Entries from Ecuador
January 18, 2017
We have just kicked off our next Ecuador Volcanoes program here in Quito. With most of our team arriving late last night, we spent day one casually around town. After a large buffet breakfast we went on a four-hour city tour where we visited the equator along with some key landmarks throughout the old city of Quito. Even though this wasn’t quite as relaxing as laying by a pool all day, it is important that we keep some blood flowing for acclimatization. Just by being in this city we are starting this process because it sits at 9000’.
Once we returned to our hotel and did a gear check the team was ready for a little fun, so we checked out one of Quito’s new micro breweries. The pale ale was on par and the chili cheese fries were among the best I ever had.
Finally we will go to dinner tonight so we can pack on a few more calories before we start burning them tomorrow on our first acclimatization hike up Rucu Pichincha. A small 15,700-foot hill right outside town.
Stay tuned to follow the rest of our journey through the Andean high country!
Hola from Banos Ecuador.
I am sorry to announce we did not summit Chimborazo today. Here’s why.
This morning the team woke up at high camp and we couldn’t tell if we were in Ecuador or Alaska. As I mentioned in the previous dispatch, the snow level on this mountain is as low as Ive ever seen it. Normally the precipitation falls during the later hours in the day as the clouds build. By midnight those clouds usually dissipate leaving clear skies and good climbing conditions.
Of course this didn’t happen the day we attempted to climb. When I got out to the tent at 11:30pm, we could barley see our neighbors, let alone the mountain. Light snow was falling and the wind didn’t seem overly oppressive but the clouds were as thick as pea soup and air was cold. By the time we geared up and put in a solid hour of climbing, the skies actually began to clear enough to see what lay ahead. Everyone was climbing really strong and the conditions, despite the new snow were the best I’ve seen that high up.
By the time we reached 18,900 feet, the mountain had had enough of playing Mr. Nice Guy. The clouds built, the wind began to blow a solid 25 and the snow began to fall quite hard. With all of these things happening at once, the safety margin in which we felt comfortable climbing in disappeared. The avalanche hazard became to high and the only reasonable option was to turn around.
This was a hard blow to the team but everyone handled it well. Chimborazo dealt us a hand we couldn’t beat. So goes the tough game of mountain climbing. You win some and you lose some. Fortunately, even the loses create experiences, memories and adventures we won’t soon forget.
So after the climb, the team descended to the hut, packed up all our gear and headed down to a jungle town called Banos, translated, meaning baths. There are many naturally heated hot springs here as well as good restaurants and pubs. We even found one that serves IPA and Stout. A well deserved treat after two hard weeks of climbing. Add on top of the beer a good beat down by a local group of teenagers on the basketball court next to the hotel and I would say our day ended better than it began.
Now we return to Quito for our farewell dinner and travels home. We hope you’ve enjoyed following along.
Thanks for the support.
RMI Guides Adam Knoff, Nick Hunt and team saying adios and muchas gracias.
Jim, Really bummed at your disappointment, but I know with you, there will be another day! Here’s hoping all is well and safe travels home. Richard
Posted by: Richard Aspinall on 1/17/2017 at 6:07 am
Tough news Jimmy but turning around was the right call…dang
Posted by: Tom Garner on 1/16/2017 at 6:55 pm
January 13, 2017
This morning was the best we have had in almost a week. No one set an alarm, our ride to the next mountain didn’t arrive at the hacienda until ten and there was no set schedule for breakfast which always feels stress free. Rumor has it that the beautiful, old Spanish style hacienda is haunted with the ghost of an old woman who’s lover died there over 150 years ago but she must have thought our group smelled too bad leaving us alone. So by the time we left this morning, we felt rested, clean and ready to head off to the highest mountain in Ecuador.
Rising to 20,700+ feet above sea level, this mountain is renowned as both the furthest point from the center of the earth as well as the closest point to the sun. This may be coincidence but it is also considered the hardest peak to climb as well. Our strategy is to break the climb up putting in a High Camp at 17,500 feet which we will be climbing to tomorrow. This makes our summit day much shorter than those climbing from below.
