Sunday, February 19, 2017

2017 Ecuador Cayambe/Antisana Skills Expedition (February 10 - 24) - Dispatch 8

February 18th Dispatch

Climbers: Michael Watson, Glenn and David Booth, Eric Safieh, Eric and Loic Vincent, Susan Mullins, Dean Doyle, James Murray, Tom Fry

Lead Guide: Jeremy Devine

(From Jeremy):

We had a very interesting day, including some wild weather that forced us to make alternate plans.


This morning was very nice at the Hacienda Guáytara with sun overhead, but threatening clouds to the East, the direction of Antisana.  We left the Hacienda at 11:00am and headed into the Antisana Ecological Reserve.  While we were completing our entrance paperwork we could see Antisana being hit with rain, snow, and lightning.  The thunder was audible from our location. 

We got into our rain gear in preparation for what we were heading into and started our drive toward camp.  About 3km from camp we encountered snow and graupel on the dirt and grass road.  Calling it a road is giving it a little too much credit as it is only utilized occasionally by climbers, and it is more grass than anything.  This made for very slick conditions, and the bus and SUV couldn't make any progress, despite our persistent attempts to make passage.

The other guides and I held a meeting to discuss our options.  Camping at our location and making a summit attempt from there really didn't seem like a reasonable choice, as adding 3km to the approach would add too much to an already very big day. 

We thought of alternate objectives and considered Illiniza Norte and El Corazón, both non-glaciated climbs with some technical rock scrambling.  We presented our options to the group to see what most interested everyone. 

A unanimous decision was made to try to do El Corazón because we could easily do it in the same time frame as Antisana, whereas Illiniza Norte would require taking a day out of our Chimborazo schedule and potentially decreasing our chances of success on that major objective.  So with a new plan chosen, we made arrangements to stay at Chuquiragua Lodge below El Corazón and go for it in the very early morning tomorrow.

We then headed back towards the Pan American Highway and to the southwest to Chuquiragua Lodge.  We enjoyed a Chinese food style dinner of sweet-and-sour chicken and fried rice. 

Our plan is to leave at 2:30am for our climb of El Corazón, which should give us the best chance of good weather early in the day.  With the conditions across the region today of rain and thunderstorms, we think this is our best possible schedule.  This should put us on the summit sometime just after dawn and back down and on our way to Quito around noon.  We'll let you all know how it goes!

Cheers from all of us,


Jeremy


Saturday, February 18, 2017

2017 Ecuador Cayambe/Antisana Skills Expedition (February 10 - 24) - Dispatch 7

February 17th Dispatch

Climbers: Michael Watson, Glenn and David Booth, Eric Safieh, Eric and Loic Vincent, Susan Mullins, Dean Doyle, James Murray, Tom Fry

Lead Guide: Jeremy Devine

Hello, this is Jeremy!

We had an excellent travel day and are now resting/recreating at a nice hacienda. There are billiard and foosball tables here, and our team members are busy playing games!

This morning we left the Cayambe region and drove south towards the Antisana Reserve.

The first highlight of our trip was stopping at a local coffee and chocolate factory! Jaime, one of our Ecuadorian guides, is friends with the owner of Velez Coffee, located very close to the Equator. We were lucky enough to tour the whole factory! We saw the giant coffee roasting floor, watched the chocolate being made, and fortunately also had the opportunity to purchase the delicious Ecuadorian coffee and chocolate to bring home.

After Velez Coffee, we visited the Equator and continued on to the Antisana region. We stopped at a great place for lunch where a lot of us ordered meat sandwiches "a la piedra" (on the rock), literally sandwiches that had been cooked on hot rocks. They were very reminiscent of fajitas and tasted delicious!

We made a couple stops en route, one at an ATM and another at a pharmacy so folks could pick up a few small items like ibuprofen and sunscreen.

Now we are relaxing at the hacienda before dinner, and we're all really looking forward to the fresh, locally grown food, here! The cooks just walked by on their way to the lake to catch the trout for our meal, and the steak is from cows raised on the farm outside the hacienda. Pretty spectacular!

Everyone on the trip is doing really well. We're all still thrilled about summitingCayambe yesterday! Three people were not feeling 100% before the climb, but they all still felt good enough to make the ascent and are now doing much better.

It's fun to have such a big group on this trip, and I'm excited that each of them is staying for the five-day extension to climb Chimborazo too! Everyone works really well together. Great team!
They're still busy playing foosball and pool, so we'll ask someone to say "hello" in the next report.

