Thursday, February 21, 2019

2019 Ecuador Cotopaxi Skills Expedition (Trip 3 February 9 - 23, 2019) Dispatch 2

Ecuador High Altitude Trip Report

Guide: Jaime Avila

Climbers: Tyler and David Wesorick, Gillian Ingram, and Andrew Hughes

Jaime called today with more details on the successful ascent of Chimborazo yesterday, February 21st.

“Hello again from Ecuador, this time from beautiful semi-tropical Baños!

Yesterday we had a great climb of Chimborazo. We started hiking from high camp at 1:00 am and enjoyed good climbing the whole way. There was a little fresh snow, maybe 5 or 6 inches, but it was on top of very firm snow, so the climbing was quite easy.

We were going along at a good pace, but I didn’t realize how fast we were going until we were approaching the summit – and we stood on that at 6:00 am! Five hours from high camp to the summit is extremely unusual! It is common to spend at least several more hours on the ascent. This is a very fit team, to say the least!

It was fun to be the first up the mountain and to have a good amount of time to ourselves on the summit.

We spend 45 minutes on top, waiting for dawn and a pretty sunrise, but we never got it. Yes, dawn did arrive, but the clouds were too plentiful, and we really didn’t get any color in the sky.

But we were happy! The temperature was 23° F on top so not too cold, and there was no breeze. So we were comfortable eating and relaxing as we waited for dawn, but, as you can see in the photo below, there was no beautiful symphony of colors playing in a sunrise to celebrate our success as we were hoping! We concluded that the mountain gods are neutral with regard to the success and failure of humans climbing mountains. We were okay with that and also aware we didn’t have a choice! – and we were very happy! 

It was a long day down the mountain, but the descent of the mountain went smoothly. We had a break and a little more food at the base camp and then headed down in our vehicle back to the central valley and then down and out of it through a valley that led to Baños. After all the time in the alpine and sub-alpine environments, everyone had a good time in the warm moist air with views of palm trees. What a contrast.

It was a hugely successful trip, overall, with everyone summiting Cayambe in difficult conditions –the weather wasn't great and, in a few places, we were briefly climbing through snow up to our knees. But everyone made it, and that was very exciting. And then on Cotopaxi, we started out in clouds and some wind but between 4 and 5 am the clouds disappeared and we were treated not only to a full moon but also to a sky totally full of stars. At high altitude, it’s amazing how the stars totally fill every inch of the sky. And yes, on Cotopaxi, we were trerast to a very special sunrise over the Amazon.

We have had a wonderful time together in the mountain and feel lucky to have shared this time and these successes together.

That’s all our new. So long from Baños!”

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

2019 Ecuador Cotopaxi Skills Expedition (Trip 3 February 9 - 15, 2019) Dispatch 1

Ecuador High Altitude Trip Report

Guide: Jaime Avila

Climbers: Tyler and David Wesorick, Adam DiSimine, Gillian Ingram, Eric Brown, Kevin Fox, and Andrew Hughes

Our guide, Jaime, called Tuesday as the group was traveling to the Cayambe Refuge. The call was very brief, as we lost connection a few times.

Jaime reported the group has had a great start to the expedition. Saturday, after a program orientation and great check, the climbing team walked around Quito, visiting the gear shop and a variety of historical and then enjoying a great lunch at a nice restaurant in Quito's old town.

The group was successful on both acclimatization hikes, Pasachoa (13,776 ft / 4199 m) and Rucu Pichincha (15,413 ft / 4697 m). Everyone seems to be in great shape and to be acclimatizing well. Jaime said, "They are certainly in great spirits as I am as well!"

They were about to head to the Cayambe Refuge right after the call. The weather wasn' look very good for glacier skills practice, but Jaime has a great plan for utilizing the hut to conduct some teaching indoors.

Monday, February 4, 2019

2019 Ecuador Cotopaxi Skills Expedition (January 19 - February 2, 2019) Dispatch 1

Ecuador High Altitude Trip Report

Guide: Freddy Tipan

Climbers: Ben Rice, Craig Warden, and Caroline Schley

Guide Franklin and climbers Ben, Craig, and Caroline called to provide news of the successful climbs over the past few days.

Franklin: Greetings Friends and Family! We are happy to be calling to let you know we have been having a wonderful trip, from our early high altitude hikes to get acclimatized to our recent climbs of two of Ecuador's highest summits. here is Ben to tell you more.

Ben: I am very happy to let you know that Caroline, Craig and I along with our guides all made it to the top of both 18,997-foot Cayambe and 19,348-foot Cotopaxi. Conditions have been very good for us, with consolidated snow on the glaciers and firm conditions, giving us good cramping and making the climbing very secure. We also had great weather, and the views have been tremendous. We've seen all the major peaks of Ecuador from our summits, and it just makes us eager to explore more.