Here on Chimborazo there are two Refugios where climbers can stay. We are at the newly refurbished one sitting close to 15,000 feet. I have been here three times in the past and have never seen snow this low but today our bus barely made it here because of two inches of slush and fifty aimless teenagers trying to hitch hike up because their tour bus got stuck a mile down the the road.
Staying here should help us acclimate and prepare even more for our big climb to come. The sour taste of turning around so close to the summit of Antisana has us eager for another shot at a major peak. We are looking forward to another long night’s rest which should feel better than our first night at this altitude on Cayambe. We will report form high camp tomorrow.
Chow Chow for now from Chimborazo.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff
11/14 9:50pm EST, thinking about Jimmy and the other team members. Best wishes
Posted by: Tom Garner on 1/14/2017 at 6:51 pm
Kudos to Jim Nixon and the team. Stay safe.
Posted by: Mary Jane stiled on 1/14/2017 at 10:46 am
January 12, 2017
RMI Guide Adam Knoff checked in this afternoon from Hacienda La Cienega. The team had a beautiful day on Antisana with a fun climb on challenging terrain but were unable to reach the summit.
The team was happy with their effort and accomplishment and are now resting in one of Ecuador’s beautiful haciendas. Tomorrow they will move toward their final objective, Chimborazo.
What an adventure!!! Much admiration to you guys! Wishing you the best in your quest at Chimborazo!!! Jimbo, I hope this trip is all you imagined and more. The pictures are so awe inspiring! You are going to have plenty of experiences to share and I look forward to hearing your tales.
Posted by: George on 1/13/2017 at 1:30 pm
Following your progress and hoping for success and safety!
Posted by: Jane Knoff on 1/12/2017 at 7:40 pm
January 11, 2017
Hello from our cozy basecamp on Antisana! Our second day here is almost finished and preparations are underway for our next big summit attempt of the trip.
We were able to sleep in a little this morning and we had a nice full breakfast with coffee, bread, cereal, and quesadillas. With full stomachs and a full night’s rest, everybody was feeling strong and ready for our second training day of the trip.
The lower glaciers of Antisana are literally an alpine playground—with open crevasses, firm ice, steep slopes, and towering seracs—and we made good use of it throughout the morning. We set up a challenging, yet fun, alpine skills course and spent the better part of the day practicing a variety of intermediate mountaineering skills: steep fixed line travel, vertical rappels, and a number of challenging ice climbs. The team is composed of members of a variety of backgrounds and skill levels, but all were able to learn something new today and we had a good time doing it!
We were back at our basecamp by 1pm this afternoon, just in time to beat the afternoon rain storms that have been visiting us these last few days. But despite the marginal afternoon weather, we remain optimistic for our chances of summiting tomorrow! The pattern seems to be afternoon showers that clear in the evening, giving us a good window tonight for our summit push.
With one major peak and a couple of days of technical skills training, this team is more than prepared to tackle a second summit. We plan on an early dinner tonight, giving us plenty of time to pack our bags and get some shuteye in preparation for another midnight start. Wish us luck in our attempt and we’ll check back in with you tomorrow afternoon with a full report!
RMI Guides Nick Hunt and Adam Knoff, and the rest of the ESS-Ecuador team
Jimmy, sending best wishes for more sucess for you and your crew in the next part of your impressive adventure!!!
Posted by: George on 1/12/2017 at 8:41 am
William, I hope you have a better summit this time than last! The pups and I miss you! Can’t wait to hear from you!
Posted by: Linda on 1/11/2017 at 7:27 pm
January 10, 2017
Buenas Noches from Antisana Base Camp.
It always amazes me how one difficult mountain climb puts the little things back into perspective. For our climb of Cayambe, we were on the move by midnight and did not stop until twelve hours later. Even after the climb is finished, exhaustion has set in so thoroughly that the only thing that really matters is one good meal and a warm bed.
