Entries from Ecuador
January 5, 2018
I am happy to announce that our team reached the summit of Cayambe today at 7:45 this morning. Much like the driving challenges we have faced in the last few days, the mountain played the same game. With unusually high snow falls lately the mountains have been seeing few ascents. Cayambe has not seen a successful summit since before the new year. So we knew our chances were 50 50 at best.
With an 11 pm wake up call, we hit the snooze only once and soon got motivated to power down instant coffee, white bread with Nutella and some weird cheese I don’t eat if I can help it. The morning was clear and warm so our psyche was high. We left the hut at 12:15 am with hopes to make the glacier by 1:30. Walking was smooth and efficient, so we made good time on the first two stretches. It was around 17,500’ things began to change. The solid supportable crust layer which had made walking so easy down lower began to turn more into punchy post-holing making climbing extremely taxing. By 18,000’ we were literally on the fence on whether to go down or not. The temps were well below freezing and it was clear some storm clouds were building over the mountain.
With a long discussion between the guides and the mountain gods, we decide to press on. Pedro, or Peter in English, our Peruvian local guide, who’s legs are like giant pistons, broke trail up the 50 degree headwall landing us on the summit ridge just as the wind started to howl and the snow began to blow. 15 minutes after reaching the summit ridge we stood happily on top.
The descent was fairly uneventful with the storm clouds offering welcomed shade from the intense sun that can cook your nose in a matter of minutes if you let it.
By noon we were loading the trucks and making our way down to the warmth and comforts of Hacienda Guachala. Ecuador’s oldest operating hotel.
Tonight, we will enjoy a nice meal, get some clothes washed and prepare for our next adventure which begins tomorrow. Wish us luck as we move to 16,000’ on the flanks of Cotopaxi.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff & Team
Sweet adventure, congrats on summit. Thank God for Pedro Piston pumps! (Loved that description)
Posted by: Patrick on 1/6/2018 at 8:39 am
Amazing! Bravo! I hope Cotopaxi goes well! Great blog update! Thanks!
Posted by: Susan Mulvey on 1/6/2018 at 7:47 am
January 4, 2018
Yesterday the team started the day with a leisurely breakfast at La Casa Sol followed by a trip to the Otavalo Market to do a little shopping. The market was full of color and everyone was able to find a few souvenirs to bring home. In the afternoon it was time to head to the climber’s hut on Cayambe. The heavy rains down low brought a significant amount of snow to the mountain. So, again we had to rent 4x4 trucks and see how high they could take us. Our packs were loaded heavy, and we were ready for a long hike. One by one our trucks pushed snow out of our path. Thanks to our adventurous drivers, this left is with only abut 20 minutes of hiking to get to the hut. A lot further than most of us thought! By mid-afternoon we were settled into the hut. We spent the rest of our evening relaxing and going over more knots. We had our first restless night’s sleep as we are all getting used to life above 15,000’.
This morning we were treated to an excellent breakfast prepared by our Cayambe Hut staff before starting our training day. In all the times I have visited this hut, I have never seen so much snow! With crampons on we headed out to the toe of the glacier to refresh our mountaineering skills. The new snow made for great glacier travel and setting anchors. Everyone did a great job! We are back at the hut now listening to the thunder, lightning, and light rain. It is an 11pm wake up call for us. The summit awaits!
Wish us luck!
RMI Guide Adam Knoff & Team
Glad to hear you are now truly on your way now, good luck to all of you.,Rogan I bet you can’t wait for the snow? It’s boiling at home, Mel and kids having fun at the river. All return from holidays on Monday, agh, more traffic!
Keep going upwards, it’s the only way to go.
Love , mom
Posted by: Daphne Carew on 1/4/2018 at 10:26 pm
Wishing best of luck to the whole team. We in Boston are getting pounded by snow! LaLa
Posted by: Karen Norris on 1/4/2018 at 2:42 pm
January 2, 2018
Hello from Expedition Skills Seminar Ecuador.
Today we finally packed our duffels, checked out of our nice hotel and headed for the mountains. It may sound a bit confusing that we stood in ankle-deep snow yesterday at 15,200 feet but weren’t actually “in the mountains”. Strangely enough, yesterday’s mountain took ten minutes by taxi to get to followed by two hours of hiking. Not exactly the adventure one thinks of when breaking the 15,000-foot barrier.
