Entries from Ecuador
Hola From Quito,
What a change from 24 hours ago. As I write this the horns from Quito’s busy streets blare below our window and the team is preparing with hot showers and clean clothes for a dinner on the town.
This wasn’t the case last night. Twenty-four hours ago we were camped at 17,500 feet on a small perch located on Ecuador’s highest peak. For weeks now Chimborazo has thwarted climbers attempting a summit push with unusually bad weather and deep snow. I am sorry to say things haven’t changed.
After a solid meal of freeze dried chicken and rice we hit the tents for a few hours and tossed and turned until the alarm went off at 11:30, pm that is. From here we ate a hasty breakfast and geared up. The sky was clear so hopes were high. The first two stretches of climbing were going well until we hit the end of the trail made by climbers the previous night.
We took a break at 19,000’ and had a long discussion about what was happening with the snow conditions and how that played into an ever-steepening route. In the end we could not justify continuing up into the unknown with a team of 13 climbers. All the other teams on the mountain had already turned around but we held onto hope for just a bit longer. Finally we had to make the call to turn around. Chimborazo has not seen a successful ascent yet in 2017 and for now it will stay that way.
Even though the team did not summit we gave it a serious shot which our bodies will confirm. So after dinner I’m sure we will toast a great journey and then crash hard for a restful 12-hour snooze. We are all looking forward to coming home to see our families.
Thanks for following along.
Hast Pronto- or until next time.
Team Ecuador saying adios.
January 25, 2017
Hello from the middle of the world!
Our Expedition Skills Seminar in Ecuador is now officially underway! Despite most of the team arriving to the hotel after midnight last night, everybody was excited and eager to kick off our program this morning. All of the people made it, all of the luggage made it… I’d say we’re off to a great start!
After only a few hours of sleep last night, we all gathered in the hotel lobby at 8am this morning after breakfast for our first of many team meetings of the trip. Introductions were made and travel tips were shared, and before we knew it, we were all sitting on a bus beginning an incredible tour of the city.
Our first stop was at Independence Square, home to the Presidential Palace of Ecuador. Unlike the overwhelming security of our White House, we were able to coax the guards in to letting us walk behind the fences and steal a look in to the main courtyard of the palace, the political center of the country. After waving goodbye to the President (not really), we continued on our way to one of the most beautiful churches in the country: La Compañia.
Taking over 150 years to complete, La Compañia is a Jesuit church finished in 1765. It offers a good a good demonstration of various architectural styles, including Baroque, Moorish, and Neoclassical construction styles. Its other claim to fame is the fact that its interior is almost completely covered in gold foil!
Our tour then took us from the modern part of the city to the early, colonial districts of the city. By driving to the top of El Panecillo and visiting Quito’s Virgin (a 45 meter tall statue overlooking the city), we were able to get great views of the entire expanse of the city. Cloudy skies prevented us from getting our first glimpses of our climbing objectives, but we were happy to be staying dry.
Our final stop of the tour took us to the equator, where we explored an interactive museum demonstrating some of the unique properties of life at 0 degree latitude. Only a few of us were able to balance an egg on the head of a nail, but I still have high hopes for this team…
Now, back at the hotel, our mission is simple: kick back, relax, and catch up on some much needed sleep. We’ll be stretching our legs tomorrow on our first acclimatization hike of the trip, but until then, it’s time to get some shut eye.
RMI Guides Nick Hunt and Steve Gately, and the rest of the team
Your team photo sure shows a good looking group of people! Y’all have a great time and be safe…..I need my husband back in one piece please. Prayers and hugs from Bailey’s Prairie, Texas - Lisa Outterson
Posted by: Lisa Outterson on 1/26/2017 at 11:56 am
Happy to hear everyone made it okay. Make sure to give that Ted Porter a hard time on his 4-0 birthday! Be safe and have an amazing time! Looking forward to the updates. Love, Stephanie Areen
Posted by: Stephanie Areen on 1/26/2017 at 7:25 am
January 24, 2017
What a gorgeous last three days we have had! They have been by far the nicest weather I’ve seen on my trips to Ecuador. As we left Guachalá, the oldest hacienda in Ecuador, we started our eight-hour drive to Chimborazo. Capitalizing on the beautiful weather, we took lots of great photos of all the mountains that were visible as we drove. Along the way, we stopped for burritos and margaritas before making our way to Estrella de Chimborazo, the lodge at the base of Chimborazo.
