Entries from Ecuador
Last night we enjoyed a delicious fresh, local trout dinner—served at the 16,000’ Cotopaxi Climbers’ Hut!...and then we went to bed early, in preparation for an alpine start wake-up for our summit bid on Cotopaxi. I woke before midnight to check the weather. It wasn’t perfect—we were in thick clouds, but there wasn’t any wind. We got the ball rolling at midnight, coffee-ed up and got ready to climb. As we prepared the weather kept fluctuating: a little snow here, a little wind there, clouds that we could see the moon through…
At just after one a.m. we headed out of the Jose Ribas Refugio on Cotopaxi. Winds increased during our first hour of climbing, which brought us to the glacier where we donned crampons and roped up. The winds continued above, coupled with Viento Blanco (White Wind, ~30 mph wind inside a 100% humidity cloud) that iced up everything—our clothes, our packs, our ice axes, and even our eyes—as we climbed. We persevered through the Viento Blanco as it increased in strength until we conceded to it due to safety; at less than 800 feet from the summit we turned around and headed back to the Climbers’ Hut. Even the descent was challenging; Viento Blanco was relentless, trying to blow us off of our feet, limit our visibility to near zero, and continue to dominate everything it could think its icy teeth into. Arriving safely back at the Climbers’ Hut we were a spectacle, pasted in white ice from head to toe.
It’s bittersweet to return from fierce weather unscathed but without a summit. We all know which one is more important. I am confident that had we had decent weather for our summit day 100% of our climbers would have made the top. Everyone performed well on our preparatory climbs, and everyone was acclimatizing to the extreme altitude well. But such is mountain climbing. Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.
On The Map
After a relaxing stay at the hacienda Chilcabamba, we are all packed up and heading for Cotopaxi, the stunning 19,347’ stratovolcano that is our main climbing objective. We will drive a dirt road that winds through Cotopaxi National Park to an altitude above 15,000’. A 45-minute hike will lead to the climbers’ hut, which sits near the toe of the glacier just shy of 16,000’. The goal of today is to arrive at such high altitude accommodations feeling good, resting, and adjusting to the altitude. Tomorrow we will hike to the Glacier and review the climbing techniques we will employ on the climb the following morning.
This morning we checked out of our hotel and left the urban confines of Quito, headed south toward Cotopaxi. Our first stop today was another acclimatization hike, this time to the climbers’ hut that sits in the saddle between Illinizas Norte and Sur. Our hike today took us up to ~15,400’ where we enjoyed a delicious cup of coffee in the climbers’ hut. The weather was pleasant for climbing today, although clouds up high obscured our views of the Illiniza peaks.
We’re now resting at the rustic and peaceful hacienda Chilcabamba, where we have great views of Cotopaxi as it dances in the clouds.
On The Map
Good luck Reshan Maami!
Posted by: Devan on 6/27/2018 at 8:21 pm
Good luck Kimberly - Hope they have the spa ready at the end of the trail.
Posted by: John D Trebbien on 6/26/2018 at 7:22 am
Sunday, June 24, 2018 - 7:34 PM PT
We had a great acclimatization climb today, tackling our first peak of the trip. It was a high altitude mark for many of our climbers, reaching the summit of Rucu Pichincha at ~16,300’. The day started off with a gondola ride where we left the city of Quito and traveled to ~13,500’. From there we continued on a well established trail for an hour or so before it gave way to a steeper single track trail. The climb culminated in a fun rock scramble to the top of the peak. The weather was great: in the morning we had clear views of Cotopaxi before clouds rolled in; the temps stayed perfect as we climbed into the clouds, and the wind up high made it feel very alpine but not too cold. Every climbed very well today, despite only being at altitude for about a day; this bodes well for our upcoming summit attempt on Cotopaxi. Tomorrow morning we will pack up and leave Quito, heading south into the countryside en route to our next acclimatization hike.
Saturday, June 23, 2018 - 5:14 AM PT
RMI’s 2018 Cotopaxi Express trip has officially started. All of the team members arrived safely to Quito, Ecuador. We started off the day with a trip to a cultural museum located on the equator, where we were able to straddle the line with one foot in each hemisphere. This was followed by a tour through “Old Town” Quito, visiting Independence Square where the Presidential Palace is located, as well as touring a historic church (Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus) and seeing some of the old, historic architecture. We also visited “El Panecillo”, which is a small hill where a statue of the Virgen of Quito over looks the city. After a long day of site seeing we relaxed with dinner at the well-known Magic Bean Restaurant. Tomorrow we’re off to Rucu Pichincha, a volcano outside of Quito, for our first acclimatization hike.
January 23, 2018
Muchas Gracias to everyone who followed our team as we set out to climb two of Ecuador’s highest mountains.
The RMI Ecuador Volcanoes climbing adventure wrapped up yesterday back in the city we started in but our day was anything but ordinary. On Sunday morning we all packed up at Chilcabamba eco lodge after a great day’s rest. From there we made our way up to the Jose Ribas Refuigo located at 16,000 feet on the northern slopes of Cotopaxi.