Today was a different story. By 8:00am, we were packed and ready to load all 22 duffel bags into Victor’s magic bus, point that thing north and drive for three hours toward a large concentration of volcanoes which includes the 19,000-foot Cayambe, famous for being the only location on the actual equator to hold year-round snow. Things started smoothly, picking our way slowly through heavy Quito morning traffic. By 11am we had reached our turn off in the renowned market town of Otavalo. From the main road our plan was to turn off and head up a large extinct volcano to a beautiful crater lake and then hike 2,000’ to the sharp summit of Fuya Fuya.
Two miles up the road we ran head on into a sign that read Detour! We quickly asked another driver what the road was like and he responded by saying no big buses could make it to the lake. With some quick phone calls, a bit of luck and some willing participants, we hired two 4x4 trucks, loaded them full of 12 climbers and powered upward. Thirty minutes later we arrived at Laguna Mojando. From the lake, two hours of strenuous hiking brought us to our first Ecuadorian summit. We had light rain and distant thunder but overall very pleasant hiking conditions.
The team did great sticking together reaching the summit in very good style. Although this summit was only 14,000’, we still felt the strain and know it will play an important role in preparation for our bigger objective starting tomorrow.
After the hike our trucks returned and carted us back to town where Victor and all of our things were waiting.
Once regrouped, we drove directly to the “House of Sun” or Casa Sol, where we enjoyed learning knots by the fire and had a fabulous traditional Ecuadorian dinner.
Reports keep coming in from the higher mountains of deep snow and abnormally bad road conditions. We have plans around these challenges but it should keep things interesting. Stay tuned for what’s to come…...
Everyone sends their best to loved ones back home.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff
This morning we awoke to steady rain in Quito. Despite the conditions and the midnight fireworks disrupting slumber, the team rallied in the lobby of Hotel Mercure excited for our first acclimatization trek up Rucu Pinchincha (15,700ft). As we loaded up on coffee and croissants the rain began to taper to a drizzle and we embarked on a short taxi ride to the Teleferico, a gondola that carried us high above the city to 13,000 feet. We began our trek towards the summit with a light rain and snow mix and good visibility. We may not have had bluebird skies but we did get the unique experience of undercast clouds wafting in out of the peaks around Quito. The team cruised the rolling alpine meadow ridge that makes up the first half of the climb, showing their prowess at the high elevation by chatting the whole way. We stopped to take a break just before the route changes character and shifts to steeper, rockier traversing leading around the spiny pinnacle to a saddle just before the final ridge scramble. As we entered this more challenging terrain we encountered snow that had managed to accumulate, a rare occurrence on Pinchincha. As we continued the snow deepened to about 6”, increasing the challenge of the already demanding terrain. The team took these obstacles in stride and made it to the saddle just shy of 15,300’ in style. We decided to make this our high point having accomplished our goal of acclimatization and not wanting to risk the decreased friction on the third-class scramble to the summit. The wet snow and muddy ground demanded our attention on the descent, but we made it back to the Teleferico in good time with only a few muddy hands and backsides. After some much deserved rest we’re off to explore the local cuisine of Quito. Tomorrow will take us up Cerro Fuya Fuya for another round of acclimatization then our first big one, Cayambe!
December 31, 2017
Happy New Year from Quito, Ecuador. I am happy to report the entire Expedition Skills Seminar team has arrived safely and is ready for a fun evening enjoying local culture and spirits. Our fiesta will come on the heels of a great day which involved a number of interesting and fun activities.
To begin our first official day together we met after breakfast going through a quick team introduction and itinerary overview. At 9 am the streets outside were already filling with eager New Year’s enthusiasts, some dressing in drag and some wearing colorful wigs, but we passed on joining them and loaded onto our tour bus bound for the middle of the world. Once at the equator, we observed fun physical anomalies only present on the actual equatorial line. Much of our group earned their “Egg Master” awards, balancing an egg on a nail, while others tried to shut their eyes and walk the line without tipping over. Why an egg will balance on a nail but a human can’t balance with their eyes closed is beyond me but proves to be the case.
Outside of the museum, the team encountered a group of locals partaking in the local custom of burning large dolls supposedly filled with the year’s bad energy. As it burns you are supposed to make a wish for better things to come, then leap over the burning pile to make that wish come true. Stephanie showed no fear in giving her wish the best chance.
From the equator we traveled south into the old town of Quito where we gained beautiful vistas of this 40 mile long city atop a hill called El Panacillo. Unfortunately, there were no views of our snow capped peaks but we know they are out there. After this we descended into the old town where we toured some traditional shops and streets then finished in the main square of Quito directly across from the presidential palace.
Despite most of the team feeling a bit tired from traveling and jumping straight to 9000’, we left time to have a late lunch at a great little micro-brewery trying it’s best to replicated those in the states. Although the IPA needs a bit more hoppiness, the stout proved our favorite.