Franklin has done a great job, and we have really enjoyed his company as well as appreciated his skilled guiding and the information he has shared on the country and the mountains. It's been a really fun trip, and now Craig and I are looking forward to continuing on to Chimborazo, the highest peak in the country. It's great to be here!

We won't be able to call from Chimborazo, but we'll call in when we get down. We're hoping for another great climb! That's the news for now.

Monday, January 7, 2019

2018 Ecuador Cotopaxi Skills Expedition (December 21 - 30, 2018) Dispatch 2

Ecuador High Altitude Trip Report

Freddy Tipan

Climbers: Shelby Denton, Karen Thiang, Jonathan Thiang, Irena Badelska, Pilar Malim, Quinn Montgomery, Alberto Taylor, Kathleen Witte, Christopher Barton

Hello to family, friends, and followers of AAI Ecuador High Altitude Expedition Team.

This is our final report, covering the last two climbs on our trip:

December 29: After having a great breakfast at Tambopaxi lodge, a cozy and relaxing hotel located close to Cotopaxi, we started packing for our much-anticipated climb of this symmetrical and elegant volcano. All nine climbers were super excited, perhaps a bit nervous about the climb because its steepness and the imposing shape of this side of the mountain. Having said that, for sure each of us was eager to begin the climb. We all felt very well rested, well nourished, and ready for the climb.

We drove to the parking place and hiked for about 45 minutes to the hut, had a great early dinner, and then rested in our bunks until 11 pm.

As planned, the team woke up at 11 pm, had a little to eat, made final adjustments to our packs, and then set out for the ascent. The weather was good and the snow conditions on the glacier were excellent. We always begin early so we can climb in the coldest part of the night and have the best conditions with the snow and the ice and also make our descent before it gets hot on the glacier.

After climbing steady and strong for about six hours, we were excited to reach the summit of Cotopaxi, the second highest peak in Ecuador. We were amazed at how beautiful the weather was. The atmosphere was very clear and we got tremendous views including the many other high peaks of Ecuador and out to the east across the Amazon basin.

After enjoying all the sights from the top and having some food and water and a rest, we made an efficient descent to the hut. Everyone did a great job with their climbing techniques and the handling of the ropes. It was an excellent team effort and each person can be proud of the role they played.

At the hut, we snacked some more and packed up all our gear for the short walk down to our vehicle. From there we drove down through beautiful Cotopaxi National Park and then drove to Chuquiragua hotel.

Four of our team members were ending their trip at that point and not joining us for Part 2, so after a warm send-off, headed back to Quito for their flights the next day

For those continuing on for the ascent of Chimborazo, the highest peak in the country (and the closest point to the sun because of the irregular shape of the earth), we had a couple of rest days and spent New Year's Eve at a hostel located right on the Chimborazo foothills

January 1: On the first day of the year, our climbers felt very well rested, well acclimated, and ready to go. We all looked forward to the day which would be a hike up to 17,400 feet, where we would locate out Chimborazo advanced base camp.

After loading our powerful Toyota land cruiser, we started our way to the Carrel hut, where we parked the vehicle and started the two hours hike to the base camp. The mountain was welcoming us with its good weather and impressive, massive shape. We got to the base camp, set in the tents, had an early dinner, and had a good rest after enjoying the astonishingly beautiful sunset.

“Rising and shining” at midnight, we started gearing up and getting ready for the last climb. We had very windy conditions, but despite that, our team climbed very strongly and in a very determined manner. After climbing for about six hours on gradually steeper ground and windier conditions, we all got to reach the summit of Chimborazo. We got a spectacular view and enjoyed our time there taking a lot of photos.

We made good time down climbing to the hut. Everyone was in great spirits and feeling energize despite the huge output to get to the top. From the hut, we drove down to Ecuador’s central valley and Pan American Highway, then left the highlands to descend one of the access valleys (through the Occidental Oriental, Ecuador’s eastern line of peaks). We descended to about 6000 feet where we reached the town of Baños in a tropical setting with lots of birds, waterfalls and hot springs (hence the name “the Baths” for the town).

Needless to say, we took advantage of the warm temperatures, flowing water, and abundance of good food. It was a fun contrast to the stark beauty of the high alpine regions we had been in for the last two weeks.

We had a wonderful trip together and look forward to staying in touch and climbing again in the future. That’s our news from Ecuador!

Friday, December 28, 2018

2018 Ecuador Cotopaxi Skills Expedition (December 21 - 30, 2018) Dispatch 1

Ecuador High Altitude Trip Report 

Guide: Freddy Tipan

Shelby Denton, Karen Thiang, Jonathan Thiang, Irena Badelska, Pilar Malim, Quinn Montgomery, Alberto Taylor, Kathleen Witte, Christopher Barton

Day 1 - 

12/22: After meeting the group at the hotel, we reviewed the trip itinerary and then discussed how each climb would be conducted. Everyone was very excited about our coming adventures, and I could tell that we had a great team to climb together.