The simple joys continued this morning after ten solid hours of sleep with fresh brewed coffee, a delicious smoothie, farm fresh eggs and warm bread. It’s not every day you wake up and feel so thankful for what you have. Suffering, if even for a day helps us remember what really matters.
After our lovely breakfast we packed the bus, said adios to Ecuador’s oldest hacienda and hit the road. Two hours later we found ourselves back to the busy life shopping for food at a market equal to Fred Meyer, having lunch at KFC and eating pastries from the mall’s bakery. Two hours after that, we were back in the boonies, driving across a landscape above 12,000 feet with not a house, or other road in sight.
By 3pm we had landed at Antisana Base Camp. This place is wild with Andean condors flying overhead, wild packs of alpacas coming right into camp and no other people anywhere. We are in a place of pure natural beauty.
Our elevation is 14,800 feet and the team feels great. The more time we spend at altitude the easier it gets. Everyone misses their families and friends but very happy to be in such a unique place.
We will train tomorrow and report before getting ready to climb.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff and Team Ecuador out.
January 9, 2017
Team Ecuador is excited to announce that we reached the summit of Cayambe this morning at 7:30am. We woke up, or should I say got out of bed at 10:45pm to clear skies and warm temperatures. We began our ascent at exactly midnight and had great climbing conditions the entire way up. Having been on this mountain ten times I have never had a summit day this beautiful! Not a breath of wind, temperatures in the 30s and views that you rarely get to see.
The team climbed strong and performed really well, especially for reaching 19,000 feet six days after arriving in the country.
We were grateful to be finished early because as soon as we reached camp, the perfect weather that graced us up high took a 180 and began snowing, raining and sleeting on us. By the time we got to town, the downpour was so intense we couldn’t hear each other at lunch because of the rain hitting the roof.
Now we are settled into the oldest hacienda in Ecuador and ready for a nap. We are relieved to have gotten the first big climb under our belts and look forward to Antisana in a couple days.
On The Map
Sounds very exciting, not to mention awsome!!!! Congratulations!!!
Posted by: George on 1/11/2017 at 10:44 am
Congratulations, team! Quite an accomplishment!
Posted by: George Nimmo on 1/10/2017 at 10:25 am
January 7, 2017
January 7, 2017
Hello friends and family!
This is Nick Hunt, reporting in from the high-altitude huts on Cayambe. I’m the co-leader of this trip, along with Adam Knoff, and I’m excited to be leading another trip down here in Ecuador with another great team!
We spent last night in the city of Otavalo, at a beautiful hacienda named La Casa Sol. This trip has been feeling a little more like a leisurely vacation so far, rather than a climbing expedition, and La Casa Sol didn’t disappoint. Hot coffee and fresh eggs in the morning, beautiful rooms and a breathtaking view of the mountainous region around us. As nice as it was, though, the team has been getting antsy and everyone was more than ready for our move to the mountains today.
After a relaxing morning at the hacienda, we packed our bags and made one last stop in town: the Otavalo street market. This market is the largest of its kind in Ecuador and stretches on for miles with all sorts of crafts, textiles, spices, and souvenirs. It can be a bit of sensory overload at first, but we spent a few hours shopping for friends and families at home, then waved goodbye to the city and headed for the hills.
The road to Cayambe is a legit 4x4 road and after driving a few hours, the bus could go no further. We exited the bus, loaded our backpacks and finished the approach on foot. A little more than an hour of walking lead us up in to the clouds and to our home for the next few days at 15,000 feet above sea level. The clouds parted just enough for us to sneak a quick peak of our first serious objective before dinner.
Our plans for tonight are simple. We are going to spend the rest of the evening taking care of ourselves, getting a good meal in us, and preparing our packs for a full day of training on the glaciers tomorrow.
The level of excitement is growing as our first objective looms overhead. We’ll check in tomorrow afternoon as we prep for our first big summit attempt of the trip. Stay tuned for updates!