Our plan is to begin our ascent tomorrow with a summit bid that night or the next. We’ll see what the weather brings. We may be out of contact the next two to three nights as we embark on our next climbing objective. We will check in as soon as we can.
Wish us luck!
Great pics. Looks like an amazing trip so far. Have fun. Be safe.
Posted by: Jeff Williams on 1/25/2017 at 4:16 pm
Thanks for your latest post and gorgeous photo. I’m sending Owen and the team all the best possible climbing vibes. Good luck and enjoy the endeavor!
Posted by: Catherine Leon on 1/24/2017 at 10:35 pm
Over the past few days our team has been very busy down here on the equator. On Saturday, we departed the comforts of civilization and made our way to the Cayambe Hut at a little over 15,000’. The road to this mountain lodge is riddled with boulders, pot holes, mud pits, and the occasional farm animal, making it mandatory to use a 4x4 vehicle.
Once we were settled in and spent a night in the thin air we moved further uphill to do some basic training on the toe of the glacier. The team remembered mostly everything from their previous experience and were ready for a summit attempt. So we packed our gear, ate some dinner, and went to bed for a few hours.
At about 11 pm we awoke to clear skies and were able to start uphill by midnight. With perfect climbing conditions and a strong team we found ourselves on top of Cayambe for a 6:30 am sunrise over the equator. After descending the upper steep slopes we cruised back to the hut and packed up. A quick 4x4 ride brought us to our hacienda were we will start to recover from the climb.
Everyone is doing well and excited with the success we had!
RMI Guide Ben Liken
Yay for the team! Good work guys! Now on to the bigger beast!
Posted by: Susan Brashear on 1/24/2017 at 9:02 am
Hola From Otavalo, Ecuador,
This morning our team of intrepid climbers met our one man team and intrepid driver, Orgel, and headed into the not so subtle Quito morning rush hour. Climbers heading off to a big mountain are always ready to leave the grips of the city in search for greater adventures but today Quito had a way of making sure we didn’t rush off and lose sight of where we were. Wall to wall cars made the first five miles take as long as the final 50 but rain was falling so we didn’t feel rushed either way.
Our destination today was a volcano called Fuya Fuya, which rises to 14,700 feet, higher than Mt. Rainier, but in Ecuador is relatively low in comparison to others. We come here in January because it is supposed to be the “dry” season, but today this high, tropical landscaped proved otherwise. Light rain fell in the morning leaving Quito, but north of the city and higher up the clouds thickened and the rain turned real. In Seattle there are over a hundred ways to describe rain. I’m pretty sure today we only needed one. Let’s just call it, solid. With a “solid” rain falling, we solved riddles in the trailhead shelter, ran quick sprints along the lake shore before sprinting back and did pull ups on the beams to pretend we were getting our heart rate up. All-in-all the acclimating process was short lived and we were headed down having never walked a foot uphill.
The rain continued to pour as we ate lunch in town and killed time before arriving at the hacienda for the evening. La Casa Sol sits high on a steep hill overlooking town and it was here that we had the day’s most exciting event. With a we cobble stone street, our driver gunned it up the hill trying to get momentum before spinning out on the wet surface. It took two more goes to pull the van into the tiny parking spot and unload the bags. Ben and I had to put rocks behind the van’s tires at one point to keep him from sliding backwards into the ditch.
As we say before a day of ice climbing in Bozeman, the adventure starts the second you get in the car. Tomorrow’s road promises to be even more thrilling! The road to the mountain….
Wish us luck on our way to Cayambe.
RMI Guides Adam Knoff, Ben Liken and Team
January 19, 2017
Today, after a lot of travel and food the team finally got out into the mountains. We set off for a gondola ride on the outskirts of town that takes us all the way up to well over 13,000 feet. We were pleased to find fair skies and moderate temps with sweeping views of the city at the top.
From there it took us 2.5 hours to reach the summit at 15,700 feet with the whole team! This is a great team and everyone did excellent. After some time on top breathing thin air, we descended back to Quito grabbing some tasty carne empanadas on the way.
After an afternoon nap we all got some pizzas and ice cream to soothe the soul before bed. Tomorrow we will venture further outside Quito for another highland hike.
RMI Guide Ben Liken
Good luck over the next three days as the team moves towards the climbers hut in anticipation of summiting Cayambe on Monday! Let’s hope the weather cooperates better than today!
Posted by: Susan Brashear on 1/20/2017 at 5:27 pm
good luck on your climbing/eating adventure! if this is a race, my money is on Owen. nobody can eat faster than Owen.
Posted by: catherine's sister on 1/20/2017 at 10:15 am
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