Friday, December 30, 2011

Ecuador High Altitude Expedition #1 – The Hermann Family – Dispatch 7

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

Mark called at 9:40pm with the following dispatch.

"I am very pleased to tell you that Dave reached the summit of Cayambe today.  We are all very excited about that.

Mackenzie felt ill about half-way up, so she decided to go down with one of the guides and Wendy decided to accompany her.

The rest of us continued to 18,200 feet where we confronted the crevasse that we had heard about.  Though he had been doing perfectly well up until just a little below that point, Gavin began feeling badly from the altitude and needed to go down. 

There was no way to know if the route would ‘go’ or not, and the guides had no way to know how long it would take, but they estimated a worst case scenario of one-and-a-half hours.  Chelsea was feeling good and as strong as ever, but she was concerned about having enough energy for the long descent.  So she thought it best if she were to go down.  I was having something of a high altitude headache, so I thought would go down too with Chelsea and Gavin.

So Dave continued with Pepe, and after about 30 minutes they summited.  They skirted below the crevasse for a good distance and then found one steep section they could climb, and once they were successfully on top of that, there were no more barriers cutting them off from the summit.

We were so close!  After hearing that, Chelsea of course wished she had continued.  She is so strong and has been throughout the trip, I know she would have been fine going up and on the long descent.

We are very happy that Dave made it to the top and could represent the team there.

Everyone felt better during the descent.  Losing altitude quickly works wonders for acute mountain sickness, including the general malaise and the headaches.  Gavin was having the most trouble, and before we lost 1000 feet he was feeling fine again.

Dave was the only one who slept last night, and I think the lack of sleep made the climb harder.  The engine was tuned, but the fuel in the tank wasn’t premium, or high test as they used to call it.

But having provided all those details, I need to say it was a beautiful day, and we had a great climb.  This is a very impressive mountain, and we were very pleased to have the privilege to explore its upper reaches.  The beauty we saw today was truly awe-inspiring.

I also should tell you that the scenes we have witnessed, as we have been traveling through the countryside since we got here, make us feel like we are a living National Geographic.  Some of the things that come to mind are the ride to Cayambe hut on an extremely rough, exposed, and washed out road; little kids washing hair in buckets on front porch of their simple homes; women gathering up sticks for firewood and wrapping them in cloth to carry home on their backs; and heavily loaded vehicles that carry far more people and goods than we would think could possibly be securely put atop four wheels.  So many scenes have been remarkable and unforgettable.

Totally different, I should add that it’s also been fun to be around climbers from different countries.  We’ve met Japanese, Australian, German, American, and Ecuadorian climbers.  Two German climbers showed up at the hut – I think part of their ‘round the world climbing trip – and today they were climbing in Lycra.  We had lots of layers on and were just keeping warm, so that was pretty strange to see.

In sum, it was a day with some summit disappointment but nonetheless truly a great day.  Aside from some challenges with the altitude that no one could do anything about (aside from go down), everything else was good.  Everyone did a superb job in the climbing.  Skills were applied with great care, a good pace on the rope teams was kept, and all was very secure.  It was a very good climbing experience.

We are now planning to move on to Cotopaxi rather than Antisana as we had originally planned.  Cotopaxi has a little bit better weather than Antisana, and since the weather has been a little more unsettled this December than most, we think it is a better choice.

We’re at beautiful Hacienda Guachala now.  We had a great dinner – relived the climb over dinner, and now people are in their rooms ready to sleep – and I’m sure it will be a very deep sleep indeed.

That’s the news from our team.  Thanks again for all the good wishes.  Good night!”


Monte G. said...

Mark, thanks so much for the detailed update. Barb and I were on the edge of our seats waiting to hear how the climb went, and are grateful you are all safely back at the Hacienda. I have no doubts that Dave will forever remember this day, and has you to thank for that. You have inspired the lad!

Sleep well!!!

Jane Garrabrant said...

I had to LOL when you mentioned David and the food - I only remember him eating Cheerios and McDonalds! I'm sorry you all didn't get to summit, but happy that you are safe and sound. Tell Gavin I know a good place in Gunnison to get BBQ and onion rings. Not gourmet as you are getting now, but...

Love the blogs!!!

The Greensboro Clan said...

What an adventure! We're enjoying hearing every detail and glad you're all safe. Congratulations on your success. From your family in Greensboro (incl. Tim & Bernie)

Sarah said...

Happy New Year Hermann family...and Dave. We are still in awe of this excursion and look forward to hearing about it. Rest well and continued safety for you all.
Jeff, Sarah, and Catherine.