Entries from Ecuador
Our successful Ecuador Volcanoes trip has sadly come to an end; but the good times didn’t end with mountain climbing, as this adventurous team decided to sample the classic Ecuadorian specialty dish, cuy, on our way back to the Quito yesterday. Cuy, Quichua (pre-Incan language) for guinea pig, is a traditional food reserved for special occasions; our special occasion was celebrating summitting two challenging Ecuadorian volcanoes (and turning around a few hundred feet shy of the summit on a third), enjoying the people and culture of Ecuador, and enjoying the comradery and companionship of our climbing team.
Once back in Quito and checked into our hotel, we had a few hours to roam the streets and explore the shops of the city before meeting back up for a celebratory dinner with our local guides. The past week and a half has been a whirlwind of adventure. Now, as we go our separate ways back home, we’ll always share our Ecuador Volcanoes memories, and hopefully we’ll climb together again someday.
Sometimes the stars just align, and they did for our climbing team on Cayambe this morning. Yesterday we traveled from Otavalo to the town of Cayambe where we transferred from a bus to four-wheel drive vehicles. A beautiful drive up into the Cayambe-Coca National Park soon became a unique cultural experience as the 4x4s were stymied by wildly rutted and muddy roads en route to the climbers’ hut. We got out of the vehicles and began harvesting “paja”, or tall straw-like grass from the roadside to through onto the road for added traction. After about 45 minutes all three of our vehicles made it through the troublesome areas and we continued on to the climbing hut at 4600m. Light rain turned to blue skies and we got some great views of the next day’s objective. We were cautiously optimistic about the changing weather pattern for Cayambe (we had seen Cayambe from various peaks over the previous week, and it always looked windy and stormy).
I woke up this morning (actually last night at 10:30pm) and checked the weather. I was psyched to see a starry night without a single cloud in the sky, and very little wind. We ate a light breakfast, packed up, and left the hut at 12:15am. It took us about an hour to approach the toe of the glacier where we donned crampons and iced axes. We ascended moderate slopes up the Hermosa Glacier, avoiding the heavily crevassed peripheries. After tackling the Bergshrund and ascending a short pitch of steep ice, we found ourselves on the summit eight hours after we set out from the hut. Stunning views of the high peaks of Ecuador greeted us: Cotopaxi, Chimborazo, Antisana, and the Illinizas, all stood tall, unobstructed by clouds. The descent went smoothly and three hours later we were back at the climbers’ hut. The clouds kept threatening to cover up Cayambe on our descent, but they held off until the last 20 minutes before we hit the hut.
After an early wake-up call and a long day in the mountains, we are now settled in to our home for the night, Guachala, the oldest hacienda in Ecuador with history back to the 16th century. Our team will head back to Quito tomorrow for a celebratory dinner and our last night together in Ecuador.
On The Map
So much for a lazy rest day yesterday. Instead, we jammed the day full of activities. We spent the morning enjoying the world famous Plaza de Ponchos market in Otavalo, where we had a few hours to roam the streets, haggling with vendors for the best price on many handmade craft goods, from alpaca blankets to paintings to jewelry. After regrouping for lunch we ventured out of the normal tourist confines and explored the local market. Here, locals sell fruits, vegetables, sides of beef, whole-cooked pig, you name it…the sounds, sights, and smells were all exotic and a unique cultural experience.
After returning to our hacienda, we made a quick turn around and went on a short hike to the Cascadas de Peguche, a beautiful waterfall near our hacienda. Ok, we managed to get some rest in also.
This morning we are starting with a leisurely breakfast and then we will head for the Cayambe climbers’ hut. In order to reach the hut we will have to transfer to four-wheel drive vehicles and travel far into the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve. The climbers’ hut will be our home for tonight as we get ready for an early alpine start for our summit attempt on Cayambe. At nearly 19,000’, Cayambe will test our endurance, acclimatization, and climbing techniques. We will let you know how it goes. Hopefully we will return with photos of summit high-fives.
RMI Guide Mike Walter and team
On The Map
July 4, 2016 - 5:11 am PT
Here’s a quick update from the past two days:
Yesterday wet and windy conditions kept us in the climbers’ hut until after lunch, when the weather improved…slightly. We quickly packed our bags and headed up Iliniza Norte, scrambling up a steep rock ridge with fresh rime ice on it. Due to our late start and deteriorating weather, we turned around at Paso de la Muerte (Death Pass, ~5000m), a few hundred feet shy of the summit. Strong winds and very poor visibility accompanied us for the entire descent, but we safely arrived back at the hut with plenty of daylight. It was a fun day of climbing and great acclimatization.
Today we woke early to starry skies and light winds. After a light alpine breakfast we set out for Iliniza Sur. The good weather lasted all day and, after being challenged by steep snow and ice, rock climbing, and high altitude climbing, we arrived at the summit! Seven hours after leaving the hut this morning we strolled back in for a quick lunch and some coffee, before packing our bags and heading back down to the parking lot.
I am writing this dispatch on my phone (without service) as we drive north to our hacienda for the night. I’ll upload pictures tomorrow, when I can track down some more reliable Wi-Fi…be sure to check back, we got some great pics today! Priorities tonight are showers, dinner, and comfy beds!
