Thursday, December 13, 2018

2018 Aconcagua Upper Guanacos Expedition - Team 1 (Dec 10 - 31, 2018) - Dispatch 4


Tad McCrea


Jennifer Jolliffe
Shelby Clippard
Michael Abel

From AAI lead guide Tad McCrea:

Another get day of trekking! We took off from pampa de lenas just before 10 and eith a nice little head wind, meandered our way up the Vacas valley to cas a del piedra. We ate some tasty roast chicken and prepped our kit for an early departure and frigid river crossing to put us on our way to Plaza Argentina tomorrow. The upper mountain has been getting doused with some pretty high winds, but with all of this sun, and continued high pressure we are in a good position for the summit when the time is right.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

2018 Aconcagua Upper Guanacos Expedition - Team 1 (Dec 10 - 31, 2018) - Dispatch 3


Tad McCrea


Jennifer Jolliffe
Shelby Clippard
Michael Abel

From AAI lead guide Tad McCrea:

Today went pretty smoothly. We had one last breakfast in civilization before departing Penitentes at 11am. After checking in with the park service at the trailhead we casually trekked to Pampa de Lenas (9,330ft) in 5 hours. We were treated to an authentic gaucho asado with chorizo, roasted veggies and an amazing steak. Prepped for the “hunger to come” we are looking forward to another epic day of trekking in the Vacas Valley to Casa del Piedras and our first view of Aconcagua tomorrow. Thanks for tuning in sports fans!

2018 Aconcagua Upper Guanacos Expedition - Team 1 (Dec 10 - 31, 2018) - Dispatch 2


Tad McCrea


Jennifer Jolliffe
Shelby Clippard
Michael Abel

Crew is thriving and doing well! We are scheduled to leave tomorrow morning at 11 for the trailhead. So far the team has peaked up the classic gringo hobby of empanada sampling, and eaten a collective Total of 30 empanadas! If we can keep this up in the mountain we will be a force to be reckoned with! We will spend tomorrow night in Pampa de Lena’s and enjoy a nice Assad’s with our gaucho arrieros. Until tomorrow!

-Tad and crew!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

2018 Aconcagua Upper Guanacos Expedition - Team 1 (Dec 10 - 31, 2018) - Dispatch 1


Tad McCrea


Jennifer Jolliffe
Shelby Clippard
Michael Abel

Hello all and welcome to the first dispatch of the AAI Aconcagua season. AAI lead guide Tad McCrea and this small, but experienced, group began their expedition yesterday with a thorough equipment check before dining at a local eatery. Today the group left for Penitentes where they will stay in a hotel and enjoy one last night "not in the mountains". A beautiful high-pressure system has graced the beginning of this expedition and the team wishes for a swift start to take advantage. Tomorrow they will make the trek to Papa de Lenas (9,330ft). Looking forward to hearing more from the team tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

2018 Ecuador Antisana Skills Expedition (October 5 - 14, 2018) Dispatch 1

Guide: Romel Sandoval

Climbers: Jim H. and Wade L. 

Romel called with the following reports:

Greetings from Ecuador!

We had an excellent acclimatization hike on Pasachoa (13,776') yesterday, and just now we completed our second acclimatization hike on Rucu Pichincha (15,413'). We had fairly cooperative weather, and despite some clouds, we didn't have any precipitation until we were just finishing our descent.

We are now traveling to the Illiniza area to get in position for our climb of Illiniza Sur. There is an international bike race here on the Pan-American Highway, so we are experiencing delays, but we will get there eventually!

Romel called again with the following update:

Hello again from the Andes!

Yesterday we made an attempt a steep face on Illiniza Sur (17,217'), but conditions were not very cooperative. After we were on the route, the weather got wet and we began finding very hard water ice. So we decide to call it got and instead retreat and climb Illiniza Norte (16,817'). After a little break, we made a quick push for the north summit and reached the top before noon.

Here is one of our team members Wade Lindley who would like to add to our dispatch:"

"Hi – this is Wade. I have the pleasure of reporting that I am feeling great down here in the high mountains! I'm from Mississippi where we are not much above sea level. so the adjustment to the altitude of Quito [9,350'] was very interesting. I haven't had any complications or illness from the altitude. I hear myself breathing differently, but I have been pleasantly surprised not to feel bad at all.

To recap the trip, I loved our time in Quito. It's a beautiful and intriguing city. I really like our hotel there and exploring Quito with Romel on our first full day was awesome. Walking around exploring was also a very good way to begin our acclimatization since Quito is so high!

The acclimatization hikes were more amazing than I expected. I figured they would be nice, but they were really beautiful, with interesting terrain and views on both of them.

I think Romel's climbing instruction has been excellent and his decision making on the Illinizas was great. I learned a lot and enjoyed learning some things about how he made decisions on the mountain.