At 11 pm, our final day together began. We knew the weather on this giant volcano had not been good for at least three days so we were hoping by the time we arrived and settled in things would be improving. This hope was dashed even before we arrived at the hut. From the time we stepped off the bus to the time we put on our crampons and readied ourselves for the climb, nothing had changed. The winds blew a steady twenty with much higher gusts. Add on top of that a snow so wet I was calling it white rain, and you have yourself a pretty rough climbing day.
We all left the hut together at 1:30 am along with 25 other motivated but not necessarily optimistic climbers. 30 minutes into the climb we all resembled walking popsicles but our psych remained high. Things quickly began to deteriorate the higher we went. By 17,000 feet, the mountain had made our decision for us. There would be no summit attempt.
Other teams continued on past our retreating group but we saw them back in the hut a few hours later tired, cold and completely encased in ice. They gave the climb a valiant effort but no one came close to reaching the top. I’d like to think we made the smarter choice.
After our short attempt we phoned the magic bus and had Victor arrive early so we could escape the angry mountain. By 9 am were bound for Quito. Waking up at 11 pm always throws the body for a loop so a good lunch led into a nice siesta which then led into one of the most enjoyable final evenings I can remember.
Thanks to our beer loving Iowa boys, we found ourselves in the beautiful old town of Quito, drinking great locally crafted beer at Bandido’s Brewery. The pizza was top notch, the setting unique and the beer superb. The company could not have been better. We told stories of our adventure and made plans for climbs to come. This journey could not have ended any better!
Thanks to everyone on the team for being so supportive, flexible and positive. From a guide’s perspective we could not have asked for better!
Ecuador Volcanoes Out….....
RMI Guide Adam Knoff
January 21, 2018
Greetings from 16,000’! The team loaded the bus from Chilcabamba this morning at 10:30 after a leisurely breakfast. After being obscured for most of our stay at Chilcabamba, Cotopaxi made a guest appearance from
amongst the clouds as we rambled down the rough roads to the park entrance. The brief view of “the Crown Jewel of Ecuador” and the full days rest reinvigorated the team and the psyche was high as we pulled into the parking lot and prepped for the 45-minute hike up to the Refugio. We were greeted with strong winds on the hike and were very excited to reach the shelter of the hut and some hot drinks. The afternoon was spent resting and after an early and delicious trout dinner we are off to bed. The winds continue to howl as we settle into our sleeping bags and we are hoping for a respite when we wake in five hours for the climb. Stay tuned!
RMI Guide Jordan Cargill signing off.
January 20, 2018
Hello to those following our Ecuador climbing adventure.
I will begin by saying we did not summit Cayambe yesterday because of difficult route conditions. The morning started as most climb mornings do. An eleven pm wake up call, a bathroom visit the body doesn’t ask for, hot liquid, cold bread and and the ever present feeling of “why the heck am I doing this?”
The weather outside was clear and the temps warm. As we ascended the clouds rolled in giving us light snow and a wet mist.
As we got higher the temps dropped and the snow became more difficult to walk in. The wind was blowing 10 mph and a light snow was falling. With only 400 feet to climb before gaining the summit ridge we turned around because of deep post holing and deteriorating weather.
The team was disappointed but understood the reason.
After the climb we regrouped, packed up and loaded the trucks ready to bounce our way back to civilization. The road to and from the Cayambe Refugio is the roughest I’ve ever been on. Usually a great way to start and end the adventure of climbing the highest point on the Equator.
Once the adventure ended we met our bus at a gas station where we loaded up on post climb necessities such as Pringles, coke and ice cream. This held us over until dinner.
Five hours after leaving the mountain we arrived at our hacienda called, Chilcabamba, tucked quietly away in the beautiful countryside under the shadow of Cotopaxi.
After a well deserved shower, beer and honest night’s sleep, we awoke to appreciate this lodge’s full beauty. Although we couldn’t see the mountain, the surroundings offered enough to observe. Hummingbirds floated outside the windows and flowered trees waived in the wind.
The rest of today will be spent resting, drying gear and preparing for the climb to come. There is nothing better than a full day’s rest after an exhausting day in the mountains.
Stay tuned for more mountain climbing.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff saying Buenas noches from Chilcabamba.
This post is misleading — factually accurate but not the full story. It was not just “difficult route conditions” that prevented the team from summitting. A three-person rope team (one guide, two clients) fell into a crevasse near the summit of Cayambe as the result of an avalanche after the team was trail breaking on a steep slope. Thanks to the skill and professionalism of RMI and local guides, the injured climber safely made it to the hut for further evaluation.
Either post the full story or suspend posting after accidents. RMI otherwise runs outstanding expeditions and the guides are fantastic, but fluffy posts hurt the blog’s credibility and disrespect those involved.
Posted by: CS on 1/25/2018 at 9:39 am
Praying the weather gods give you a second summit as beautiful as you had before!
