Entries By taylor bickford
Hello from the Chimborazo Lodge located literally at the base of the mountain. From our windows we watch herds of llamas grazing in the pastures, condors buzz the hillsides and the mountain, straight up valley, show us she is certainly not done being angry at something. Which sets the stage for this upcoming tale.
It is no secret that lessons surround us. Whether learned from business, school, love or mountain climbing. If we are aware and observant enough we should be able to find value and see reason through the events of everyday life. Today was one of those days we all learned something.
Our time at high camp began with teaching our seminar crew the correct way to level tent platforms, secure the guy lines and properly tie down your house so the big bad wolf doesn’t come and blow it all away. Once settled in, we were treated to a great meal by our cooks and hit the rack about 6:30 pm. At that point the full moon was rising over the mountain and the wind was calming just a bit. By our wake up time at 11:45 the wind was calm but the clouds had unleashed some freezing rain which coated everything in a smooth sheen of verglass.
By the time we departed camp the wind had picked up a bit and the mountain was sporting a nice cloud cap, beautiful in the full moon light.
The terrain right out of camp was challenging but by the time our climbing team reached an elevation of 18,500 feet, a few had turned around due to fatigue and the unruly steepness of the route. The weather had also begun to deteriorate with gusts reaching upper 30s and a heavy coat of rime ice building on our Gore-Tex shells. By 19,300 feet only two climbers remained headed up. But that upward progress didn’t last much longer. By 19,800 feet the cloud was now fully upon us and the wind and rime became too much to safely continue toward the summit. So at 6:15 our final summit climbers turned around.
The climb down can be as arduous as the climb going up because of tired legs, heavier muscle strain and outright exhaustion. As they have this entire trip, our team performed like seasoned veterans, all arriving back at camp by 8 am. Usually getting back to camp provides a deep sense of relief and comfort, knowing the hard part is over. This morning that was not the case as the winds increased moderately on the upper mountain, they increased dramatically at camp. I almost wanted to start climbing back up the mountain just to avoid the scene. The tents were being held down by rocks and people just to be kept from blowing away, the dining tent was literally beginning to tear itself apart and the noise of flapping nylon could likely be heard ten miles away. But through incredible teamwork we were were able to keep our houses from blowing away and got things packed in relatively good order considering the mountain’s jet engine was on overdrive.
On the descent, some of us had to literally crawl on all fours to keep from blowing over. It was one of the windiest days I’ve ever seen. Thirty minutes after leaving camp we were sheltered enough to take a sigh of relief and walk normally to the bus waiting in the parking lot.
After a brief time to reflect and sit down, we loaded up and headed to Chimborazo Lodge where we are about to take dinner and give a final toast to a mountain that has taught us much more than just climbing skills.
So even though we didn’t reach the summit, we by no means consider this a failure. On the contrary, like our journey as a whole, we consider this a great success! It has been a wonderful two weeks!
Team Ecuador signing off.
Good job to all of you. Will be happy to see you all safely home.
Mom (Chris Condon’s Mom)
Posted by: Mary Accettura on 1/21/2019 at 8:37 pm
January 19, 2019
This morning our team woke up at one the most impressive haciendas I’ve had the pleasure to visit in this beautiful country. I think what added to the splendor of the place was the outright need for rest after two big mountains in a row. The beds were superb, the food amazing and the amenities top notch. But in mountain climbing, as in life, all good things come to an end.
So where are we now?
Currently I am writing this at 17,500’ from my sturdy but noisy tent on the southern flanks of Ecuador’s biggest mountain, Chimborazo. We were just fed dinner by our awesome camp staff so life could be much worse. On the other hand the wind is tumbling down hill at 30+ mph crashing into the tents and buckling them over on a routine basis making the sound of jet engine stuck in place. Not exactly last night’s digs.
But now the full moon has begun to rise, we are wrapped up warm in our bags and the summit cleared up catching the last rays of sun enticing us to venture upward.
Which we intend to do in five hours from now.
Wish us luck as we attempt to reach the place farthest from the center of the Earth.
And Ecuador’s highest point.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff
Posted by: Beck Condon on 1/21/2019 at 8:06 am
Travel safe, team! Praying for a successful summit. The full moon and new light to guide you all to the summit. Upward bound! :)
Posted by: Chrissy on 1/19/2019 at 9:56 pm
January 18, 2019
Today the team had a very welcome rest day. After breakfast and loading our duffels onto the bus (again), we made our way to Ambato for groceries and a stop at Rey del Burrito, the Burrito King. It was far from your everyday lunch, as we were featured stars in a project by some local film students, and witnessed our teammate Dan take down “El Rey” - a 50 cm monster burrito. After Dan’s dance with the King we made our way to Riobamba, the capital of Chimborazo province. The eponymous mountain was just barely visible through heavy clouds as we arrived at our hotel, getting us excited for a closer look. However, we were distracted from Chimborazo by the tremors of a distant magnitude-5 earthquake! Ecuador is certainly a dynamic place. After dinner and some trash talk-filled pool, we returned to the rooms to pack for our move to Chimborazo high camp tomorrow. The team is getting psyched for our shot at this beautiful mountain!
