Sunday, February 19, 2017

2017 Ecuador Cayambe/Antisana Skills Expedition (February 10 - 24) - Dispatch 8

February 18th Dispatch

Climbers: Michael Watson, Glenn and David Booth, Eric Safieh, Eric and Loic Vincent, Susan Mullins, Dean Doyle, James Murray, Tom Fry

Lead Guide: Jeremy Devine

(From Jeremy):

We had a very interesting day, including some wild weather that forced us to make alternate plans.

This morning was very nice at the Hacienda Guáytara with sun overhead, but threatening clouds to the East, the direction of Antisana. We left the Hacienda at 11:00am and headed into the Antisana Ecological Reserve. While we were completing our entrance paperwork we could see Antisana being hit with rain, snow, and lightning. The thunder was audible from our location.

We got into our rain gear in preparation for what we were heading into and started our drive toward camp. About 3km from camp we encountered snow and graupel on the dirt and grass road. Calling it a road is giving it a little too much credit as it is only utilized occasionally by climbers, and it is more grass than anything. This made for very slick conditions, and the bus and SUV couldn't make any progress, despite our persistent attempts to make passage.

The other guides and I held a meeting to discuss our options. Camping at our location and making a summit attempt from there really didn't seem like a reasonable choice, as adding 3km to the approach would add too much to an already very big day.

We thought of alternate objectives and considered Illiniza Norte and El Corazón, both non-glaciated climbs with some technical rock scrambling. We presented our options to the group to see what most interested everyone.

A unanimous decision was made to try to do El Corazón because we could easily do it in the same time frame as Antisana, whereas Illiniza Norte would require taking a day out of our Chimborazo schedule and potentially decreasing our chances of success on that major objective. So with a new plan chosen, we made arrangements to stay at Chuquiragua Lodge below El Corazón and go for it in the very early morning tomorrow.

We then headed back towards the Pan American Highway and to the southwest to Chuquiragua Lodge. We enjoyed a Chinese food style dinner of sweet-and-sour chicken and fried rice.

Our plan is to leave at 2:30am for our climb of El Corazón, which should give us the best chance of good weather early in the day. With the conditions across the region today of rain and thunderstorms, we think this is our best possible schedule. This should put us on the summit sometime just after dawn and back down and on our way to Quito around noon. We'll let you all know how it goes!

Cheers from all of us,

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