Thursday, February 26, 2015

2015 Ecuador Volcanoes, Illiniza and Antisana, February 13-22, 2015 Dispatch #4

Ecuador Volcanoes, Illiniza and Antisana,  February 13-22, 2015

Guide: Romel Sandoval

Climbers: Brian L., Eric M., Darrell A., Jens M.

Romel and Brian called today at 7:30 pm Eastern and Ecuador time to provide this report on their successful climb of Chimborazo:

“We are excited to tell you that we all made it up Chimborazo. It was a great climb and once again, we lucked out with the weather and with the conditions on the mountain.

“On Monday we drove south from Quito to Riobamba.  We explored a little there and made a point to eat very well to get ready for the big climb.  Tuesday we drove through snowy and foggy conditions up to the refuge on Chimborazo.  We changed plans and stayed there, because recent snowfall plus the snow on Tuesday put the regular route back in shape. 

“There’s enough snow on the route to hold all the rocks in place, so the danger of rockfall is currently very limited.  We had planned to get the help of porters and set up a basecamp further west of the regular route in order to avoid the sections threatened by rockfall.  But this snow allowed us a simpler itinerary and a more comfortable night in the refuge before the ascent.  We feel like we lucked out.

“To get the firmest possible conditions on the snow and ice, we started our Wednesday climb at 11 pm on Tuesday evening.  It was foggy to begin with but steadily cleared up.  Snow conditions were perfect.  It was well consolidated and gave us perfect cramponing conditions.  The climb was long but went really well, and we sumitted at 7:30 Wednesday morning.    It was perfectly clear and there was no wind, so it was a very beautiful place to be.  Of course we could see all of Ecuador’s peaks in a 360° panorama.

“Being on the summit was a lot of fun and so was getting down and looking forward to going to tropical Baños for some rest and relaxation.  We had lunch at the refuge after the climb and then drove to Baños and got there around 3:30 in the afternoon.

“We relaxed at the hotel for a while and then went to a Mexican restaurant for margaritas and cervesas and a deluxe dinner.  We hit the sack around 9:00 pm and slept through until 9 in the morning.  We were really tired.

“After an easy morning, we explored Baños and then went to a waterfall that cuts the canyon here.  The river empties a big part of Ecuador’s central valley and flows east into the nearby Amazon Basin.  This place is about 5000 feet, so the air is great to breath, and it is totally lush here:  everything is alive and green.  It ‘s a huge contrast to Chimborazo.  We took a cable car across the canyon, did some hiking around, took photos, and two people had massages.  It was a very enjoyable, low-key day.

“Tonight we’re going to a French restaurant.  It also serves Ecuadorian food, so we’ll see which way we lean when we get there.  We still have big appetites.

“We’re going to sleep in Friday morning and then in the early afternoon head back to Quito.  We’ll spend the night there before flying home.

“We are extremely happy about getting up all the peaks we tried:  Pasachoa, Rucu Pichincha, Illiniza Norte, Illiniza Sur, Antisana, and now Chimborazo.   The progression of the trip was perfect, gradually climbing at higher altitude, and the amount of rest time between the climbs was just right. And we really had good luck with weather and conditions, so we are extremely happy.

“We’ll call with a final note tomorrow.  Bye for now.”

Monday, February 23, 2015

2015 Ecuador Volcanoes, Illiniza and Antisana, February 13-22, 2015 Dispatch #3

Ecuador Volcanoes, Illiniza and Antisana,  February 13-22, 2015

Guide: Romel Sandoval

Climbers: Brian L., Eric M., Darrell A., Jens M.February 23, 2015

Romel and the team called Sunday with the following news:

“Hello this is Romel calling to report that we had a great success on Antisana. We summited at about 8 am in perfect weather and ideal climbing conditions on the glacier.

“After a day off on Thursday, on Friday we had another easy day and drove to our basecamp for Antisana. We got there at about noon and had lunch and had dinner at 6 pm. We got up at 10 pm, drove about an hour to the base of the mountain, and we started climbing at midnight.

“Here is Brian with some more details.”

“Hey this is Brian happy to report that we had a great climb and enjoyed summiting Antisana. It was an excellent climb. The lower glacier was bare ice, then we had a couple of hours of steepening snow.

“Well up the mountain we encountered a series of steep steps which our guides belayed us on. It was good climbing. The snow was good and hard, and the cramponing was excellent. Above the steep sections we had more moderate snow climbing on the way to the summit.

“It was perfectly clear and we saw all the major peaks, plus several lesser volcanoes that were smoldering and had good plumes. One was Tungarahua. And we got good views of Chimborazo. It was way in the distance but you can tell it’s huge.

“We spent about 20 minutes on top. It was nice there, but the sun was warming the snow up and we wanted to get down before if was real soft.

“We’re spending the night in Quito and looking forward to another good meal at one of the restaurants on our list to visit. Eric is leaving, so we want to celebrate together what we’ve accomplished and have a few cervesas.  