After that, we did a thorough gear check to make sure every climber had everything for the
mountains. There were a few questions, but basically, everyone did a great job with the
equipment list we had provided and came very well prepared.

Once we finished the gear check, we headed to Quito's old town to visit the churches,
museums, and a local market there. It felt good to be out walking at 9500 feet (the city’s average altitude) and gaining some active acclimatization. Everyone enjoyed the initial cultural insights we shared and discussed in our first time exploring together.

Day 2 -
12/23: We met the group at 8:00am and after a hearty breakfast, we jumped our private small bus and drove for about an hour-and-a-half south to the volcano Pasochoa. It took us
about three hours going up, and we all reached the summit together in the early afternoon. The day was partially cloudy but we had some views and definitely a very successful
acclimatization hike to get us ready for the high peaks. It was a fun day together.

Day 3

12/24: After a great breakfast at Reina Isabel Hotel, we drove for about 20 minutes to the base of the gondola that takes people out of Quito and a good part of the way up the peak Rucu Pichincha. We jumped in the cable cars and got to 13,000 feet where we started our hike. After three hours hiking sometimes on dirt and sometimes on a greasy path, we reached the summit of Rucu Pichincha at 15,413 feet. After enjoying the summit, we hiked down to the parking lot where our private transportation picked us up to drive us north to Hacienda Guachala, an old and cozy hacienda built in the 1500s.

Day 4 - 
12/25: After a good night’s sleep at the hacienda and another delicious breakfast, we drove part way up the flank of Cayambe to reach the hut which served as our base for the ascent. The hut is at 15,400 feet, so it’s about the elevation that we hiked to the day before. We had some lunch and then went for an acclimatization hike, reaching about 16,000 feet. Each team member was adjusting well during each day of the itinerary.
Day 5 -

12/26: After a “fortifying high altitude breakfast,” we headed to the glacier for our glacier training. Although the weather was not cooperating, our team members were very motivated to work on the climbing skills. Some were new and some were for review. We worked on the glacier through the morning and headed back to the hut to make an early dinner and an early arrival into our bunks as we prepared for our climb the next morning.

Day 6 - 

12/27: We got up early and started our summit climb at midnight. It was clear that everybody was ready to give their best. The weather was still poor, but our motivation was very high.

Despite all of the wind, we made it to the beginning of the glacier without a problem and there put on our crampons and roped up. We went at a moderate pace but kept climbing strongly and steadily. In the end, five of our climbers made it all to the 18,996-foot summit of Cayambe, while four of them decided to turn back from high on the peak because of the weather conditions. Everyone was pleased by what they had accomplished under challenging conditions.

After summiting, we descended to the hut for a short rest and some food, and then drove back to Hacienda Guachala where we had a great celebration dinner.

Day 7 - 
12/28: Today is our rest day, and we are heading to a lodge near Cotopaxi, our next big peak. Of course today we are enjoying the sun! Crazy timing for the weather, but we are not complaining – it is so beautiful here! We are very happy about our success and are now looking forward to Cotopaxi and following that climb, to Chimborazo.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

2018 Aconcagua Upper Guanacos Expedition - Team 1 (Dec 10 - 31, 2018) - Dispatch 14


Tad McCrea


Jennifer Jolliffe
Shelby Clippard
Michael Abel

From AAI lead guide Tad McCrea:

Wind was the name of the game on the lower mountain, and without our trusty hilliberg tents we would have been demolished... however, we awoke to a clear and windless morning today, the 23rd. We departed camp at 4:45 this morning and began our march up the mountain. We kept a a good pace and timed the sun at independencia perfectly. A fter exercising all of the teams perseverance and fortitude we made  it to the top of the America’s just before 2pm. We enjoyed an hour on the windless summit making new friends with other climbers from  around the world. At 3pm we busted back down the canaleta before t he evenings snow and whiteout made for an all encompassing 5star da y! We made good time descending through the thick fog and arrived back at high camp just after six. We had phenomenal forcasting  this trip. This and our fitness and allowed for us to strategise a nd put ourselves in position for the summit in a harsh year on Aconcagua. Until last week only three people had summited the mountain.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

2018 Aconcagua Upper Guanacos Expedition - Team 1 (Dec 10 - 31, 2018) - Dispatch 13


Tad McCrea


Jennifer Jolliffe
Shelby Clippard
Michael Abel

From AAI lead guide Tad McCrea:

We waited till the sun hit our tents today before packing up and taking off for high camp just after 11 am. We moved up with heavy loads and arrived at Camp at 3 pm, 12 hours before we will head up for the summit tomorrow. We are resting and recovering right now biding our time, respecting our calories and carbohydrates. Tomorrow boasts the lowest projected winds yet this season, and they are forecasted to pick up by the end of the 24th. Tomorrow is our day,  and we are ready! We will report back tomorrow evening after our summit bid.