RMI Guides Nick Hunt and Adam Knoff, and the rest of the ESS-Ecuador team
On The Map
Jimmy, How’s the air? Clean and thin I’ll bet! We know just how you feel, had about an inch of snow yesterday and temp dropped to mid 20’s. It shut everything down but back to normal now high 30’s lots of rain. How’s the knee holding up? Praying for safety and great climbs for you and your team. I guess you don’t use the term “break a leg” for mountain climbing so I’ll just say “ganbatte”! ( In Japanese it means, “do your best”) Love Craig and Jane
Posted by: Craig Lucas on 1/8/2017 at 6:18 pm
Hey Jimmy…..looks like an amazing adventure…continued prayer for safety and good weather…savor every moment…
Posted by: Terry on 1/8/2017 at 10:57 am
Good evening from Otavalo, Ecuador.
Today was a good day. It started as all the others have. Breakfast and coffee at the hotel, light rain on the streets and an eagerness to see something new. The exception was we left Quito. It is easy to fall into the creature comforts of city life but we know that bigger and wilder places await outside of the country’s capital.
Once loaded onto Victor’s magic bus, we weaved our way through the maze of streets which eventually took us to the Pan-American Highway heading north. After two hours of driving we arrived at the foothills of a volcano called Fuya Fuya. Even though it’s altitude topped out at 14,300 feet, it still posed a worthy hike. Unfortunately the weather had it out for us. Just like yesterday, a soggy rain fell all around and the prospect of hiking for three hours up a slick mud trail didn’t sound worth the benefits gained by going up 2,000 feet.
Much like yesterday though our team of determined climbers showed strong will so we stopped the van 5 km from the parking lot where our climb would have started and walked the road to our waiting van. This idea proved sound when five minutes after arriving the heavy skies opened up and soaked everything with a downpour no hiker would want to be in.
This is what Ecuador can do. So after Fuya Fuya we headed down into town for lunch and then moved 11 men and 20 duffel bags into our beautiful hacienda.
After a couple of hours settling in we gathered in the sun room, ordered some cervezas and listened as Nick taught everyone knots, hitches and bends.
The weather hasn’t been perfect but we still seem to have fun times.
Tomorrow we visit the largest crafts market in Ecuador. Pray for sun.
On The Map
January 5, 2017
Day two in Ecuador.
Not many places in the world offer such easy access to high altitude. Down in the lower 48, to reach 14,410 feet, the summit of Mt. Rainier, an average climber needs multiple days, a closet full of equipment and a certain set of skills not learned through a YouTube video. Down here is a bit different. For example, this morning we were drinking coffee in the hotel lobby, eating pastries and admiring our ten-pound day packs. At 8 am we loaded into a van, took a 15-minute drive to the base of a still active volcano, got a lift on a cable car to 13,000 feet and began walking.
The name of the volcano we stretched our legs on is Pichincha Rucu. It’s summit stands at 15,700 feet and can be reached in mere hours from the city.
Pouring rain greeted us at the top of the gondola but this is what that closet full of gear is good for. Putting on our rain jackets and pants we braved the storm like any fearless climber would and headed up the trail. It wasn’t long before we crested that 14,410 foot ceiling giving every member, guides aside, a new altitude high point.
An hour into the hike, the rain ceased and we broke 15,000 feet by eleven am. Unfortunately the final 300 feet to the summit is more of a rock scramble than trail hike and true to the days weather, a hail storm ensued so we made the decision to turn around and skip the slippery rock. The team reached a final altitude of 15,300 feet and to everyone’s credit did exceptionally well.
After the stroll, we came back to the hotel for some rest then headed out to a fantastic dinner. All of us gringos are feeling strong and psyched to be getting closer to our first “big” mountain.
This is Adam Knoff and team saying adios.
On The Map
Good luck on this new adventure Jim (Nixon)! Looking forward to hearing all about it when you return. Maybe you and Tom Garner need a Maine vacation this summer! All the best! Rich Aspinall
Posted by: Richard Aspinall on 1/8/2017 at 4:13 am
Looking forward to the Cayambe update. Best wishes
Posted by: Tom Garner on 1/7/2017 at 5:12 am