"The rest of us who are staying are excited about heading to Chimboarzo to see what we can do there. We’ll keep you posted.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

2015 Ecuador Volcanoes, Illiniza and Antisana, February 13-22, 2015 Dispatch #2

Ecuador Volcanoes, Illiniza and Antisana,  February 13-22, 2015

Guide: Romel Sandoval

Climbers: Brian L., Eric M., Darrell A., Jens M.

February 18, 2015

Brian called with the following update at 12:20 pm Ecuador and US Eastern Time:

"We've had two successful climbs since we last communicated. Yesterday we climbed Illiniza Norte and today we climbed the high and steeper Illiniza Sur. Norte was an enjoyable rock scramble and Illiniza South is snow and ice. Conditions were good on Sur,and we were on hard snow most of the time. We really had perfect climbing conidtions.

"We woke up at 2 am and started climbing at 3 am. I think we made the summit at 6:30 or something close to that. We had some fog, but basically the weather was good.

"Now we're at the lodge La Estacion and we're eating well and relaxing. Tomorrow we'll have a day for recuperation. We'll visit the big regional market Saquisili and do a little walking, but basically have a day off. Then Friday we will head into the Antisana area and establish a basecamp for that climb. It should be good and we're all looking forward to it."

Monday, February 16, 2015

2015 Ecuador Volcanoes, Illiniza and Antisana, February 13-22, 2015 Dispatch #1

Ecuador Volcanoes, Illiniza and Antisana,  February 13-22, 2015

Guide: Romel Sandoval

Climbers: Brian L., Eric M., Darrell A., Jens M.

February 16, 2015 

Romel and the climbing team called in each day over the weekend with the following reports on their trip.

Brian Lentz gave the following details on Saturday, February 14th after the first day of activity:

“I just got in last night, and being here in Ecuador has been wonderful so far.   Today we went to the equator, had cuy for lunch, and explored Quito.   Cuy is guinea pig, and it’s a traditional food here.  It was pretty good.  It had what I would call a gamey taste – very flavorful.  It’s rather bony, so you have to pick at it a bit and earn your lunch.

“There has been a lot to do and see here.  It’s Carnival week, so there is a lot going on everywhere.   There are many people out in the day and evening, an air of excitement, and a lot of nightlife.  There’s also a tradition of people spraying each other with silly string, but so far we’ve held off on buying any. 

“Tomorrow is our first acclimatization hike on Pasachoa.  Everybody is doing fine - feeling good with no altitude problems.”

On Sunday February 15, Romel and Eric Milne called in with the following dispatch.  Eric had the following to report.

“We had a fine, mostly sunny day today.   We left town at 8:00 am this morning and got back at about 4:30 pm.  It was a great day and we made a successful hike up Pasachoa.   It was a beautiful acclimatization hike.  Lower down it was clear, but there were some clouds blowing over the top – so it was very dramatic and the breeze made it really comfortable for hiking.  There was a nice scramble up high, and we enjoyed making to two tops of the peak.

“We saw only a couple of other groups all day.   One came part way up the mountain on horseback and then climbed the final half-mile, and the other was doing some top roping below the summit.  Besides those people, we also saw a condor and a number of llamas.

“Everybody is feeling good.  No one has had a headache or any other problem.  Tomorrow we’ll climb one of the Pichinchas, and that will be good, as it will add a fair amount of altitude beyond what we did today.   Looking forward to it”

 On Monday February 16, Romel and Jens Midthun called in with the following dispatch.  Jens had the following to report.

“We had a very nice climb of Rucu Pichincha today.  The weather was perfect and we got to see all the big peaks.

“We left the hotel a little after 8 am, and there was no traffic at all, so we got to the base of the tram at about 8:30.  We took the ten-minute ride up and then started hiking in beautiful sunny conditions. 

“As we climbed higher, we gained views of all of Ecuador’s major peaks.  Cayambe to the north east, and turning gradually more east and then south we saw Antisana, Cotopaxi, Illiniza Norte and Illiniza Sur, and finally Chimborazo in the distance.  Some were popping out of the clouds and were quite beautiful.

“We left the tram at the top around 9 am and had easy walking with lots of views across open grass lands.  We hike about two-and-a-half hours and then put our trekking poles away as we began to scramble the upper part of the mountain.  The scrambling was fun – a little more of it on Rucu than on Pasachoa but it’s not as steep on Rucu.  The peak also has a long summit ridge, and we enjoyed walking along that for about 15 minutes.  We’ve also been liking the food, especially Romel’s tuna salad sandwich.

“We’re leaving in the morning for the Illinizas.  We travel by Jeep for a few hours, and then meet horses that will move all out gear to the hut that will give us good access to both Illiniza Norte and Illiniza Sur.  We’re looking forward to starting the climbing.  We hope to climb Illiniza Norte on Wednesday and the ice of Illiniza Sur the next day.”