Thursday, November 16, 2017

2017 Ecuador Cayambe/Antisana Skills Expedition (November 3 - 12, 2017) Dispatch 4

November 13th Dispatch:

Climbers: Meril Moen, Piotr Stapor, Jonathan Deffenbaugh

Guide: Romel Sandoval

Romel called Monday morning with the following dispatch:

Yesterday the group summited Antisana. Conditions were great and everyone was very happy with their success. Unfortunately, two of the climbers opted to end their expedition early and were unable to join the group on Antisana. They are back in Quito now, enjoying a relaxing couple of days before departing on their journey home.

At this point, Jonathan took the phone and gave us a few thoughts about the trip thus far:

"Everything is going very well. We're on our way to Chimborazo now and very excited about the upcoming climb. We all had an excellent climb of Cayambe and Antisana. We were unsure about Antisana, what with the remoteness and ever-changing weather patterns we weren't sure if we could make it to the summit, but the weather cleared just in time!

"The acclimatization process has been excellent. This program's approach to acclimatization is a great schedule for aspiring high altitude climbers. We have some great photos to share later on. For now, here's a photo from the summit of Rucu Pichincha."

Romel assured they will call again from BaƱos on Wednesday, as it is difficult to get reception on Chimborazo.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

2017 Ecuador Cayambe/Antisana Skills Expedition (November 3 - 12, 2017) Dispatch 3

November 9th Dispatch:

Climbers: Todd & Priscilla Clayton, Meril Moen, Piotr Stapor, Jonathan Deffenbaugh

Romel Sandoval

Romel called Thursday afternoon to let us know that the group made a successful summit climb today on 15,080-foot Cayambe!

Three of our climbers were able to reach the summit, while the others opted to stay at a lower elevation and wait for the summit climbers return.

The weather was good, and one climber said, "It was just fantastic to step onto the top of such a great mountain. Totally exhilarating!" Everyone was quite excited about the team's successful day. They are all now enjoying big dinner and a restful evening at Hacienda Guachala. Tomorrow will be a rest day at another lodge before they head to their next climbing goal, Antisana.

Monday, November 6, 2017

2017 Ecuador Cayambe/Antisana Skills Expedition (November 3 - 12, 2017) Dispatch 2

November 4th Dispatch:

Climbers: Todd & Priscilla Clayton, Meril Moen, Piotr Stapor, Jonathan Deffenbaugh

Romel Sandoval

Romel called Monday afternoon with the following report:

"We are calling to let you know we have now completed two very enjoyable high altitude hikes and scrambles. On Sunday, we climbed Pasachoa (13,776 ft / 4198 m) in perfect weather. Everyone enjoyed hiking through the beautiful high grasslands and then scrambling up to the summit. We had great views of many of Ecuador's high peaks.

"Today we climbed Rucu Pichincha (15,413 f / 4697 m), again with perfect weather. We had good views the whole day, and I am pleased to say everyone, again, felt comfortable with the altitude. We have very good acclimatizers on this team.

The whole group on the Summit of Rucu Pichincha. Priscilla Clayton. 

"Shortly, we will start our drive to Hacienda Guachala, which is in a little settlement just below the big peak of Cayambe (18,996 f / 5789 m), which is our first high altitude goal. Tonight we will have dinner at the hacienda and lodge there, and tomorrow we will drive up the mountain to the hut that is on its flank. We'll probably hike up to the glacier in the afternoon, and do some skills training and then again on Wednesday. We'll go to bed early Wednesday night and get up really early for our ascent of Cayambe the following day.

"Everyone is feeling good and they are in good shape too, so we are all looking forward to putting out our best effort on Cayambe."

Romel then invited Meryl Moen (Minneapolis) to continue the update:

"Everything has been organized so extremely well. My expectations have been exceeded every day! The two hikes were well chosen – great views and just the right amount of workout. We’ve have had good weather. The acclimatization has been well choreographed with us going slightly higher each day.

"My team members and I all felt good on the two hikes. Everyone is really pleased with how they are adjusting to the altitude, Some of us are using Diamox and some not, but all are doing well.

"Final thoughts – We are excited to be getting onto the glacier tomorrow and we are all enjoying each other. Good people in this group!!

"We'll talk to after our Cayambe climb. Wish us luck."

2017 Ecuador Cayambe/Antisana Skills Expedition (November 3 - 12, 2017) Dispatch 1

November 4th Dispatch:

Climbers: Todd & Priscilla Clayton, Meril Moen, Piotr Stapor, Jonathan Deffenbaugh

Guide: Romel Sandoval

Romel called Saturday afternoon with the following report:

"Hi, this is Romel from Ecuador.

