Entries from Ecuador
We spent the day cruising for wildlife in a caldera. Ngoronoro Crater didn’t disappoint. There was fairly heavy cloud glued to the crater rim in the morning when we were working around the circumference, but as we dropped into the interior, we got under the weather and enjoyed fine visibility. We saw vast quantities of wildlife including herds of wildebeest, cape buffalo and zebra. There were hippos galore and dozens of colorful birds. The big male lion stole the show as he ambled down the road right next to our vehicle. We finished in the forested area and had the luck of observing a large female lion hanging in a tree taking a nap. Life in the bush is good. The team continues to persevere despite the fine dining and very comfortable rooms. More adventures ahead tomorrow!
With a pre-midnight alpine start from the Cayambe climbing hut, we woke to a starry sky and light winds; all systems were go. We had a quick breakfast, got geared up in the hut, and were walking by midnight. The weather was perfect for our climb and so were the mountain conditions, with firm (but not icy) snow for efficient cramponing. The climbing was varied: rock scrambling to reach the glacier, gentle glaciated slopes, a steep 200’, 45° headwall, and a narrow summit ridge. Six hours later we were all standing on top of Cayambe, at 19,000’ that lies directly on the equator. We enjoyed great views of Cotopaxi, the Ilinizas and Antisana to the south, and Cotacachi and Imbabura to the north. We spent a half hour on top, high-fiving, hugging, taking pictures, and even singing.
As we descended, winds increased and clouds were rising from the rain forest to the east. Soon a nasty-looking lenticular cloud formed over the summit. But our timing was perfect; we were well below this by now and smoothly descending back to the climbing hut. In less than an hour after arriving at the hut we were packed up and loaded into four-wheel drive vehicles and headed back to the hacienda Guachala for hot showers, delicious food, and comfy beds. Tomorrow we’ll head back to Quito for the night.
RMI Guide Mike Walter sent a brief note to let us know the team has reached the summit of Cayambe, 18,997’. They will send a full report after their climb.
Congratulations to the team!
On The Map
We woke to light snow and strong winds, but after a leisurely breakfast and a few hours of relaxing it cleared up. We took advantage of the clearing and hiked to the glacier to practice climbing with ice ax and crampons. Now, back at the hut, we’ll rest after lunch in preparation for our summit bid tonight.
Last night we hit the sack early and rested long and hard in the tranquility of our rural Ecuadorian hacienda. The quiet and darkness of the mountains was a welcome contrast to the past couple of nights’ hustle and bustle of the city. The fireplaces in our rooms didn’t hurt either.
This morning we explored the work famous Otavalo market and now we are heading up to the Cayambe climbing hut.
We’ll sleep there the next two nights and, with an early alpine start, attempt the summit tomorrow night. The weather has been good and looks favorable for an ascent. We’ll keep you posted.
On The Map
We left Quito early this morning and headed north towards our main objective, Cayambe. Today’s agenda, though, was our second acclimatization climb up Fuya Fuya, an extinct volcano that rises up above 14,000’. Fuya Fuya rises up from the beautiful crater lake, Mojanda. The climb started with a hike up a trail through high altitude grassland that got steeper with every step. Just shy of the summit, the climb got even steeper and involved some fun rock scrambling to get to the top. The weather was good, but cloudy, with intermittent views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. After a steep descent we were back at our vehicle and headed to Guachala, our hacienda for tonight. Tomorrow we will visit the market in Otavalo and then head up to the climbing hut on Cayambe where we’ll spend two nights and hopefully grab a summit.
RMI Guide Mike Walter
On The Map
We set out early this morning for our first acclimatization climb. The day started with a gondola ride from Quito to ~13,500’. Then the fun began. We headed west on a well-defined trail that followed a ridge on the shoulder of Rucu Pichincha. As the hiking continued, the trail got steeper and the air didn’t get any thicker. After a couple hundred feet of rock scrambling we arrived at the summit of Rucu Pichincha (~15,700’). Views were sporadic as clouds moved in and out. When the views were there, though, they were stunning, looking down on Quito almost 7,000’ below. The weather was pleasant and we spent a decent amount of time relaxing up top. Then we retraced our steps and rode the gondola back to town. Now, back at our hotel, we’re cleaning up, resting, and packing for an early departure tomorrow to head north towards the town of Otovalo where we’ll tackle our second acclimatization hike, this time to an ancient volcano called Fuya Fuya.
On The Map
Our Ecuador trip is up and running, and we spent our first day in country visiting the Equator and an ethnographic museum where we learned about the various diverse cultures of the country and were able to simultaneously stand in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Afterwards, we travelled to southern Quito to visit the old town, or colonial area. Here we toured Independence Plaza, the Compania de Jesus church, and walked the streets of old town, learning about Ecuador’s history. After a fun, educational, and jam-packed day, we’ve got some down time before dinner. Tomorrow we’ll get up early and go on our first acclimatization hike up Rucu Pichincha, a 15,700 ft. volcano that towers over Quito.
On The Map
May 20, 2017
We saw the sun on day one and haven’t really seen it since. The trend of southern flow pushing moisture our way continues, and it snowed off and on all day. While climbing on bright, bluebird days is nice, it really doesn’t get much better than conditions today. While we couldn’t see a lot, there was very little wind on a piece of the mountain that is known for wind, the clouds and snow kept the temps pleasantly cool, and the fresh snow has set up creating great cramponing conditions. We cruised out of camp a bit after the main rush, which kept us out of traffic all day. A few smooth stretches later, we rounded Windy Corner and reached our cache site. All told, the day was really smooth and pleasant, and we’re feeling really good about getting a big chunk of weight uphill. On the docket for tomorrow is done hard chilling time, nap competitions, and general self care before we look to move to 14.
RMI Guides Pete Van Deventer, Jenny Konway, Jess Matthews and Team
The daily blog and pictures are FABULOUS!
Sending Joel and the team some warm Arizona sunshine.
Posted by: Susie Okun on 5/20/2017 at 1:56 pm
Well, our luck had to run out eventually. We’ve had a good run so far this trip, but Chimborazo proved to be our match. Our teams turned this morning just under 19,000’ due to a variety of compounding issues, but the climb still provided us with over six hours of engaging terrain, from challenging rock steps to steep and firm snow slopes. Although we would have all loved to have reached the top, everyone agrees we made the right decision to turn around early and are all glad to be back down safely, celebrating the successful conclusion of our seminar down south.
From a guide’s perspective, not summiting this morning provided us all with one last valuable lesson: mountaineering isn’t always about standing on top. So much of climbing is learning to recognize when a summit just isn’t in the cards and being able to make the conservative call. Chimborazo will be here for a while. We didn’t make it this time, but I like to think of that as an open invitation to return again some day down the road.
Tomorrow morning we will return to Quito, say our final goodbyes, and fly home to our families. It has been an incredible two weeks, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know this wonderful group of people. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to hear all the stories that never made it to the blog directly from your loved ones.
It’s been a great adventure!
Signing off one last time,
RMI Guide Nick Hunt