Entries from Ecuador
December 14, 2017
We did it! The team stood on top of 19,347ft Cotopaxi this morning at 7:30am. The team climbed brilliantly through bitterly cold temperatures and the ever-present lack of oxygen to check the active volcano off their bucket lists. We were treated to clear skies all day long and it wasn’t until we were finally driving away that the mountain fell back into it’s usual cloak of dark clouds. Oh and we had another birthday today! Happy Birthday to Kris Vargas! And what a way to spend it climbing one of Ecuador’s finest volcanoes on a truly spectacular day. We’re all back at Tambopaxi packing our things for the drive back to Quito where we will enjoy one last dinner as a team before most of us depart back to the States later this evening. Thanks to everyone for following along. This will be the last blog post of our trip! Until next time!
On The Map
December 13, 2017
The skies cleared overnight and we were treated to the first truly blue bird morning of the trip. Cotopaxi was out in full glory. A leisurely morning lead to another fantastic breakfast served up by our Master Chef Josè. After breakfast we took a short stroll around the area to stretch the legs. It is climber Aaron D.‘s birthday today and upon our return from our walk we surprised him with a cake equipped with candles and all! Happy Birthday Aaron! After enjoying our Ecuadorian pastel we hopped onto the bus and took the short drive to Tambopaxi where we will stage for our summit climb. With the weather looking good the team is excited to tackle our last objective! Off to bed here shortly in preparation of an early wake up. Wish us luck!
On The Map
December 12, 2017
A well deserved rest day at Chilcabamba Lodge at the base of Cotopaxi has been enjoyed with its views, food and short walks around the property. During breakfast, Cotopaxi revealed itself from behind the clouds and was covered with a dusting of fresh snow. With a pair of binoculars from the lodge, we were able to make out the beginning of the climbing route. The rest of the day was filled with drying out our gear from Cayambe, repacking, reading and naps. The food here has been our favorite so far. The steaks for dinner were thick and cooked to perfection, some pressure breathing was required to clean our plates! Tomorrow morning will be another relaxing start to the day before we transfer up the road to Tombopaxi Hut.
December 11, 2017
We spent most of the evening listening to thunder clouds and the battering of hail pound our shelter. That was until I woke the team up at 10:45pm. We woke to surprisingly calm skies with even a few stars shining. The team quickly got out of bed to prepare their things for our ascent. While eating breakfast the clouds snuck back in behind our backs and filled the mountain’s surroundings with a heavy mist that saturated everything that touched it. We decided to brave the mist and put on our rain shells to climb for an hour and “see how things went”. The team climbed right along, ignoring the inclement weather. At the end of that hour things weren’t looking much better, in fact you might have said they were worse. Taking good advantage of being able to retreat back to a warm hut if need be, we opted to continue and “see how things went” again. A few inches of wet snow had fallen over night and actually made the walking quite nice. Soon thereafter the mist lifted and we actually began to get warm and dry out! The team’s spirits lifted and we kept ascending. At about 18,000ft we finally met our maker- a large glacial bowl filled with recently deposited snow from high winds. The avalanche hazard was real and quite sensitive. We opted to turn around and descend back towards the hut. During our descent we were met with an Ecuadorian sunrise above a sea of clouds and neighboring volcanoes, Antisana and Cotopaxi, in the distance. At the time there certainly wasn’t much to be upset about. A quick descent gave way to another exciting 4x4 drive down to Otavalo where we would head south towards Chilcabamba on the northern flank of Cotopaxi. Tomorrow we rest and prepare for our next objective!
December 10, 2017
We awoke to a clear and chilly morning at the hut. The first half of the day provided views of the upper mountain and the summit of Cayambe before some snow showers moved in. Today’s goal was to climb another 1,000 feet to the base of the glacier to acclimatize and review some mountaineering skills. The steep climb up to our school site gave us a great preview of the beginning of our summit day. By the end of our school, the team was looking great and ready to climb Cayambe tomorrow. We are back at the hut resting and preparing our summit packs for the morning. Wish us clear conditions like we had this morning for our summit attempt!
On The Map
Awesome experience for all of you! Dad & I are living vicariously! Our best to all of you for an awesome assent!
Posted by: Judy & dale collins on 12/10/2017 at 5:06 pm
Despite some menacing afternoon clouds we woke up again to clear beautiful skies. A late breakfast and a short drive brought us to the Otovalo Market, a huge local market full of a wide variety of textiles and food. The team spent an hour and a half exploring the markets many corners, buying gifts for loved ones before meeting for lunch at Buena Vista. From there we headed back towards the town of Cayambe to meet our transfer vehicles that would carry us and our belongings to the Cayambe Climbers Hut at 15,300ft. An hour or so of exciting driving down primitive roads perched on the side of a volcano brought us to our final destination. The team is doing a great job getting readjusted to life without so much oxygen and are patiently awaiting what will no doubt be a wonderful dinner served by the huts cook staff. Thanks for following. Tune in tomorrow for more!
On The Map
December 8, 2017
The team performed well today on our second acclimatization hike up Fuya Fuya. The beginning of the trail starts at a beautiful caldera which is now Laguna de Mojanda. With the view of the lake behind us we began ascending through knee high vegetation and in two hours we were standing on the summit! Although we were in the clouds, we were happy it stayed dry otherwise the soil would have had us sliding all the way back to the van. A short van ride brought us to Otovalo and our haciendas for the evening. The rest of the afternoon provided some time for us to organize our gear in preparation for our transfer up to the Cayambe Hut tomorrow!
RMI Guide Bryan Mazaika & Team
December 7, 2017
A good nights rest brought us yet to another unseasonably sunny Ecuadorian morning and our first acclimatization hike up Rucu Pinchincha (15,700ft). The day started with a taxi ride from our hotel to the Teleferique de Quito, a gondola ride that would take us to 13,500ft on the eastern flanks of the active volcano. The hike starts by following a rolling ridge through high alpine meadows until we traverse to the peaks northern side where a different character is shown. We leave behind mild grassy slopes for volcanic rock and loose scree. The climb finishes with a challenging but fun Cass 3 scramble past several ledges to the mountains summit. The crew did great with the new altitude and the weather held clear and gave us panoramic views of the Ecuadorian Andes, including Cayambe (18,996ft) our first objective of the trip. We spent a few moments on top taking photos and hydrating before descending back to the Teleferique and the thicker air of Quito! Off to dinner in a short while to enjoy the traditional dishes of Ecuador. Tomorrow takes us to Fuya Fuya for more acclimatizing and the city of Otovalo! Thanks for following.
On The Map
December 6, 2017
The team is all here in Quito! We began our day by enjoying our breakfast along side an abundant spread of fresh fruit and overloading on coffee while we made some group introductions. We had a number of stops during our city tour, some of the highlights include visiting the Equator monument, a panoramic view of Quito from the top of Panecillo Hill, the colonial Center and touring some of the historical churches. Today in Quito is the celebration of the capital’s foundation so many shops were closed and the plazas were busier than normal with locals celebrating the holiday. We are back at the hotel for a quick siesta before we head out together for dinner. This evening we will prepare our day packs for our first acclimatization hike up to Rucu Pichincha and we are hoping for the clear, sunny skies we had this morning so we can get our first view of Cotopaxi and Cayambe!
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.