Entries from Ecuador
January 16, 2018
This morning we woke with the sun and glanced out the window of our hotel room expecting a continuation of yesterday’s deluge. We were pleasantly surprised to find the streets of Quito damp but no active precipitation. Optimistic for the day’s objective, Cerro Fuya Fuya (13,998), the team rallied in the lobby of Hotel Mercure at 7:30 ready to load the bus. Some severe rush-hour traffic delayed the bus about an hour and a half so the team took the unexpected opportunity to indulge in one to seven of Hotel Mercure’s incredible chocolate filled croissants.
By 9:00 the bus was loaded and we embarked on the three hour drive to Fuya Fuya. We arrived safe and sound at the azure blue Lake Mojanda, the trailhead for Fuya Fuya. We were pleasantly surprised to find the summit out of the clouds. Eager to take stretch their legs and take advantage of the weather window the team set out at a good clip.
About 20 minutes in we stopped to rest before initiating the patented Knoff acclimatization strategy, about 5 to 10 minutes of all-out effort up a steep section to raise the heart rate and let the body know it’s time to make some red blood cells. The team kick-started their engines with some pressure breaths then launched following the superhuman pace of our local guide, Peter. Panting and hearts pounding the team crested the hill and we gave them the exciting news that they wouldn’t have to do that again for the rest of the trip.
We cruised the rest of the way through the alpine meadows and up a short pick scramble to the summit at a casual pace. The team arrived in style and were rewarded with gorgeous views of the crater lake and surrounding ridge-line.
The descent to the bus was quite direct and steep through the muddy meadows and the team quickly learned that the summit is really only the halfway point. The team managed the slippery terrain in style only sustaining a few muddy backsides which the bus driver made sure we acknowledged and toweled off before embarking.
We are currently enjoying the day’s true summit of beers and good conversation as we settle in to the beautiful Casa La Sol for the evening.
Tomorrow will take us up the rugged mountain roads to the base of the equatorial behemoth, Cayambe and the start of our first big objective of the trip.
RMI Guide Jordan Cargill Signing off for the night.
éclair! Trichez-vous sur les barres de datte?
Posted by: Thunder Goat on 1/16/2018 at 8:44 pm
Prayers for a safe and successful trip! Let the sunshine continue!
Posted by: Jane Knoff on 1/16/2018 at 5:37 pm
Today we got wet!
The city tour is over, the team is gathered and the mountain was calling. On any other day a group of motivated hikers would look out the window, see falling rain and decide its not a good idea to stick with the plan. When that same team is on a schedule though, we gotta go when the bus arrives.
After a nice caffeine-laden breakfast, a short introduction to our local guide Peter, and some quick sneaking of the great chocolate croissants into our lunch sacks from the bakery, we were on our way to 15,700’ Rucu Pinchincha, a active volcano only ten minutes from our hotel in downtown Quito. Form the get go rain splattered the windows. We knew things could get interesting but we didn’t know how much.
After unloading from the van, a quick walk landed us at the ticket office of the gondola we planned to take form 10,000’ to 13,000’. The ride was uneventful with dense fog obscuring any views on the way up. Once at the top of the gondola we took refuge inside a building and put on our Gore-Tex for what looked like a rainy start. It was…...
Two minutes after beginning our initial walk, we turned around and headed back to shelter as the rain was too much. We decided to wait it out for twenty minutes which paid off because the rain let up and we made our move.
We got one good hour of walking in making it to the elevation of 14,700 feet before the rain and terrain turned us around.
Back at the shelter we all exchanged hard shell jacket performances reviews and admitted how nice it will be to get out of our wet, soggy clothes. On the ride down in the gondola lightning began flashing and thunder crashing, stopping the machine two or three times in a matter of minutes. Down at the station, the real downpour started.
So goes the unpredictable weather in the mountains.
By 2:30 we were all back at the hotel ready for some lunch and relaxation.
Tomorrow we try again on another peak north of Quito.
Stay tuned for more reports.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff signing off.
January 14, 2018
We rallied the troops this morning at 8:30 in the lobby of Hotel Mercure for Day 1. After a quick round of intros and several cups of coffee to stave off the jet-lag we met with our tour guide, Pepe to go and explore the world heritage city of Quito. Our first stop was a visit to the equator. With Pepe’s help we were able to conduct a number of experiments and confirm that the equator monument is in fact in the right location. Some of these tests included a demonstration of the Coriolis Effect where the water in a pan drains counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere then clockwise when moved across to the southern hemisphere. After a tour of several exhibits showcasing the indigenous history of Ecuador we moved on to investigate “old town” the hub of colonial Quito.
