1/13/2023 at 12:32 pm

Mexico Volcanoes: Orizaba Summit!

We had a calm night to begin our climb of Pico de Orizaba. The climb begins with a steep switch backing trail through an old moraine. After a few hours, we entered the labyrinth which was once covered by glacial ice about 25 years ago. Now, a polished slab rock that can be difficult to find your way through, hence its name. Once at the base of the Jamapa glacier, we put on our boots and crampons - 3.5 hours later and we were on top with a beautiful sunrise, summit pyramid shadow, and calm weather.

The whole group stood on top this morning, couldn’t have asked for more. It’s been a great week climbing here with an amazing group. Our local guide Alan and Servimont’s assistance always make these trips special for us. 

We are back in town getting cleaned up, listening to rockets explode, drinking cold drinks and sorting gear for flights home tomorrow morning.



Leave a Comment For the Team (1)

Hey Mike!
It was Awesome following along! Great job!
Farmer Dave

Posted by: Dave Kestel on 11/13/2022 at 3:54 am

Mexico’s Volcanoes: Team Explores Puebla

We enjoyed a fun and relaxing day in Puebla’s historic colonial area. We are headed for Piedra Grande hut on Orizaba this afternoon. Our first stop is at Sr. Reyes’ historic soap factory turned climber’s hostel. We will get our gear sorted and have a meal before jumping in the trucks for a bumpy, slow and often dusty ride to the alpine zone where we’ll camp for the night.

Tonight we’ll get started for this trip’s main event, the 18,491’ third tallest peak in North America. The group is rested and eager to get going.

Thanks for following along. 

RMI Guides Mike King, Henry Coppolillo, and Team

Leave a Comment For the Team

Mexico Volcanoes: IXTA SUMMIT!

We had a warm and clear night at high camp that would turn into sustained 20 mph wind along the seemingly endless summit ridge that makes up the main route on Ixta. We summited in the dark but with a near full moon the views of the surrounding area were spectacular. We caught the sunrise and Orizaba on our return.

The team is headed to Puebla for the evening and our day off tomorrow.

Thanks for following along. 

RMI Guides Mike King, Henry Coppolillo and Team

Leave a Comment For the Team

Mexicos Volcanoes: King & Team Prepare for Climb of Ixtaccihuatl

We hiked to 15,400' on Ixtacchuatl to put our camp in for the evening. The team did great and we got some clear skies and a nice view of Orizaba. Our plan is to wake up around midnight and head for the summit of Ixta. We'll check in tomorrow regardless of our high point or weather. Thanks for following along and fingers crossed for clear weather and calm winds.

RMI Guide Mike King

Leave a Comment For the Team
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