Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Ecuador Antisana/Illiniza: May 11 - 19 - Dispatch #4

Guide: Henry Moya; Climbers: Nick Jansen and Luke Shedivy.

Antisana is Ecuador's fourth highest mountain. It is pretty remote and offers some of the most interesting climbing in Ecuador. Unlike the other big Ecuadorian peaks, there is no hut and a base camp is needed. Despite its spectacular appearance and the quality of the climbing, Antisana is only rarely climbed. This is due to a combination of two factors. First, its moderate technical difficulty - there are no "walk-up" routes on the mountain which means that those who attempt Antisana must have good glacier climbing skills. Second, the fact that access to the area around the mountain is restricted in order to protect the wildlife.

We were very excited about our coming summit attempt on Antisana.  Our team was highly motivated by the successes achieved in the other peaks during the first part of the trip. In the morning of the 18th, the weather was almost perfect – a very sunny day.  We arrived at the village of Pintag – a pretty village where we did our last grocery shopping.  Then we followed a road that leads to the Antisana farm that lies just outside the parkland. Once there we used a secondary road to get pretty close to the base of the mountain.  We set up camp at an altitude of 14,927 feet, and after a lunch we rested and enjoyed the views.  Basically our plan was simple wake up at 10 pm, have a light breakfast, and leave the camp at 11 pm. 

May 19th

Luke and Nick were highly motivated, and it took us less than an hour to reach the glacier line at 15,419 feet).  It was a splendid night with a starry sky so on the climb we could distinguish the landmarks of the mountain.  We crossed a section full of crevasses at 17,400 feet, and we were pleased to see that most of them were closed or had good bridges.

We made good progress on the long climb, and at exactly 5 am, we faced the steepest part of the route – 50-degree ice – which led us directly to the summit ridge.  The ice was in good shape and Nick and Luke did a great job on the very steep ground.  By 6 am we made the summit.  

It was a really exciting moment, and we were extremely happy gaining our final success on our series of climbs!  Unfortunately the fog and cloud that rise every morning from the Amazon arrived a couple of hours earlier than normal and engulfed us, so on the very top we lost the views of the surrounding landscape.  We spent 15 minutes on the summit, took pictures of ourselves (!), and then descended the same route.  In just three hours we got to the base camp and immediately focused on the serious business of food and rest!  It was a great day, an excellent climb!

May 20th

After a hearty breakfast, we proceed to dismantle the camp and at 11 o clock, so we left the campsite for Quito.  At 8 pm we had our farewell dinner.  I can say that we had a well-deserved celebration for our success in the Illinizas–Antisana Expedition – 5 summits in 10 days with AAI!!!  It was a great trip with these guys, and I really enjoyed climbing with them a lot.

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