Parched from the intense equatorial sun, our first stop was a local brewery where the team slaked their thirst before checking out some of the exquisite colonial architecture. The highlight was Compania de Jesus, a church completed after over 150 years of construction from the 17th to 18th century. The entire interior is coated with gold leaf and exquisite wood carvings. After Compania de Jesus we continued to wonder the narrow streets of “old town” eventually arriving back at Hotel Mercure.
The afternoon allowed for some much needed rest and gear-checks before dinner at 7. We found some local cuisine that also happened to be playing the Vikings - Saints game. What a finish! We are back at Hotel Mercure now all fueled up and ready for our first acclimatization hike tomorrow. Stay Tuned!
Hope your first hike was great!
Posted by: Kaki on 1/15/2018 at 6:51 pm
Posted by: Thunder Goat on 1/15/2018 at 8:13 am
January 12, 2018
I am thrilled to announce that yesterday at 6:45am, three members of our Ecuador climbing team successfully reached the Whymper summit of Ecuador’s highest peak, Chimborazo. Myself and our local guide Peter were the two guides leading the summit rope teams and I will say without question it was in the top five most difficult summit days of my guiding career. From our high camp at 17,300’, the route made a moderate traverse underneath a giant rock feature called el Castillo translated as “The Castle”. The team moved together with good style through the rocks to the exposed ridge above. It was here the route began to steepen. From the top of El Castillo at 18,000’ to the crest of the Ventimilla Summit at 20,450’, you could literally follow the line of ascent by holding a pencil out in front of you and the track would not deviate from its vertical alignment. No other mountain I have ever guided posses such a steep, unrelenting route as Chimbo. I’m not sure why the local guides down here have such a disdain for switch backs but on all the mountains, not just Chimborazo, the routes take the most direct line possible.
Unfortunately this type of route doesn’t bode well for tired legs which have seen two giant mountains in the last five days.
By 19,000’, half of the team had decided to return to camp, which secretly I was most jealous of. After waking up at 10:30, powering down some instant oatmeal while standing outside freezing, then preparing for a climb we know is going to hammer us, the thought of camp always sounds better than the alternative.
Back on the route, the snow conditions began to change for the worse. Thank God for Peter Piston Legs who, without complaint, post holed, kicked steps and blazed the trail though an old track that was literally blowing in with snow by the time each climber reached steps kicked in by the rope team in front.
Through freezing temps, difficult snow and growing fatigue, we all continued upward. Once we gained the Ventimilla Summit, we thought the kilometer traverse across the summit plateau was in the bag. But nope, not at all.
We had heard that climbing teams were reaching the lower summit but no one had been to the true summit in over two weeks! This left us breaking trail at 20,500 feet, which not even Peter found enjoyable. With the only complaints coming in the form of gasps, we marched on planting our ice axes on top just as the rising sun formed an outrageous pyramid shadow stretching for miles into the waking countryside. With hugs and high fives we all felt a great sense of accomplishment to have knocked off the hat trick of Ecuador’s three highest peaks. Something I have never done in one trip.
After a hard descent we made our way back to the Refugio and then onto a beautiful lodge where we eased the soreness away with good food, wine, beer and stories. It was a great closing to two incredible weeks of climbing together.
We all have now just gotten to our hotel rooms in Quito. The Internet is alive and well worrying some and pleasing others. Work for most is unfortunately never far around the next corner.
As we prepare for our final meal together I can’t help but feel a bit bummed. This group has been truly great. I would climb with any one of them again.
From Quito this is Adam Knoff and Jordan Cargill signing off.
Thanks to everyone who followed along.
Summit team and all congrats! I am in awe!
Posted by: Karen Norris on 1/12/2018 at 5:50 pm
Congrats to a great accomplishment in the beginning of 2018!! Wishing a restful few days before you start climbing again. Prayers for safety and success. MOM
Posted by: Jane Knoff on 1/12/2018 at 2:41 pm
January 11, 2018
Chimborazo Summit! RMI Guide Adam Knoff called in to report that the Ecuador Seminar Team reached the summit of Chimborazo early this morning. The weather was cold, and windy but climbing was good. Adam was also proud to report that they were the first team in two weeks to reach the true summit! They are back at the Chimborazo Lodge and will send a detailed report of their climb soon.