I found the altitude pretty comfortable on the Illiniza climbs. I think it shows that our acclimatization in Quito and on the two hikes up Pasachoa and Pichincha really helped us a lot. During our ascents on the Illinizas, I felt very comfortable going up, but I could feel it a lot more on the way down. I understand from Romel that it's because we are working so much less on the descent – it's just a lot easier – so we tend to feel like we don't need to breathe as much. So we breathed less and then start feeling the altitude (slightly headache-y ). We have to remind ourselves to breath often and deeply on the way down, even though we aren't working hard. In general, though, I feel fully acclimatized to 17,000 feet,

Today we woke up to perfect views of Pichincha and the IIllinizas. It was a very relaxing morning, and now we are at the market in Saquisilí. It's lively and colorful and a lot of fun to be here. Quite a contrast to the mountains where we've been hiking and climbing this week.

It's great being here. Thanks for reading our update on the trip!"

Friday, August 3, 2018

2018 Ecuador Cotopaxi Skills Expedition and Chimborazo (July 20 - August 3, 2018) Dispatch 2

Guide: Franklin Varela

Climbers: John V., Max V., Christine G., Paul K., Courtney S., and Ben H.

Dispatch from Days 7 - 15:

Climber Paul Keating called this morning with the following report on his team's trip.

"Hello again for our team,

We are in the beautiful town of Baños where we've been resting and enjoying the lush setting - so different from the alpine areas where we've been climbing!

The food has been really good, and we've also enjoyed meeting quite a variety of international travelers in the numerous cafes here in town. There are a lot of cafes. So this has been a great way to finish the trip, very relaxing and invigorating.

We have had a wonderful time throughout this program, and I want to start by saying what an awesome job our guides Franklin and Pablo have done. Most of us have climbed with other guides before, and we would rank Franklin and Pablo among the best.

They have consistently gone above and beyond the traditional level of duty that guides take on. We've had good instruction, excellent advice on our gear, really good coaching on climbing technique during the ascents, and probably most important of all, consistently great encouragement during our climbs.

I'm seventy and got a good way up both Cotopaxi and Chimborazo, and Franklin was amazing in helping make the most of the climbs and enjoy myself. On Chimborazo, it was beautiful weather and after a good number of hours, I began running out of gas. His advice was how far I go doesn't really matter as much as enjoying the beauty of the mountain, the beauty of the day, and sharing the experiences with my new friends on this trip during and after the climbs. So I didn't summit Chimborazo, but he helped me enjoy one of my best climbing days ever. And I was very happy for my fellow climbers who did summit.

Backing up a little in our itinerary, we had some tough weather on Cotopaxi, with winds and graupel [snow pellets]. But people bundled up and stayed warm enough, and part of our team went all the way to the summit.

I have to say, the weather on Chimborazo was glorious and a wonderful way to finish our five hiking and climbing experiences here in Ecuador.

We had a wonderful time together, really enjoyed the climbs and the variety on these mountains, and also very much enjoyed the culture of Ecuador. Franklin did a great job providing us with a good understanding of the culture, including people's values and priorities and the basic characteristics of life at different economic levels of society. It was very interesting and certainly added to the richness of our experience here. I think it is fair to say we all came to love this beautiful country and really enjoy and appreciate its people.

I climbed with AAI in the European Alps 30 years ago with AAI and 20 years ago in Bolivia. Like this one, they were great trips. Thank for the excellent organization of all the trip details and thank you especially for the great guides. Many of us would classify this as a "trip of a lifetime." I'll look forward to providing more specific praises on my written program review.

We're heading back to Quito this afternoon where we'll have our final dinner together, and then we'll head home tomorrow. Thanks for everything!"

2018 Ecuador Cotopaxi Skills Expedition (July 20 - 29, 2018) Dispatch 1

Guide: Franklin Varela

Climbers: John V., Max V., Christine G., Paul K., Courtney S., and Ben H.

Dispatch from Days 1-6:

John Vlasto called and spoke with us this morning with great news about Cayambe:

“Good morning!

This is John. We’re calling to say we hope everyone up north is doing well and to let you know all of us down here are doing very well and to let you know we have some exciting news. Together we all climbed to the summit of Cayambe yesterday. It was not an easy climb and not a fast one because of the winds, but the weather was otherwise very good and every team member was incredibly persistent.

A few team members had some doubts about continuing when we were pretty high up on the mountain, but their drive combined with a lot of encouragement from their guides and teammates made it all happen.

We started early to get the lowest temperatures possible and good snow conditions on the glacier. We got up around 11:30 pm Tuesday night and started our approach to the glacier at 12:40 am yesterday morning.

It was a slow climb because of the wind. It was quite tiring. I think we took about nine-and-a-half hours for the ascent and three-and-a-half hours for the descent, and our excellent guide Franklin said that may have been a record slow speed! But we all had a laugh, and he added that our team was among the few that he had ever guided under such challenging conditions where every single team member made the summit. He said he believes the mutual support and encouragement made all the difference.

When we got back to the hut, people we extremely tired, so we had some food and rest before heading back down to beautiful Hacienda Guachala. Today would be our normal summit day according to our itinerary, but we moved it up a day because the weather report indicated there could be snowfall today.

So we have a day of rest and good food here at Guachala, and tomorrow we will have an easy day, driving south to Cotopaxi National Park, and then morning up into the mountains where we will stay at Tambopaxi Lodge.

We plan to make our attempt on Cotopaxi on Saturday, so we’ll call you Saturday night or sometime on Sunday. Talk to you soon!”