"Today, we started our trip with a nice breakfast together, followed by a program orientation, and then a fun tour of the city of Quito. It's beautiful weather today here in Quito, and at this moment as we are calling in to give you an update, we are all sitting in the very nice restaurant near El Panecillo. We are enjoying our lunch and as we sit here, we have a great view of the Virgin of Quito statue in the distance.

"Everyone is having a good time. And we are also happy about the weather. Not only is it nice today, it is supposed to be sunny at least for several days while we are doing our acclimatization hikes.

"We'll call in a couple of days – probably Monday to let you know how our acclimatization is going.

Talk to you soon!"

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

2017 Bolivia Expedition - Part 2 Skills Expedition: Day 17 - Huayna Potosi Summit Day

Guides: Richard Riquelme and Jaime Avila

Climbers: Albertus P. (Australia), Jacobus P. (Australia), Jim H. (Utah), Matthew H. (Maryland), Kate K. (Washington D.C.), Ryan K. (Texas), Lorenz S. (Switzerland), Ven S. (Canada), Erin-Leigh H. (Washington)

Today we heard from our guide, Richard Riquelme, with some great news!

Hello, everyone!

I'm very happy to report that in 5 of our climbers made a successful Summit achievement on Huayna Potosi on Monday morning! Jim reached the Anselm Baud hut at 5,270m and then waited there while the rest of the group completed their summit attempt. Ven, Matt, Lorenz, Albertus and Jacobus reached the Summit between 6:30 & 7:35am!

Our other group member, Kate waited for us at Casa Blanca hut (4,800m) while recovering from some stomach issues. She was finally recovered from her digestive issues on the very last day of the trip. She and Jim were in great spirit and happy to see the crew's pictures from the Summit adventure on our way back to La Paz on Monday night.

Thanks to everyone of our staff crew here in Bolivia that made it possible to travel safe through the country and have a great time at the same time.

Until next time everyone.

This is Richard Riquelme signing of.


Taking in the sites from Huayna Potosi. Richard Riquelme.

The summit photo on the peak of Huayana Potosi! Richard Riquelme. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

2017 Bolivia Expedition - Part 2 Skills Expedition: Days 9 - 11 - Arrive at Base Camp Chair Khota

Guides: Richard Riquelme and Jaime Avila

Climbers: Albertus P. (Australia), Jacobus P. (Australia), Jim H. (Utah), Matthew H. (Maryland), Kate K. (Washington D.C.), Ryan K. (Texas), Lorenz S. (Switzerland), Ven S. (Canada), Erin-Leigh H. (Washington)

A reflection: 
Every moment spent in the Condoriri region makes the mind grow calmer and the heart beat deeper. I will never forget this place. 
Erin-Leigh Hardy

Day 9: Travel to Refugio at Laguna Tuni

Today was a slow, lazy recovery day, which I welcomed though other climbers were antsy to get moving again. We bussed to Refugio Laguna Tuni to set up camp for the night.

The Refugio was in disrepair with several windows missing in the main room. Richard and Jaime worked diligently and creatively to patch the windows for us to keep the cold wind out while most of the group went out on day hikes to acclimatize to the area once again. I chose to stay behind and read my book in the sunshine. 

A resident llama at Refugio Laguna Tuni with the Condoriri mastiff in the background. Erin-Leigh Hardy.

After tea time, a few of us gathered around the dining table to catch up on some journaling.

The toilets in the Refugio weren't working, so Augustine, one of our porters and assistant chef, built us an excellent toilet outside with view of Huayna Potosi. 

Our beautiful pit toilet with a stunning view of Huayna Potosi. Erin-Leigh Hardy.

Dinner was great and conversation was very spirited. Having Jaime on the team added twice as much laughter to the table! He's a funny guy and a great guide.

Day 10: Hike to Base Camp at Chair Khota and Skills Training

We woke up with the sun, around 8:30 and were on our feet by 9am.

We hiked from Refugio Laguna Tuni to Chair Khota, where our base camp will be for the next 5 days. The hike was very pleased and scenic - another blue bird day!

We saw a couple of other climbing groups along the way, for the first time all trip.

We took a long break at the shores of Chair Khota. The water was so calm and clear that there was a perfect reflection of the Condoriri mountains. Richard pointed out that this group of mountains were named after the condor because the three central peaks resembled a condor, with the most central peak The Condor Head.

Glistening peaks and reflective waters at Chair Khota. Erin-Leigh Hardy.

We made our base camp on the far side of the lake. It was a very nice campsite, with wind blocking stone walls and 2 bathrooms (complete with doors and toilet seats!!) 

A panoramic view of our base camp at the base of the Condiriri Mastiff. Erin-Leigh Hardy.

3 of the tent teams had the genius idea of tiling their vestibules with the flat stones found around camp. Erin-Leigh Hardy.

At 2:30pm, most of the group went to the tow of the glacier below Cerro Tarija to start our skills practice.

