Thursday, June 1, 2017

2017 Ecuador Cayambe/Antisana Skills Expedition (May 19 - June 2)

Full Course Dispatch

Climbers: Stefan Nel, Patrick Mitchell, Helen Petersen, and Jason Schocker

Lead Guide: Fredy Tipan

Fredy emailed his last dispatch for this trip shortly after their return from Chimborazo.

On Saturday, May 30th, we started our day by having a delicious breakfast at La Estacion Urbina, a hostel located on the eastern flank of Chimborazo. At 9am, we started our journey by loading the truck and driving to the Chimborazo basecamp.

Fredy called to give us recap on the program through their successful ascent of Antisana.
We’ve been having a good time together as we have hiked and climbed through a variety of conditions. Everyone is doing fine and I know each person has been enjoying Ecuador a lot.
We had a good day on our first acclimatization hike on Cerro Pasochoa, at 13,776 feet.

Each climber on our team did an awesome job up there, despite that being their first day over 10,000 feet. They were feeling good and strong, and I only took us two hours and twenty minutes to gain the 1,876 feet required to summit to summit this great little mountain.
Once on the summit, we enjoyed lunch and the great views of all the nearby and not-so-nearby high summits. We took some good photos and then headed down. I have to tell you, Patrick, Jason, Helen and Stefan didn't even sweat on this climb. I was impressed! They were great.

We did another warm up climb on Rucu Pichincha, at 15,400 feet and then headed on to Hacienda Guachala below our first big peak, 18,996-foot Cayambe. Everyone enjoyed being at the hacienda and appreciate the good food.

The next day we drove to the hut below Cayambe. The weather was kind of tough there – very windy. We decided to give the climb a try and just see how far we could get, and we made it to a little over 17,000 feet. Unfortunately the wind was remaining high, and is was hard to stand up with some of the gusts, so of course we decided to call 17,000 feet a perfect place to turn around and head back to the hut! I know the team members were proud of what they were able to accomplish under challenging conditions. Each person was so motivated despite the weather. I was very impressed!

Patrick came on the line to give a recap: “The trip has been a lot of fun. We really enjoyed the acclimatization hikes on Pasachoa and Pichincha – good hiking and good views. And being at Hacienda Guachala was really nice. Quite the historical place and very comfortable! Cayambe was quite an adventure. The winds were pretty nasty – steady at 25 and occasional gusts up to fifty! But we all did fine and were very happy about getting to 17,000 feet!”

We stayed at Hacienda Guachala before and after the Cayambe climb and then another hacienda in the Antisana Reserve area. We had an easy day to rest up from Cayambe and get ready for Antisana.

We received a later call that was hard to understand because of poor transmission, but the news was that the team had summited the 18,891-foot Antisana, had descended the mountain, and was heading for the town of Ambato. The team was looking forward to another good rest before heading on to attempt Chimborazo.

We drove up to the Carrel hut at 15,748 feet and hiked about 30 minutes to the Whimper hut at 16,404 feet. Everyone was feeling well rested, well acclimatized, and highly motivated for the climb ahead.

The next day, Sunday, May 31st, we started our climb at midnight. After preparing our gear, we began our climb towards the Castle Ridge at 18,000 feet. When we reached the Castle Ridge one of our team members started to feel the altitude, and we decided to split the rope teams to allow the stronger climbers to keep climbing.

At 7am in the morning, we reached Veintimilla summit at 20,561 feet, and the wind started to blow harder. One climber decided to stay on the Veintimilla summit instead of pursuing the Whymper summit, because of the high winds.

So then two of us made the trek across the huge summit plateau to the highest summit of Chimborazo, the Whimper summit, at 20,702 feet. The crossing wasn't too difficult, and we reached the summit by 8am. We celebrated our successful climb, took some pictures, returned to the Ventilmilla summit, and the headed down to the hut.

After some more to eat at the hut and a little rest, we hiked down to our vehicle and then drove across Ecuador's central valley (between the two parallel rows of Andean peaks) and then dropped off the eastern side and descended to the semi-tropical town of Baños. Baños is a charming town located in a tropical forest area that provides an ideal place to rest and relax after our climbs.

All our climbing team members were incredibly happy and content about our very successful trip. We've had a great time on the peaks down here over the last two weeks, and we hope to climb together again in the future! That's all the news for now. Thanks for following our climbing trip in the high Andes!

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