Climbers: Kay Kuehne, Alyssa Ely, Edward Iglesias
Guide: Diego Zurita
January 7th Dispatch
Hello! This is Diego from Ecuador!
Our trip is off to a great start. We met Kay, Alyssa, and Edward at the hotel, this morning (Saturday), for breakfast. After an introduction to the expedition and a special digital presentation on the mountains of Ecuador, we did a careful gear/equipment check to make sure everyone was prepared.
Our first acclimatization day started with a trip to the local outdoor equipment shop, very close to the hotel to rent one pair of boots (as planned). Then we headed north to straddle the equator(!), and visited the lively and colorful Otavalo Market!
Everyone really enjoyed the market. It was fun for the climbers to see the traditional clothing of the local shoppers, and we had a delicious Ecuadorian lunch!
After lunch, we also visited Laguna Cuicocha Lake ("Guinea Pig Lake"). The lake is located in the Cordillera Occidental of the Ecuadorian Andes, at the base of the Cotacachi Volcano. If you wonder how a lake could get such an odd name – the largest island in the lake looks like a guinea pig!
After our visit to the lake, we returned to Quito (9350 feet / 2850m) in the afternoon. Everyone is looking forward to our hikes and climbs together! So we’ll meet in the morning for an early breakfast and then head out for our first acclimatization hike on Pasachoa.
January 8th Dispatch
Hello, this is Diego, again!
Today (Sunday) is our second day of the trip, and we did our first major hike, crossing open grasslands and hiking up a nice trail on the beautiful Pasachoa (13,776 ft / 4199 m).
Pasochoa is an ancient and heavily eroded volcano that has been inactive since the last ice age. It is located 30 km south of Quito.
Inside the Pasochoa crater is the Pasochoa Protected Forest Reserve, a humid Andean Forest, with more than 110 species of birds and 45 species of trees. Some of the plants in the forest have important medicinal properties. The altitude in the forest ranges from 2700 m (8,856 ft) to 4200 m (13,776 ft).
We hiked up the peak in 3 hours, and back down in 1 hour. For most of the day it was beautiful, but we got hit by a heavy rainfall on our afternoon descent. Pasochoa has its own micro-climate and sports very unpredictable weather!!
Some group members started feeling the effects of altitude on our first hike with a little bit of headache, but all are doing well. Overall, everyone enjoyed the first hike in spite of getting wet at the end! What an adventure from Day 1!
January 9th Dispatch
Hello! This is Diego.
I am calling to let you know that everything is going well and that today we completed our second acclimatization hike on Guagua Pichincha (15,670 ft / 4776 m). It was a great hike, and we have very happy climbers! Again it rained a little on our descent, so we waited in a cave on our way down to stay dry during the wettest part of it.
I will put Alyssa on to say a few words:
Things are going great, so far! We have completed our two preliminary hikes. We got super wet on Pasochoa, but less wet on Pichincha, today because we waited out the rain in a cave. On our way up Diego offered the option for us to turn back early to avoid the rain, today, but we said, "No, we want to get to the top!" Diego's a great guide. Now we're looking forward to the fireplaces at tonight's lodging!
Here's Diego, again:
We are now driving to Hacienda Guachala, one of the oldest haciendas in Ecuador, for a good night's rest and a very good dinner! Tomorrow we'll be traveling to the hut on Cayambe at 15,250 feet (4648 meters) and we’ll start our training (or review for some climbers) of glacier climbing skills. On Wednesday we’ll spend a good part of the day doing some more practice climbing, then have an early dinner and an early bedtime to be ready for the Cayambe. We’ll start our climb at about 1 am Thursday morning!
We'll call, again, after our ascent of Cayambe (18,996 ft / 5790 m). Talk to you soon!