Nice work Team!! Not an easy summit. That final ridge is a never-ending slog at over 20,000’. I tried 3 times and only hit the true summit once.
Posted by: Peter Whittaker on 1/11/2018 at 8:50 pm
Very impressive team! Sooooooo pleased you were able to summit Chimborazo today.
Now it’s time for some well earned rest, relaxation, celebration…...
Posted by: Jacquie Byatt on 1/11/2018 at 7:48 pm
January 10, 2018
RMI Guide Adam Knoff checked in from High Camp on Chimborazo. The team ascended from the refugio this morning to 16,400’ and established their High Camp, setting up tents during a brief snow storm. Fortunately, the weather has passed, the skies are clear and things are looking good for the team’s summit attempt tonight. We look forward to hearing from them tomorrow, hopefully from the summit of Chimborazo at 20,564’.
We wish them a safe and successful summit day!
It is crazy to think our team has been together for over ten days now. We have accomplished much, seen a lot, bonded well and now seem more like family than strangers gathering in a hotel lobby meeting for the first time. This is the only time I can remember, on any trip, that all nine climbers arrived as individuals. There are no couples, no family groups, just adventurous souls coming to Ecuador to climb mountains and learn some skills. Until now I think things have gone quite well. Good climbing and good culture has defined the past ten days.
Now the plot thickens. Today we arrived at Chimborazo. This mountain is the highest point from the center of the earth and an overall giant of sheer prominence. Today though was great. After enjoying the latest wake up call of the journey, a nice late breakfast, a casual four hour bus ride and a home cooked meal in Chimborazo’s Refugio, this was as close to an honest rest day as we’ve had since leaving Quito. Which, after climbing two big mountains in the last four days is a good thing! This mountain is known for its challenging climbing, cold conditions and steep slopes. It will take every bit of energy to reach its 20,564 summit.
Currently the team is feeling mostly recovered from Cotopaxi and is excited to move to high camp tomorrow located at 16,400 feet high on Chimborazo’s western flanks. We will let you know how the move goes tomorrow.
Sending hugs to all those following along.
Wish us luck.
RMI Guide Adam Knoff & Team
Whoa, Hugs received. Thank you!
It’s now 3pm in California on Jan 10. I expect you are all currently resting in preparation for the early start for summit day tomorrow. That being said I don’t anticipate this message will reach you before you return from the summit but I’m super hyped for the team and the challenge you are taking on. My thoughts are with you for an amazing day of climbing.
Ha ha, I not a poet, but…......I’ve written a short poem for the team describing how I envision Chimborazo summit day. Enjoy!
Heart pounding, Lungs starving, Step. Repeat.
Beauty unimagined -
Looking forward to the summit update and your safe return.
With love and hugs
Posted by: Jacquie Byatt on 1/10/2018 at 3:12 pm
January 8, 2018
I glanced down at my watch, 11:44 PM. One minute before my alarm was to go off. I silenced it and slipped out of my bunk and flipped the light switch. It was time for our Cotopaxi (19,347’) summit day.
The team quickly got out of their sleeping bags, one of the most challenging tasks of the day, and began efficiently putting together their summit kits. After topping off water bottles and wolfing down some oatmeal and cinnamon buns we moved outside to gear-up and were greeted with light snow fall. The winds were calm and the cloud cover made for pleasant climbing temps so we set off in high spirits hoping the snow would pass for a clear sunrise on the summit.
One hour in and we stopped for our first break just shy of 17,000’ at the toe of the glacier to rope-up. The team arrived together in good style showcasing their increased acclimatization from Cayambe and immediately putting to use the skills learned in the previous day’s training. The current route is very direct but that also means gaining a lot of elevation very quickly. The next section had almost no switchbacks and was characterized by a series of steep 40+ degree pitches with very brief benches in between. The team methodically tackled these pitches where flawless technique was required not to slip-out in the steep loose snow draining valuable and limited stores of energy.
The team arrived at the final break before the summit looking tired but determined. Cotopaxi would not give up the goods too easily. The last stretch to the summit was guarded by some of the steepest sections of the climb. After forcing down some calories the snow stopped and the stars popped out shedding faint light on the summit 1,000’ above us. Restored by the calories and motivated by the opportunity for a clear summit the team set out on the final push. An hour and a half later the entire team crested the crater rim and was greeted with an alpine sunrise for the record books. A massive steam plume from the crater was bathed in pink alpenglow and the mountain shadow of Cotopaxi stretched into the western horizon. All smiles, the team embraced and congratulated each other. This summit was accomplished as much through individual grit as was through an extraordinary display of exemplary expedition behavior. When the going got tough the team propped-up and encouraged each other, just as determined to get their rope team member to the the top as themselves.