I ditto that from Sean. Glad to hear you are doing well. Got home yesterday, and am “hobbling” along. Love Mom
Posted by: Mary Accettura on 1/20/2019 at 6:11 pm
Proud of you brother! Can’t wait to hear all about your experiences and climbs over a nice cool hops and barley beverage.
Posted by: Sean Condon on 1/19/2019 at 2:56 pm
January 17, 2019
I’m thrilled to announce that 100% of team Ecuador made it to the summit of Cotopaxi this morning. As I mentioned yesterday the mountain got whipped up into a mood which made the prospect of summitting today fairly uncertain. But like I also said, you never know what can happen.
Keeping this in mind I poked my head out of the hut at 11:45 last night and was amazed to see stars glimmering in the clear sky. This at least solved the moisture problem but the wind still rattled the walls and made roofs squeal, which we aptly named Godzilla.
Once we motivated and committed to climbing, things just worked. Our local guides and RMI guides had a bit of differing ideas about pace, which is why there is no group photo, but all in all the climb was superb.
Because we got separated a bit, some climbers made it back to the hut a good hour before the last but by the end, everyone was covered in thick rime ice. The good weather again lasted only long enough for us to get up and down before turning to a wet blowing soaker we are happy to be sheltered from.
Now we are packing up and getting ready to once again load the magic bus and head down to the lowlands for our celebration meal and nap.
Tomorrow is a well earned rest day.
Before I close this I would like to wish happy birthday to the wonderful lady in my life. These beautiful summits remind me of you.
Awesome! Way to go…Looking forward to hearing about the next mountain!
Beck (Chris’s wife)
Posted by: Beck Condon on 1/18/2019 at 6:15 am
Congrats on another safe and successful summit. Always thx fo the blog. Excellent! Mom
Posted by: Jane Knoff on 1/17/2019 at 5:51 pm
January 16, 2019
Cotopaxi is 19,300 feet short and considered the Jewel of Ecuador. Yesterday we arrived at the mountain and were welcomed with beautiful views and pleasant temps. Hopes were high that our good fortune would continue and the next few days might give us stars at night and sun during the day. Last night however those hopes were dashed as the mountain came into a mood hammering the hut with high winds driving sleet.
These unfavorable conditions didn’t threaten us like they did the climbers attempting the summit today but they did squash some of our training plans.
At 8 am this morning everyone was up feeling much better than they did after their first night on Cayambe. Despite that refugio sitting at 15,000 feet, our acclimatization was so much better that a night at 16,000 feet here on Cotopaxi produced fewer headaches and more restful sleep than the latter. Which is good because an altitude hangover feels like you drank a bottle of whiskey but had none of the fun that goes along with it. All in all a lose lose.
So after breakfast we watched the climbers roll in looking much like a popsicle left in the freezer too long so we took a nap and waited for the weather to settle just a bit. Which it did by 10:30, opening a small window for us to climb into and train for just a bit. It only took an hour for everyone to begin getting cold and wet, standing in a cloud blowing 25 mph so by 1 pm we were pulling the plug and heading back down to the security of the hut. During the afternoon we snacked on good meats and cheeses, thanks to John, and then studied anchors and crevasse rescue on coat hangers and picnic tables. Setting up a pulley system while drinking coke is sometimes better than doing the same while shivering in the howling wind.
So after training we crawled into bed for some nice down time and will be having dinner shortly. As of now the wind has mellowed a bit so we are hoping that for our 11:30 wake up call the mountain will be over her mood and things will be nicer. But in mountain climbing you never know! It is the mystery we all enjoy.
Stay tuned for news of our summit attempt.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff
January 16, 2019
Tuesday, January 15, 2019 -
After a full night’s sleep and delicious breakfast at Hacienda Guachalá, our re-energized team loaded up the bags and went from a centuries-old hacienda to a modern Ecuadorian shopping mall. After a bit of food shopping and lunch, we made the drive up to the refugio at the base of Cotopaxi. On our drive up, a sudden break in the clouds offered a stunning view of this iconic mountain. After a great dinner in the hut the team is settled in, feeling acclimatized, and ready to learn more mountain skills tomorrow!
On The Map
Congrats to all one my success. Best to all on #2!! Safe and enjoy!
Posted by: Jane Knoff on 1/16/2019 at 5:48 pm
Wow… What a spectacular mountain! Have a great climb! Thinking of you all!
Beck (Chris’s wife)
Posted by: Beck Condon on 1/16/2019 at 10:57 am
January 14, 2019
Hello from Cafe La Vaca, in the town of Cayambe. We have all arrived safely from the mountain and are getting ready to power down massive hamburgers to replenish our bodies after 11 straight hours of climbing this morning.
Oh, did I mention the team made a successful summit of Cayambe? I am so distracted by hamburgers I almost forgot the important details.
