Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ecuador High Altitude Expedition #1 – The Hermann Family – Dispatch 5

Hermann Family Expedition 

December 23, 2011 to January 3, 2012

Guides:  Pepe Landazuri and Freddy Tipan

Climbers:  Mark, Wendy, Mackenzie, Chelsea, and Gavin Hermann and Dave Garrabrant

Pepe and Mark called Wednesday night after dinner with the following updates:

“Hello everyone.  This is Pepe again calling from Cayambe.

Today we had a really good day of skills practice.  We went up to a little over 16,000 feet again and worked on cramponing, ice axe usage, and roped team travel.  It wasn’t perfect in terms of conditions, for cramponing for example, because we had 3 to 5 inches of fresh snow on top of the ice from the last few days, but it was fine. 

And there were some areas with more snow, so that was great for snow school.  For those without climbing background (Wendy and Dave) we worked on how to kick steps on slopes of different gradients, how to self-arrest, how to plunge step coming down to save energy, things like that.  So today we ended up focusing on snow, and tomorrow we will concentrate on ice.

OK, here’s Mark.”

“Hi everyone!  We had a great day, and it was wonderful to be on the glacier climbing.  It was a little challenging for Wendy because she hasn’t been sleeping well and has been quite tired – and it is all new to her – but she was great and worked on the new skills with a lot of focus. 

It’s clear again now – we had some clouds and moisture coming and going during the day – and tomorrow should be better according to the weather report.  The last few days have been quite windy, which Pepe tells us is quite unusual for this time of year.  But today there has been no wind at all, and tomorrow is supposed to be calm too.

Tonight Pepe and Felipe the lead guide from the other AAI group made lasagna for the whole crew, and it was excellent.  They used several kinds of cheese, herbs, tomatoes, and chicken and got superb results!  This is some of the best food I’ve had in the mountains!

So today was a good one.  The kids are all strong and doing really well with the altitude.  Some people besides Wendy have had a hard time sleeping, but that has been about the only problem.

We have a message for Dave’s parents:  Dave is having all kinds of new experiences with the culture, the language, the climbing, and the food.  He says he’s never been much a of a food person, but these AAI chefs are getting him to try all sorts of new things and he is really enjoying the meals!  He is also quite taken by the climbing.  It too is new for him but he appears to have been reborn as a climber.  I think he is hooked, and we’re really just getting started!  He’s also really strong, so I think he’s gong to do very well on the climbs of Cayambe and Antisana.

We are taking another day tomorrow for more training on ice climbing and glacier travel, while two groups are going to try and climb to the summit, the other AAI team and a Japanese group.  I imagine the hut will be a little noisy from 11:30pm to the time they leave, but then it will be a very quiet night at the hut.

So tomorrow we’ll do skills in the morning and early afternoon, then have an easy late afternoon and go to bed really early, preparing for our summit climb starting late that night.  For those of you who don’t climb, we climb starting at night so we get the best possible snow and ice conditions underfoot – that is – nicely frozen-up.  The goal is to reach the summit around sunrise or at least before 9:00am, so the teams can get down before afternoon sun warms up the glacier.

We had beautiful views of Antisana this evening as the sun set on it.  The whole peak was in view.  We had some great colors.

To all our friends – thanks for all your support and your interest in what we are doing.  – We’ve having fun, doing really well.   Talk to you tomorrow.”


[At this point we read the three messages recently posted by friends and family.  Mark agreed “to convey them responsibly and accurately to the group.”  He got a kick out of the reference to the “Hermannization of Dave” and agreed to tell Gavin (who is quite a skilled climber) to pay attention to basic snow school!   He said the team is really enjoying getting the messages and the news from home.]


Barb said...

Hi to all the Hermannites (and that now includes Davie!!)We love your dispatches and I feel for Wendy- Moms need their sleep (even at sea level so it must be super magnified at + 16,000 ft.) This is one magnificent journey and we're with you every step (well every step but maybe not every glacier pick).
Love to all, Barb Garrabrant

Sarah said...

Wow...I had no idea mountain climbers ate such awesome food on these trips. Nor was I expecting blog entries with so much information. The Haley's are thrilled to hear that everyone is doing well. Good luck in the days to come...
Happy New Year, Sarah and Jeff

Nick said...

Good luck with your summit bid. Mark remember to pack some extra batteries. Wendy drink lots. Gavin slow down. Have fun!