Entries from Ecuador
Sunday, January 27, 2019 4:48 AM PT
This morning was superb. Our wonderful hacienda has coffee ready early so it seemed the birds and had found their share.
At 7:15 I threw my yoga mat down on the patio outside my room and was delighted at how many songs echoed around me, many coming from beautiful fruit trees blooming in bright reds and yellows. After some bendy stretchy, we had a great breakfast which was critical to power our all man shopping spree taking place in one of Ecuador’s largest outdoor markets.
Once at the market we quickly discussed negotiating tactics, set a time to return and then set forth into our shop till you drop Otavalo extravaganza! No matter how many times I walk through this explosion of textiles, jewelry and crafts, I never get past the sensory overload. Even if Amazon has eroded any sense of “good shopping wherewithal” it is still possible for nine dudes to stroll head first into this crazy place and come out with something a loved one might enjoy.
Loved ones, please just say you “love it” when you get your gifts. We really do try!
After the market we picked up some groceries for the hut then piled into two rowdy 4x4 trucks and headed up the mountain. These roads aren’t your average cobble stone roads so after 2.5 hours of intense butt massaging and dust inhalation overload we arrived at the Cayambe hut.
Sitting at 15,100 feet we moved slowly but still managed a great hike before dinner. The weather was great so our views of the mountain left us wondering if we should just keep climbing.
Back at the hut we all enjoyed good stories and food setting us up well for our first night at a new altitude. We shall report on the nights effects tomorrow.
Buenas Noches from Cayambe.
On The Map
Ecuador Volcanoes, day three.
This journey is only three days old but the number of firsts for me has surpassed the last three years. What I mean by firsts is simply having an experience down here I have not had in the 15 years I’ve been guiding these mountains.
For example, I’ve never ventured off the equator tour to go find local home brewed corn beer. I’ve never been told by one of my climbers that they decided to venture out onto the fire escape, only to lock themselves out, with their roommate, and wind up on roof of the lobby looking down directly at the front desk waving to get let back in. I also have never broken two hours ascent time to the summit of Rucu Pinchincha, which we did yesterday without even trying. Yes, that’s fast…....
To continue this trend, we blitzed our second acclimating hike today on a mountain called Fuya Fuya, reached the summit in record time, decided we should keep going and found ourselves on the second summit a kilometer away that I have never even considered going to. The views of Quito were amazing and the team was psyched to have two summits reached instead of one. Right when I thought the day should find its way back to normal, I was again surprised. When we descended and reached the parking lot a few of the guys asked if the lake we were parked next to was good for swimming. After a few typical guy jokes about fish that swim where fish don’t belong and shrunken heads, not attached to our necks, three crazy men stripped off their cloths, high fived and jumped into the lake. Of course at that point jokes about great white somethings happened but jokes aside, swimming in that lake has never happened! Kudos to my “brave” teammates who took the plunge.
After those shenanigans, we all piled back into the bus to head into Otovalo to praise our adventurous spirits and eat some pizza. At this point I was just waiting for an earthquake or meteorite to hit the bus, just to keep the streak alive. It didn’t happen…..Gracias!
Now we are resting nicely at our beautiful hacienda soaking up the warm sun and humid air. When the weather isn’t raining, it can be almost perfect.
In a couple hours we will have another nice team dinner then prepare to head to Cayambe. Our fist “big” objective of the trip. Stay turned for tomorrow’s dispatch on high intensity market negotiating, crazy 4x4 truck rides and a new sleeping altitude for most. With this team I have no idea what might happen.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff & Team
I love the energy this group brings! Looking forward to the stories of the summit bids and how it all goes! Adam is a wonderful human and guide- you are in good hands! Can’t wait for the next update! Safe travels to one and all! ❤️
Posted by: Chrissy on 1/25/2019 at 8:39 pm
Your blog is awesome. Best of luck. Safe and fun! Mom
Posted by: Jane Knoff on 1/25/2019 at 6:04 pm
January 24, 2019
Today we woke up to another beautiful day in Ecuador. After breakfast our team, now complete with our outstanding local guide Jaime, headed for the teleferico (gondola) and began our first acclimatization hike on a beautiful ridge overlooking Quito. The entire team styled our climb to Rucu Pichincha, breaking a couple of altitude records along the way. After some time on the summit enjoying just enough weather to make for dramatic light without spoiling any views, we headed back to Quito to rest and pack up for our move to Fuya Fuya and Otavalo tomorrow. The whole team was happy to get up in the mountains today and are feeling great, we hope our streak of great weather continues!
Paul you are incredible!
Posted by: Julianne Echols on 1/25/2019 at 7:22 am
Nice work everyone! It looks absolutely beautiful out there. Good luck on your climb today! *Rock Stars*
Posted by: Amy Collins on 1/25/2019 at 4:46 am
January 23, 2019
I am happy to announce the Ecuador Volcanoes team successfully assembled in the hotel lobby this morning. They were all a bit late and I couldn’t scold anyone in particular so I plan to run them all a bit harder on our first acclimating climb tomorrow.
After our team introduction we all loaded the tour bus and headed north out of Quito to the Mitad Del Mundo, or Middle of the World. Otherwise know as the equator! Here at the museum we were taught how the Amazon tribes shrunk actual heads of people, tiny fish can swim up urine streams into parts of the body fish don’t belong and snakes in the jungle can eat full size monkeys. And of course we learned how shadows tell time, the coriolis effect makes the water spin in opposite directions and gravity is possessed by aliens on the actual equatorial line.
The team seemed quite interested in these scientific studies but when we left the museum they were equally as interested to detour from the set itinerary to find some local home brew corn beer called Cheecha that the tour guide said was popular in that area. We did just that, toasting a good trip together with a liquid resembling nothing like we drink back home. At this same restaurant we noticed another local delicacy roasting on a stick. Here it is called Cuy. At home it is widely recognized as guinea pig. Luckily they don’t look as cute once they are cooked.
When the Cheecha ran dry we loaded up and headed into the old town of Quito where we saw great views of the city, a beautiful golden church and some of the oldest buildings in the country. Ecuador has an incredibly rich history and diverse population. Getting to see it up close never gets old.
After the tour we all gathered for espresso and soccer at my favorite place one block from the hotel. Before dinner we will check some gear then team up for our first official team dinner then retire to prepare for our first official climb. Tomorrow we go to 15,400 feet so stay tuned for the report.
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