We had nice weather today. We've been enjoying a nice mix of sun with light clouds that pass by or dissipate after only a couple minutes.

We leave tomorrow for the Antisana base camp and will call again, soon.

Ciao!


Friday, February 17, 2017

2017 Ecuador Cayambe/Antisana Skills Expedition (February 10 - 24) - Dispatch 6

February 16th Dispatch

Climbers: Michael Watson, Glenn and David Booth, Eric Safieh, Eric and Loic Vincent, Susan Mullins, Dean Doyle, James Murray, Tom Fry

Lead Guide: Jeremy Devine

From Jeremy:

We did it! We had an amazing summit day today, culminating with the entire team being rewarded with amazing views and warm sun at the top of Cayambe (18,996 ft / 5790 m). But let's start at the beginning...

We woke at 11:00pm and everyone started about their chores of getting dressed, finishing packing, and eating some light breakfast food. We departed just after midnight from the Refugio in very light fog, and made our way up the familiar approach trail to the glacier. It began to snow lightly as we put on our crampons and roped up, but the snow dissipated quickly as we gained elevation on the Glacier Hermoso ("beautiful glacier").

Temperatures were cool but manageable with light layering and soft shells. As the twilight gave way to dawn we could tell our good weather was going to hold for the remainder of our ascent.

Our teams maintained similar pacing throughout the climb and we all tackled the final steep pitch, one jutting serac (ridge of ice) after another. All teams summited between 6:30 and 7:15am during our first direct sunlight of the day. We had great views of the massive mountains, Cotopaxi and Antisana, as well as peaks of bits of rural countryside through the clouds below us. It was a truly exceptional climb and summit experience for everyone!

As is normal, our descent took a fraction of the time as our ascent, with all teams arriving back at the Refugio by 10:30am. We had some soup and packed our things for the ride down the mountain road. We said goodbye to the hut caretakers and took off at 11:30am for Hacienda Guachala.

We arrived and settled into our rooms, then ate lunch outside near the courtyard because the weather was so nice. Lots of sunshine made for great afternoon napping conditions! Everyone was very pleased to have rested and then prepare for our next objective, Antisana. But for now, we are enjoying our recent success.

We're looking forward to visiting the Equator tomorrow, and traveling to the Antisana province. We'll update everyone, again, soon!


Descending next to the toe of the Glacier Hermoso after our skills day.


Eric and Loic Vincent on the summit.


Eric and Loic Vincent with guide Jaime Avila on the summit.


Left to right. David, Tom, Jeremy, Glenn, Jimmy, Mike, and Estalin.  Summit photo.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

2017 Ecuador Cayambe/Antisana Skills Expedition (February 10 - 24) - Dispatch 5

February 15th Dispatch

Climbers: Michael Watson, Glenn and David Booth, Eric Safieh, Eric and Loic Vincent, Susan Mullins, Dean Doyle, James Murray, Tom Fry

Lead Guide: Jeremy Devine


Hello, this is Jeremy calling with another update.  Everything is going great!  I'll put Mike on to give today's report:

(Mike) Things are going really well.  This morning we woke up and ate breakfast at 7:30, then got going at 8:30 with our glacier skills day.  The training including instruction for new climbers and review for more experienced climbers on crampons, self arrest, front pointing and other technical climbing skills.  We headed back down to the hut at 1pm and we're now trying to get some rest before tomorrow's early start for our Cayambe summit attempt (18,996 ft / 5790 m).  We're planning for a midnight start at the latest.

Some folks had a rough evening of sleep last night because they were so giddy and excited to be up at altitude.  A few people were feeling a bit under the weather yesterday, but it looks like everyone will be attempting the summit tomorrow.  It will be good to have the whole team together!

That's it for now.  Here's Jeremy:

(Jeremy) The weather looks promising for tomorrow.  It's not stormy, but we have some low clouds.  Fortunately it's not windy or wet, which is a great sign!

We'll update you after tomorrow's climb. Ciao!



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

2017 Ecuador Cayambe/Antisana Skills Expedition (February 10 - 24) - Dispatch 4

February 14th Dispatch

Climbers: Michael Watson, Glenn and David Booth, Eric Safieh, Eric and Loic Vincent, Susan Mullins, Dean Doyle, James Murray, Tom Fry

Lead Guide: Jeremy Devine


Hi, it's Jeremy calling from Ecuador!

Everything is going really well. We are now at the Cayambe Refuge (15,250 ft / 4648 m). This afternoon we enjoyed a good hike above the refuge, and tomorrow is our glacier skills training day in preparation for Cayambe.