Congrats to the whole team. Rue!! You’ve officially joined the badass club!!
Have fun on Chimborazo!
Posted by: Rhonda on 7/5/2016 at 6:40 am
Team Ecuador is all settled in at the Illiniza Hut. The weather was clear and sunny, which made for nice hiking to the hut. Once they arrived and settled in, the wind picked up and the team is currently in a cloud layer. Their plan is to climb Illiniza Norte in the morning. The team is doing well and will check in tomorrow.
Love the pictures. Keep up the good work Team!! Cindee take lots of pictures….love ya!!
Posted by: Sandy B on 7/3/2016 at 5:35 pm
Thank you for your updates and pictures. Good luck to your team!
Posted by: Jeanne Nimmo on 7/2/2016 at 5:33 am
We had a great day today as we ventured out of Quito for our first acclimatization hike up Rucu Pichincha (15,696’). The approach for this hike was a scenic gondola ride well above the city, dropping us off at 13,500’. After a few hours of hiking, we climbed into the clouds and finished with a scramble up Rucu Pichincha’s rocky summit. Although summit views were obscured, the weather was very comfortable all day for our hike.
We had a few hours this afternoon to relax and prep our gear for the next days’ adventures: hiking up to the climbers’ hut at the Ilinizas at 15,100’. We will spend two nights there and attempt summits on both the north and south Iliniza peaks. We will be in touch with updates.
On The Map
Our Ecuador Volcanoes expedition is underway! Everyone (and their luggage) arrived yesterday and the team met for breakfast this morning at our hotel’s café. Today’s agenda involved an informational tour of the historic areas of Quito, Ecuador’s capitol. Angel, our local city tour guide, led us through colonial Quito, and taught us about the history of various churches, the presidential palace, independence plaza, and the large statue of the Virgin of Quito, overlooking the city. The weather was beautiful and we even snuck in partial views of some of our climbing objectives, Cayambe and Rucu Pichincha. Cotopaxi (which is closed to climbing due to recent volcanic activity) also came into view.
Next we jumped in our van and headed north to the equator, or “mitad del mundo”, where we visited an ethnographic museum and learned about various indigenous cultures of Ecuador. We straddled the equator, with one leg in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern, as we watched some demonstrations of Coriolis Effect and our position on the equator.
We’re off now to sample some Ecuadorian cuisine for dinner!
On The Map
Lookin’ good, folks. Be careful - good hiking, trekking and climbing.
Posted by: George Nimmo on 6/30/2016 at 6:19 pm
Yesterday was a big day for all of us up on Chimborazo and thankfully the near perfect weather allowed us to stand on top! All in all our summit day took 13 some hours round trip including a deceptively difficult two-hour walk across the summit plateau from the Veintimilla summit to the barely higher Whymper summit. Riddled with deep trenches and fantastic snow mushrooms, what should have taken no more than an hour was a brutal two hour jaunt back and forth. We were fortunate enough to enjoy perfectly calm winds and clear skies on top, which made it not so bad. We even got to peep some views of Cotopaxi smoking in the distance before gearing up for our descent. We were greeted warmly back at the Estrella de Chimborazo where we ate a celebratory dinner and promptly crashed in their cozy beds. Right now we are on the bus headed back for Quito where we hope to have one last celebratory dinner as a team before at least half of us head for the airport to catch a red-eye flight home. All in all it was a quite an adventure and I’d like to thank the team for rolling with the punches the whole trip and hanging in there til the end. And I’d also like to thank the other guides, Chase, David, and Diego along with Victor, our driver, for all the help along the way.
Until next time…
February 13, 2016
Hey it’s Billy checking in. We are all back safe and sound at our camp on Chimborazo. We’re about to actually hike on down to the bus. We had a safe and successful climb to the summit today. Just about perfect weather most of the day. That’s all I have to report. Long, long day- everyone is super tired but definitely big smiles on our faces. As we were just talking about this, it totally rethinks our whole trip down here. That’s all I have for now. Signing off and we’ll check in again tomorrow evening at the end of the trip.
RMI Guide Billy Nugent checks in post Chimborazo summit.
Congratulations to the team on successfully summiting!!! Go…..Jason!!! How exciting!!!
Posted by: Esther & Dean Chapman on 2/13/2016 at 4:57 pm
February 12, 2016
It’s Billy calling from high Camp on Chimborazo at around 17,500 feet. I’m up here with all the team everyone is doing extremely well, and we’re even enjoying the semi-decent weather. We are in the clouds but the wind is calm and it’s not raining, so compared to what we’ve been dealing with so far this trip we will take it! The team is just resting after our hike up here and pretty soon we’ll be eating some tasty Mountain House freeze dried dinners and getting to bed early so we are in a good position to get up in the middle of the night tonight and take a crack at the summit. Hopefully I’ll be giving you a call next from the top of the mountain, but if not we’ll check in or if you know how it went.
That’s all for now, bye!
RMI Guide Billy Nugent calling in from High Camp on Chimborazo
Go SPS!!! Go Daddy!!! We love you!! Have fun!! Roh?, lalalalalal
Posted by: Team Chapman on 2/13/2016 at 5:56 am
Have a great summit day, guys!
Posted by: Craig Falkenhagen on 2/12/2016 at 6:17 pm