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Entries from Ecuador


Ecuador Volcanoes: Liken & Team Acclimate with Creativity at Fuya Fuya

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.

Saludos,
RMI Guides Adam Knoff, Ben Liken and Team


Ecuador Volcanoes: Liken & Team Acclimatize Near Quito

Hola,

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.

Stay tuned,
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


Ecuador Volcanoes: Ben Liken & Team Arrive in Quito

Howdy folks,

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!

RMI Guide Ben Liken


Ecuador Seminar: Recap of Chimborazo Climb and Trip Finale

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


Ecuador Seminar: Knoff & Team Reach Chimborazo Hut

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


Ecuador Seminar: Knoff & Team Unable to Reach Antisana Summit

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


Ecuador Seminar: Team Readies for Summit Attempt on Antisana

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!

Until then,
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


Ecuador Seminar: Knoff & Team Land at Antisana Base Camp

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.


Ecuador Seminar: Cayambe Summit!

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. 
Stay tuned. 

RMI Guide Adam Knoff

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


Ecuador Seminar: Team Visits Otavalo Market and Reaches Cayambe

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!

Until tomorrow,
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

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