I'll put Glenn on the line to say a few words about the program so far:

The trip is going well! Everyone seems to be adjusting very well, now having completed our two acclimatization hikes. We are gradually climbing higher and reaching our objectives, no problem.

Today we hiked in our glacier boots for the first time. We were scrambling over rocks and everyone seemed to negotiate the terrain without any trouble. It was really nice to see Glaciar Hermoso (“beautiful glacier”). It has such cool towers of ice!

The food has been excellent! Both at the hotel and at the hacienda. We have a really excellent group of people, with folks from Switzerland, England, Australia, Canada, and the U.S., plus our Ecuadorian and American guides.

Our weather has been cloudy and misty, with only a small drizzle yesterday, but no wind. It really makes for nice hiking, and is actually much better than bright sunshine. With that said, we are hoping for at least a few sunny views while we're here!

Here's Jeremy, again:

Our supper is planned for 6:30, tonight, then we're hoping to get a good night's sleep for the skills day. Although our weather has not been sunny, it also hasn't been stormy; it appears to be calm at the summit with no winds at all. I am hopeful about our coming summit attempts on Cayambe and Antisana!

We'll call tomorrow with another update. Ciao!

2017 Ecuador Cayambe/Antisana Skills Expedition (February 10 - 24) - Dispatch 3

February 13th Dispatch

Climbers: Michael Watson, Glenn and David Booth, Eric Safieh, Eric and Loic Vincent, Susan Mullins, Dean Doyle, James Murray, Tom Fry

Lead Guide: Jeremy Devine

From Jeremy:

Today was our last morning in Quito for a while. After a nice breakfast, we met promptly at 8:00am with our bags packed and loaded our little bus for a short ride across town to the Teleférico, a gondola lift running from the edge of the city to the Cruz Loma viewpoint. We paused to grab snacks and make tuna sandwiches for lunch, then climbed aboard.

After our aerial lift, we set off at a casual pace on our second acclimatization hike, Gua Gua Pichincha (15,696 ft / 4784 m). Everyone did an excellent job of negotiating the minor rock scrambles we encountered on our ascent.

The trail was a bit wet from overnight showers, and we had pretty dense cloud cover above, which allowed for nice, cool climbing temperatures for hiking! We stopped halfway up to put on our shells when it looked like we might see a little rain, but for the most part we stayed very dry.

We made great time on Pichincha, arriving at the summit two-and-a-half hours after we began our hike. We ate a bit of lunch, but didn't stick around too long since the showers were heavier on top of the mountain. We descended carefully down the rocks, making good time on our way down. As we descended, we were rewarded with clearing skies and views of Quito.

Our round trip time was only five-and-a-half hours. Not only was this a great pace, but we also got down in time to avoid most of the afternoon rush hour traffic as we left the city to make our way to Hacienda Guachala, located in a lush area down valley from Cayambe, the first major peak we will be climbing.

We arrived at the Hacienda at 5:30 and had a wonderful dinner at 7:00. Much of the team ordered the house specialty: trout with shrimp sauce. The meal was a perfect end to cap off a great day!

Everyone seems to be having a really good time. Loic likes the Hacienda's history and rustic charm. Glenn and David enjoyed a father-and-son card game after dinner tonight. And somehow we all managed to have a civil conversation about national and international politics over the meal! It helps when we have six different nationalities; represented our own mini UN!

We're looking forward to our approach to Cayambe, tomorrow, and seeing our first glimpse of the mountain. ¡Hablamos luego!


Monday, February 13, 2017

2017 Ecuador Cayambe/Antisana Skills Expedition (February 10 - 24) - Dispatch 2

February 12th Dispatch

Climbers: Michael Watson, Glenn and David Booth, Eric Safieh, Eric and Loic Vincent, Susan Mullins, Dean Doyle, James Murray, Tom Fry

Lead Guide: Jeremy Devine

Jeremy wrote:

We had a great hike of Cerro Pasochoa, today (13,776 ft / 4199 m); the cool temps and breeze provided perfect hiking temperatures. We summited in about two hours without really pushing ourselves. Excellent work by the whole team, which I should add, is acclimatizing very well.

We had some clouds on the way up, but it cleared off pretty well at the top, and we got some great views. After enjoying our time on the summit, our descent went pretty fast and we were back at our vehicle before afternoon sprinkles began. Perfect timing! And for tomorrow we are looking forward to our next acclimatization hike up Gua Gua Pichincha (15,696 ft / 4784 m).

Chao!