After basking in the equatorial morning glory for about 45 minutes the team descended back to the hut with no wind and clear sunny skies. After one final meal at the Refugio we boarded the bus and went to have lunch and celebrate at a local pizzeria. We just arrived at the gorgeous Hacienda La Cienega and are settling in for some well deserved afternoon naps. Tomorrow will take us to the base of Chimborazo and the start of the tallest objective of the trip. Stay Tuned!
Again! Congrats and best wishes for the whole team!!!! Beautiful pics!
Posted by: Karen Norris on 1/8/2018 at 6:53 pm
Wow, awesome acheivement team. Love the summit photo. Congratulations to all!
Keep smiling :)
Posted by: Jacquie Byatt on 1/8/2018 at 6:25 pm
It was a beautiful morning on the northern flanks of Ecuador’s “jewel mountain” when we awoke from our fist night at Cotopaxi’s Refugio. This newly remodeled hut sits just under 16,000 feet and offers a full service kitchen along with indoor and outdoor toilets. This isn’t exactly roughing it but no matter how swanky the accommodations, waking up at this altitude always feels like a self inflicted hangover without the fun stories from the evening before. After coffee, a traditional Ecuadorean breakfast and a few Ibuprofen, we were ready for a fun day of training.
Just as we began packing for the day, a group of Germans arrived looking haggered and shell shocked after having come down from the summit. It was their first ever mountain climb and they said the route was beautiful, steep and challenging but well worth the effort. This provided promising news and gave us good optimism for tonight’s climb.
Once out the door, a steep 45 minute climb took us to a perfect training location on the glacier where we set up a top rope for ice climbing, a fixed line and fun crevasse rescue station. The weather remained nice so our attitudes stayed really positive as we all took turns doing each activity.
From above we were amazed at the hundreds of people coming and going from the hut below. The remodel has sparked new interest from locals in visiting one the this countries coolest tourist attractions.
Now it is five o clock and we are resting and preparing for the climb to come. The route is shorter than Cayambe so we have high hopes for all of us making the top.
We will report tomorrow after the ascent.
On The Map
Adam and Jordan, thanks for the informative updates and photos. Team, congrats on a good day of training. Very pleased to hear the weather treated you well and that you are all in good spirits despite the virtual hangovers. As I write this I expect you are already geared up and headed out to summit Cotopaxi. You are all in my thoughts and I wish you a safe and awesome climb. I eagerly await news and photos of your adventure on the “Jewel”. Go team! Stay strong, stay safe!!
Posted by: Jacquie Byatt on 1/8/2018 at 1:18 am
January 7, 2018
Greetings from the Cotopaxi Refugio just shy of 16,000’! The team awoke this morning extremely well rested at Hacienda Guachala. “Slept like the dead” and “I fell asleep with my book in my hand” were common conversation points during breakfast. After getting our fill of fresh fruit for the day we loaded Viktor’s trusty Hyundai bus and began our journey towards Cotopaxi.
We took a pit stop at the San Luis Mall to stretch our legs, grab some snacks, and get our last taste of the thick air at 9,000’. Another hour and a half on the bus brought us to the gates of Cotopaxi National Park. As always Viktor navigated the steep, rutted roads with ease and we soon found ourselves in the parking lot during the middle of an afternoon snow squall. As we quickly loaded our bags we enjoyed watching and listening to the joy of locals playing in the drifted snow of the parking lot. Snow rarely accumulates so low.
A 45-minute walk up switchbacks brought us to the newly remodeled Refugio. After stowing our gear and pleasantly noting the fleece sheets and pillow cases that each bed was made with we went outside for a short walk to check the route and see if we could catch some views with the lifting clouds. We were not disappointed and were treated to beautiful views of Cayambe and Antisana bathed in evening light and the mountain shadow of Cotopaxi. Grinning from ear to ear the team returned to the Refugio for some R&R before dinner. Tomorrow will take us up to ~17,000’ where we hope to get in some ice climbing and continue to sharpen our mountaineering skills. Thanks for tuning in!