Posted by: Jane on 1/21/2018 at 5:38 am
January 18, 2018
Hola from 15,000 feet on the southern flanks of Cayambe.
I would first like to apologize to anyone who was expecting a blog post yesterday. We had technical difficulties which we discovered too late in the evening, so today’s post will include yesterday and today.
I will begin at breakfast yesterday. Casa Sol, our beautiful hacienda high on the the hill overlooking the busy market town of Otavalo, treated all of us very well getting us energized to hit streets for our big shopping extravaganza.
After packing the bus we rolled into town ready to negotiate and spend. The textiles and indigenous goods made for great photos as well as gifts. A few of the guys couldn’t pass up the sexy alpaca sweaters for themselves so I’m anticipating a strong fashion outing when we get back to Quito.
After shopping we drove back south to the actual town of Cayambe where we transferred bags from the bus to the trucks and started up toward the Refugio.
If roads got as bad as these in the states, they would be considered more mountain bike tracks than 4x4 roads.
Nevertheless, our trucks got us all the way to the front door. The temps up here are cool and the mountain weather sporadic at best but we still managed a good hour hike up hill to scope the route and stretch the legs. We topped out at 15,700’ giving a number of climbers a personal high point which likely won’t last long.
After getting settled we had a nice dinner from the full service kitchen then learned the classic Midwest game of Uker from one of the three Iowans in the group. The sun down here rises at six and sets at six so by 8:30 the entire team was ready for bed.
Upon waking the next morning we knew something was different. Even with no beer on the mountain, everyone felt a bit hungover. A product of our first night’s sleep at a new altitude. We warded off the headaches with some active breathing, scrambled eggs and good old fashioned Excedrin.
After breakfast we retraced our steps going a bit higher to the toe of the Hermoso Glacier, starting at 16,000 feet. From here we reviewed the skills needed to climb the mountain safely. The weather continued its moodiness, first snowing, then scorching, then blowing, then back to snowing. It couldn’t make up its mind so by 12:00 we decided to head it down. Now, after a great lunch, some more hot cocoa and a quick debrief, it’s time for a nap. Dinner is at five and our wake up call is at 11 pm. We are all psyched to try our hand at Ecuador’s third highest peak starting tonight.
Stay tuned for a summit post tomorrow.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff saying buenas Noches for now
Appreciate the updates. Hope everyone is doing well. Stay safe and Happy Trails to everybody !!!
Posted by: Sue Romanick-Schmiedl on 1/19/2018 at 6:25 pm
Euchre is the best!!
What a cool adventure, we need some Alpaca Fashion posed photos for sure!
Posted by: Ashley on 1/19/2018 at 7:04 am
January 16, 2018
This morning we woke with the sun and glanced out the window of our hotel room expecting a continuation of yesterday’s deluge. We were pleasantly surprised to find the streets of Quito damp but no active precipitation. Optimistic for the day’s objective, Cerro Fuya Fuya (13,998), the team rallied in the lobby of Hotel Mercure at 7:30 ready to load the bus. Some severe rush-hour traffic delayed the bus about an hour and a half so the team took the unexpected opportunity to indulge in one to seven of Hotel Mercure’s incredible chocolate filled croissants.
By 9:00 the bus was loaded and we embarked on the three hour drive to Fuya Fuya. We arrived safe and sound at the azure blue Lake Mojanda, the trailhead for Fuya Fuya. We were pleasantly surprised to find the summit out of the clouds. Eager to take stretch their legs and take advantage of the weather window the team set out at a good clip.
About 20 minutes in we stopped to rest before initiating the patented Knoff acclimatization strategy, about 5 to 10 minutes of all-out effort up a steep section to raise the heart rate and let the body know it’s time to make some red blood cells. The team kick-started their engines with some pressure breaths then launched following the superhuman pace of our local guide, Peter. Panting and hearts pounding the team crested the hill and we gave them the exciting news that they wouldn’t have to do that again for the rest of the trip.
We cruised the rest of the way through the alpine meadows and up a short pick scramble to the summit at a casual pace. The team arrived in style and were rewarded with gorgeous views of the crater lake and surrounding ridge-line.
The descent to the bus was quite direct and steep through the muddy meadows and the team quickly learned that the summit is really only the halfway point. The team managed the slippery terrain in style only sustaining a few muddy backsides which the bus driver made sure we acknowledged and toweled off before embarking.
We are currently enjoying the day’s true summit of beers and good conversation as we settle in to the beautiful Casa La Sol for the evening.
Tomorrow will take us up the rugged mountain roads to the base of the equatorial behemoth, Cayambe and the start of our first big objective of the trip.
RMI Guide Jordan Cargill Signing off for the night.
Good luck to the whole crew for the Cayambe adventure!
Posted by: Kaki on 1/17/2018 at 7:31 pm
éclair! Trichez-vous sur les barres de datte?
Posted by: Thunder Goat on 1/16/2018 at 8:44 pm