Friday, February 23, 2018

2018 Ecuador Cotopaxi Skills Expedition and Chimborazo Ascent (Feb. 09 - 23, 2018) Dispatch 1

Guide: Romel Sandoval

Climbers: Natalia V., Shawn V., Kwie-Hoa S., Issac K.

Dispatch from Day 7 - 14:
Romel called this afternoon with the following news:

After our acclimatization hikes on Pasachoa and GuaGua Picincha, we had a great climb on our first big mountainm, Cayambe, and everyone summited! It was a long day, about 12 hours to the 18,997-foot summit and back to the hut. Conditions and the weather were good. We had a little extra work getting around some crevasses, but it wasn’t too difficult.

Conditions on the glacier were good, and think everyone enjoyed the ascent a lot. It was very special enjoying the sunrise and the summit.

I am happy to report that we also succeeded on Cotopaxi (19,348 feet) a few days ago. The ascent was seven-and-a-half hours to the top and then just 2 hours for the decent back to the hut. We reached the summit at about 9 am in perfect weather.

Everyone did well on the climb, and with good snow conditions, I think they found the climbing very enjoyable. It wasn’t just getting up this huge mountain. The climbing itself was excellent the whole way up! And we had another beautiful sunrise. Very beautiful.

Our team members were pretty tired by the time we were done, but they were extremely happy. It was also so good to see that everyone did well with the altitude. The acclimatization schedule that we have been using for many years continues to work really well.

After the climb we had some food at the hut and a little rest, and then headed down a short hike to our vehicle and then a drive through beautiful Cotopaxi National Park to the Pan American Highway. We drove north just a little and then west off the highway towards Illiniza Norte and Chuquiragua Lodge.

Chuquiragua Lodge with Illiniza Norte in the distance in clouds.

Climbers Natalia, Shawn and Isaac, who were continuing no to Chimborazo stayed there for the night, while I drove Kwie-Hoa back to Quito as they were here for the ten days to climb Pasachoa, GuaGua Pichincha, Cayambe, and Cotopaxi. They had 100% success.

The next day I picked up the climbers at Chuquiragua Lodge and we drove south towards Chimborazo, our final goal. We spent the night at Estacion Urbina, a nice lodge on eastern flank of Chimborazo.

Estacion Urbina with the East Face of Chimborazo in the distance.

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast we drove up to the hut on Chimborzo. We made an attempt in not exactly perfect weather – clouds and wind, but everyone did a great job going as far as possible. This was not going to be a summit day, but we made a good effort. Our high point was 19,180 feet on the 20,703-foot mountain. They was really good considering the strong winds we were facing all the time. It was a good challenge and we are proud of what we achieved.

Here’s Isaac with some more details:

“After the climb we headed down to the semi-tropical town of Baños, which is in one of the river clefts that leads from Ecuador’s inter-mountain valleys down into the Amazon Basin. In a few hours we went from very alpine terrain of rocks and glaciers to the lush vegetation of Baños, with great greenery, palm trees, and hummingbirds! What a change!

We are now in Baños enjoying the warm temperatures and the thick nourishing air. We’ve enjoy some good in-town activities as well as relaxing and recuperating from all the climbing we did this past week-and-a-half.

I want to commend the guides who led our trip for being knowledgeable about the mountains and the culture and for being conservative and safe in their leadership of the climbs. They did a great job – even in town they were excellent guides! We’ll have another great dinner and sleep tonight and then head back to Quito in the morning.“

Romel: OK – that’s the news. Thanks for reading about our hikes an climbs. It’s been a very successful trip and we’ve had a lot of fun together along the way.

Cheers for now!


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

2018 Ecuador Cotopaxi Skills Expedition (Feb. 9 - 18, 2018 ) Dispatch 1

Guide: Romel Sandoval

Climbers: Natalia V., Shawn V., Kwie-Hoa S., Issac K.

Dispatch from Day 4:

Romel called with the following report on the Ecuador program.

"We're had a lot of fun together so far on the trip. After our orientation and equipment check on Saturday, we had a walking tour of the city, and I think everyone enjoyed it. There's a lot of variety in Quito: traditional culture, colonial history, interesting architecture, and fun shops and people.

We've now completed our two acclimatization hikes and scrambles on Pasachoa (4,199m / 13,776​ ​ft) and on Rucu Pichincha (4,697m/15,413​ ​ft).

Everyone has been acclimatizing very well - we are going about this very gradually! The weather was really nice on the climbs, and I know people had fun becuase they were feeling very healthy and strong. No one seems to be greatly affected by the altitude. Our acclimatization schedule works so well!

Here's Natalia for some news:

"Hi – I've been having a great time on the trip. I loved the city tour and the first two hikes were wonderful. The views were incredible, skies were perfectly clear on both days. I'm glad to report I am feeling strong and staying healthy! And I am very excited about the skills day we will have the day after tomorrow on the glacier on Cayambe. I'm looking forward to working on my skills and to the climb that will follow. That's my news!"

Romel continued: "Well, after our big hike today, we are now driving north to the lower slopes of Cayambe where we will stay at beautiful Hacienda Guachala. I think we can count on having a great dinner there and then getting a very good night's sleep. Tomorrow we will make the drive further up the mountain to the hut on Cayambe, and in the afternoon we'll do a hike, probably up to the glacier for a look around. Then on Wednesday the day after, we will work on skills and get ready for our ascent which we'll begin around midnight Thursday morning.

We'll call in a couple of days to let you know how it is going. For now I'll just tell you we are having a heck of a good time! Bye for now."

Thursday, February 1, 2018

2018 Ecuador Cotopaxi Skills Expedition (Jan. 19 - 28, 2018 ) Dispatch 3

Guide: Fredy Tipan

Climbers: Sharlin G., Terry B., James H., Christine K., Aaron T., Marwan A.

Dispatch from Day 10:

Hi – this Fredy checking in again from the Ecuador High Altitude Trip. Today we climbed Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world (19,348 ft)!

We summited after an excellent climb – everyone did a great job! To take advantage of frozen conditions in the snowpack for easy cramponing, we got up a little before midnight, ate and finished organizing our gear, and then began our climb by 1 am – right on time for our planned schedule.

As we had hoped, the snow conditions were excellent – we enjoyed very secure footing, and we had very comfortable and enjoyable climbing. All of our team climbed very strongly and were very motivated, and we reached the summit in good time, at approximately 6:20am.

The weather totally cooperated, and we had a fantastic view from the top of all the other volcanoes and the spectacular Cotopaxi crater!

All around it was a fantastic climb.

Now three of our climbers are heading home, and we are sorry to see them go, but glad to have shared such a successful trip! Now, the other three climbers, myself and another guide are heading to climb the highest peak in the country: Chimborazo!

We will get back in touch after the climb. Wish us luck!

Here's a photo of Terry and Fredy on the summit of Cotopaxi with the great crater in the background. Photo from Terry Beckwith