The group approaching the Cerro Tarija glacier. Erin-Leigh Hardy.

Richard, Jaime and Banito lead the skills practice. We reviewed 'flat footing’ with just boots, how to use an ice axe, how to walk on a glacier with an ice axe and trekking pole and a few minutes of walking with crampons. Skills practice ended when the sun went behind Pick Austria and the area became very cold.

The group practicing the various styles of flat footing. Erin-Leigh Hardy.

When we got back, there was hot water and tea waiting for us. A very pleasant thing to come 'home’ to. 6 of us played a rousing game of cards before dinner. 

Dinner was great, sausages, mashed potatoes and veggies. 

We all went to bed early that night in preparation for an early morning. 

Day 11: Ascent of Pico Austria and Erin-Leigh's Return Home. 

Easing into the Alpine Starts, we woke up for breakfast around 5:30am, though most of the team woke up earlier than expected. Perhaps out of excitement for the upcoming climb on Pico Austria.

I said my goodbyes to the group before they took off. I was greeted by big hugs from most of the group. It was harder to say goodbye than expected. I will miss this bunch very much. 

At 9am, I said goodbye to Hildago, our driver and head chef, and he gave me a big hug and said 'see you soon!’ then Augustine and i took off toward the Refugio 'at the end of the road’ (I don't know another name for it). We had a peaceful 2 hour hike.

Diego and his mother meet me at the end of the road and I said goodbye to Augustine, again, with a big hug.

I was awake during the drive through the countryside (for the first time all trip). It was really interesting to see old buildings, built out of clay that were deteriorating alongside newer houses made of the popular red bricks you see in the cities. I wonder how old those clay structures are.

Coming into town was crazy as usual. I took some videos of Puente and El Alto to show the folks at home because no deception could do it justice. 

Now I'm back at the hotel, getting rest before my early morning flight home. I wish the group the best of luck in weather and health on the rest of their adventure!

A full group photo on Day 9. Erin-Leigh Hardy.

2017 Bolivia Expedition – Part 2 Skills Expedition: Day 8 - Tiwanaku Archaeological Site

Guides: Richard Riquelme and Jaime Avila

Climbers: Albertus P. (Australia), Jacobus P. (Australia), Jim H. (Utah), Matthew H. (Maryland), Kate K. (Washington D.C.), Ryan K. (Texas), Lorenz S. (Switzerland), Ven S. (Canada), Erin-Leigh H. (Washington)

Day 8: Visiting the Tiwanaku Archeological Site

Richard emailed the following dispatch from the group's day at Tiwanaku:

Hi everyone at home!

This is Richard Riquelme signing in from La Paz Bolivia.

Today we enjoy a great deal of cultural bath of Bolivia's more iconic archeological sites, Tiwanaku an UNESCO World Heritage Site located western Bolivia.

We enjoyed a cool but sunny day at Tiwanaku (3,870m / 12,697ft) after couple days of clouds on the trek. 

We experienced the whole tour around the world-renowned political and spiritual structures of this ancient culture. The areas of Akapana, Akapana East, and the Puma Punku with thier stepped platforms, as well as the Kalasasaya, the Kheri Kala, and Putuni enclosures, and the semi-subterranean temple are open to public access and visitors.

The Gate of the Sun. Erin-Leigh Hardy.

The stepped platform of the Akapana pyramid. Richard Riquelme.

The carved faces of ancient peoples in the Semi-Subterranean Temple. Richard Riquelme.

We looked into the enclosed museum and learn a great deal about the megalithic statues and the iconography with which the megalithic statues are adorned with.

We also learn the pre-Columbian history of this people and observe with great amazement the extraordinary stone masonry and metallurgical skills, as well as the great ingenuity of managing pilgrims at the time of festivities and religious rituals. One ceremonial tool was demonstrated by our bilingual guide when she spoke thru a grey andesite block of stone that acts as a P.A. megaphone - amplifying her voice at least 3-4 times louder. The stone sculpture was a block with a special hole shape in it.

The ancient megaphone at the entrance of the Tiwanaku Archaeological site. Erin-Leigh Hardy.

One of the massive stone blocks found at Puma Punku, depicting the amazing recision and complexity of the structures found at the site. Richard Riquelme. 

Ponce Stela in the Tiwanaku Kalasasaya temple, showing the intricate symbolism carved into the megalithic stone. Richard Riquelme and Erin-Leigh Hardy. 

After our explorations, we just enjoy a casual lunch at the parking area with fruits of the season and local bread specialties.

We return to Laz Paz after lunch to get ready and pack for our next adventure at the Condoriri Valley, where our climbing objectives begin the day after tomorrow.

Everyone is doing great, but starting to get the itches to start climbing soon.

OK everyone that's all for now. Please stay tune for more coming soon.

Until then, this is Richard Riquelme signing of from La Paz Bolivia!