We woke at 11:30 this morning to cloudy skies but warm temps. We started up the mountain at 12:30 and were standing on top in perfect weather by 7:15am. It was one of the most glorious summit days I’ve ever had on this mountain. Somebody cashed in some big karma bucks to get this forecast.
Once at the hut the wind picked up and the clouds rolled in. Perfect timing again!
Now we will feast, bathe and sleep. Our big mountains are just beginning so rest is imperative to staying healthy and strong.
Sending big hugs to all of our family and friends back home.
Will write again tomorrow.
This mountain looks awesome. Hope you are enjoying your adventure.
Mary (Chris’s mom)
Posted by: Mary Accettura on 1/14/2019 at 9:19 pm
This mountain is awesome, congratulations, hope you are enjoying the good time.
Mary Accettura (Chris’s mom)
Posted by: Mary Accettura on 1/14/2019 at 9:18 pm
January 13, 2019
We started our day bright and early at the Cayambe refugio with a simple breakfast and coffee. Although the first night sleeping at 15,100’ can be a little rough, the team rallied from the altitude hangover to the toe of the glacier to review climbing skills. After some time practicing rope travel and self arrest, the guides demonstrated a crevasse rescue scenario and anchor building principles. After a lesson in rope ascension in the hut, we began packing for our summit attempt. The team is feeling good up high and ready for the climb!
On The Map
January 13, 2019
La Casa Sol means The house of sun in English. This happens to be the name of the beautiful hacienda we were staying at before leaving to go into Otavalo and then transport to the high mountain hut located at 15,000 feet on the southern flanks of Nevado Cayambe, Our first “big” objective and the highest equatorial point on the planet. Luckily the house of sun lived up to its name and for a few brief hours we were blessed with the hot Ecuador rays we had been lacking most of the trip.
With a nice morning shaping up we left Casa Sol and headed into town for our shopping extravaganza. The market in Otavalo is unique in many ways. Cooking stalls, spice merchants, local goods and unlimited crafts make this shopping experience hard to do in 90 minutes. But the team did well not filling the bus so by lunch it was off to meet the 4x4 trucks that would drive us all up the Cayambe road which makes New York potholes seem like cereal bowls.
Of course the sun didn’t last long and by midway through the drive the skies opened up and the rain poured down. So like all mountain weather just wait ten minutes and it will change. Which it did. To snow. And then to clear and then back to snow.
By dinner we had a few great views of the mountain which got us excited to train the next day. For the rest of the evening we will focus on hydration and breathing to keep us feeling healthy at this new head throbbing altitude. Once again the team is doing great and getting along famously. We look forward to another mountain day together.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff & Team Ecuador signing off.
Best of luck on your climbs. Pray that rain holds off. Enjoy
Posted by: Jane Knoff on 1/13/2019 at 6:17 pm
January 11, 2019
Today started the same as most days do. Breakfast from the hotel, coffee to wash it down sparking us awake and getting us close to the chocolate-filled croissants we have all learned to take with us on the mountain providing a superior snack to any energy bar. This morning was different however because we checked out of the hotel, loaded the Magic bus and powered north through traffic thicker than sea level air to a mountain two hours north of Quito called Fuya Fuya. Don’t get this confused with the famous mount Kung Fuya Fuya located next to Mt. Fuji in Japan, it is a lesser objective but important in our acclimating nonetheless.
After all the traffic, winding cobblestone roads and slow going, we reached Laguan Mojando, a beautiful high caldera lake very similar to Crater Lake in Oregon. Situated at 12,000 feet, we had in-and-out views of the surrounding peaks, including our objective, Mt. Fuya Fuya. With a summit sitting right at 14,000 feet, it was not as high as our mountain yesterday but offered steep hiking and challenging footwork. I always start this day off with a quickened pace just to get the blood flowing. As the team assembled after seven minutes of power walking up a hill over 12,500ft, Dirk looked at me and said, “Man, altitude is no joke, but it’s still kind of funny”. Which said it all considering we were all hunched over like we had just run the hundred yard dash but smiling at the pain we were all in.
A steep hour later the entire team stood on the summit with warm temps, periodic views of the deep blue lake far below and a growing respect for the Ecuadorian experience. It was another good day for the team.
Once we returned to the bus our flip flops greeted us and we headed back down the hill to eat lunch and relax at Casa Sol, a beautiful hacienda located high above the town of Otavalo. It is in this town we will all attempt to spend as much money as possible buying gifts for all the blog followers and maybe some loved ones at the giant craft market located in the center of town.
Until then we will relax with a beer, tie some knots, repack our bags and prepare for tomorrow.
Wishing you all well in the states,
RMI Guide Adam Knoff
What an experience for you, Chris..so happy you are able to do it..am enjoying the daily blogs!!
Posted by: Bobbi Jarvis on 1/12/2019 at 8:21 pm
So exited for Chris and to see all this beautiful scenery.
Posted by: janice myhrum on 1/12/2019 at 2:51 pm