Tomorrow we gear up for our first acclimation hike. Stay tuned to see if a few in the group break their previous altitude high points. Late night or not, I have high hopes…..
Happy New Year once more. Salud.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff
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that certainly sounds like my Stephanie! Happy climbing and be SAFE! Love Mom xxxooo
Posted by: Karen Norris on 1/1/2018 at 11:33 pm
December 14, 2017
We did it! The team stood on top of 19,347ft Cotopaxi this morning at 7:30am. The team climbed brilliantly through bitterly cold temperatures and the ever-present lack of oxygen to check the active volcano off their bucket lists. We were treated to clear skies all day long and it wasn’t until we were finally driving away that the mountain fell back into it’s usual cloak of dark clouds. Oh and we had another birthday today! Happy Birthday to Kris Vargas! And what a way to spend it climbing one of Ecuador’s finest volcanoes on a truly spectacular day. We’re all back at Tambopaxi packing our things for the drive back to Quito where we will enjoy one last dinner as a team before most of us depart back to the States later this evening. Thanks to everyone for following along. This will be the last blog post of our trip! Until next time!
On The Map
December 13, 2017
The skies cleared overnight and we were treated to the first truly blue bird morning of the trip. Cotopaxi was out in full glory. A leisurely morning lead to another fantastic breakfast served up by our Master Chef Josè. After breakfast we took a short stroll around the area to stretch the legs. It is climber Aaron D.‘s birthday today and upon our return from our walk we surprised him with a cake equipped with candles and all! Happy Birthday Aaron! After enjoying our Ecuadorian pastel we hopped onto the bus and took the short drive to Tambopaxi where we will stage for our summit climb. With the weather looking good the team is excited to tackle our last objective! Off to bed here shortly in preparation of an early wake up. Wish us luck!
On The Map
December 12, 2017
A well deserved rest day at Chilcabamba Lodge at the base of Cotopaxi has been enjoyed with its views, food and short walks around the property. During breakfast, Cotopaxi revealed itself from behind the clouds and was covered with a dusting of fresh snow. With a pair of binoculars from the lodge, we were able to make out the beginning of the climbing route. The rest of the day was filled with drying out our gear from Cayambe, repacking, reading and naps. The food here has been our favorite so far. The steaks for dinner were thick and cooked to perfection, some pressure breathing was required to clean our plates! Tomorrow morning will be another relaxing start to the day before we transfer up the road to Tombopaxi Hut.
December 11, 2017
We spent most of the evening listening to thunder clouds and the battering of hail pound our shelter. That was until I woke the team up at 10:45pm. We woke to surprisingly calm skies with even a few stars shining. The team quickly got out of bed to prepare their things for our ascent. While eating breakfast the clouds snuck back in behind our backs and filled the mountain’s surroundings with a heavy mist that saturated everything that touched it. We decided to brave the mist and put on our rain shells to climb for an hour and “see how things went”. The team climbed right along, ignoring the inclement weather. At the end of that hour things weren’t looking much better, in fact you might have said they were worse. Taking good advantage of being able to retreat back to a warm hut if need be, we opted to continue and “see how things went” again. A few inches of wet snow had fallen over night and actually made the walking quite nice. Soon thereafter the mist lifted and we actually began to get warm and dry out! The team’s spirits lifted and we kept ascending. At about 18,000ft we finally met our maker- a large glacial bowl filled with recently deposited snow from high winds. The avalanche hazard was real and quite sensitive. We opted to turn around and descend back towards the hut. During our descent we were met with an Ecuadorian sunrise above a sea of clouds and neighboring volcanoes, Antisana and Cotopaxi, in the distance. At the time there certainly wasn’t much to be upset about. A quick descent gave way to another exciting 4x4 drive down to Otavalo where we would head south towards Chilcabamba on the northern flank of Cotopaxi. Tomorrow we rest and prepare for our next objective!
December 10, 2017
We awoke to a clear and chilly morning at the hut. The first half of the day provided views of the upper mountain and the summit of Cayambe before some snow showers moved in. Today’s goal was to climb another 1,000 feet to the base of the glacier to acclimatize and review some mountaineering skills. The steep climb up to our school site gave us a great preview of the beginning of our summit day. By the end of our school, the team was looking great and ready to climb Cayambe tomorrow. We are back at the hut resting and preparing our summit packs for the morning. Wish us clear conditions like we had this morning for our summit attempt!
On The Map
Awesome experience for all of you! Dad & I are living vicariously! Our best to all of you for an awesome assent!
Posted by: Judy & dale collins on 12/10/2017 at 5:06 pm