Friday, August 3, 2018

2018 Ecuador Cotopaxi Skills Expedition and Chimborazo (July 20 - August 3, 2018) Dispatch 2

Guide: Franklin Varela

Climbers: John V., Max V., Christine G., Paul K., Courtney S., and Ben H.

Dispatch from Days 7 - 15:

Climber Paul Keating called this morning with the following report on his team's trip.

"Hello again for our team,

We are in the beautiful town of BaƱos where we've been resting and enjoying the lush setting - so different from the alpine areas where we've been climbing!

The food has been really good, and we've also enjoyed meeting quite a variety of international travelers in the numerous cafes here in town. There are a lot of cafes. So this has been a great way to finish the trip, very relaxing and invigorating.

We have had a wonderful time throughout this program, and I want to start by saying what an awesome job our guides Franklin and Pablo have done. Most of us have climbed with other guides before, and we would rank Franklin and Pablo among the best.

They have consistently gone above and beyond the traditional level of duty that guides take on. We've had good instruction, excellent advice on our gear, really good coaching on climbing technique during the ascents, and probably most important of all, consistently great encouragement during our climbs.

I'm seventy and got a good way up both Cotopaxi and Chimborazo, and Franklin was amazing in helping make the most of the climbs and enjoy myself. On Chimborazo, it was beautiful weather and after a good number of hours, I began running out of gas. His advice was how far I go doesn't really matter as much as enjoying the beauty of the mountain, the beauty of the day, and sharing the experiences with my new friends on this trip during and after the climbs. So I didn't summit Chimborazo, but he helped me enjoy one of my best climbing days ever. And I was very happy for my fellow climbers who did summit.

Backing up a little in our itinerary, we had some tough weather on Cotopaxi, with winds and graupel [snow pellets]. But people bundled up and stayed warm enough, and part of our team went all the way to the summit.

I have to say, the weather on Chimborazo was glorious and a wonderful way to finish our five hiking and climbing experiences here in Ecuador.

We had a wonderful time together, really enjoyed the climbs and the variety on these mountains, and also very much enjoyed the culture of Ecuador. Franklin did a great job providing us with a good understanding of the culture, including people's values and priorities and the basic characteristics of life at different economic levels of society. It was very interesting and certainly added to the richness of our experience here. I think it is fair to say we all came to love this beautiful country and really enjoy and appreciate its people.

I climbed with AAI in the European Alps 30 years ago with AAI and 20 years ago in Bolivia. Like this one, they were great trips. Thank for the excellent organization of all the trip details and thank you especially for the great guides. Many of us would classify this as a "trip of a lifetime." I'll look forward to providing more specific praises on my written program review.

We're heading back to Quito this afternoon where we'll have our final dinner together, and then we'll head home tomorrow. Thanks for everything!"

2018 Ecuador Cotopaxi Skills Expedition (July 20 - 29, 2018) Dispatch 1

Guide: Franklin Varela

Climbers: John V., Max V., Christine G., Paul K., Courtney S., and Ben H.

Dispatch from Days 1-6:

John Vlasto called and spoke with us this morning with great news about Cayambe:

“Good morning!

This is John. We’re calling to say we hope everyone up north is doing well and to let you know all of us down here are doing very well and to let you know we have some exciting news. Together we all climbed to the summit of Cayambe yesterday. It was not an easy climb and not a fast one because of the winds, but the weather was otherwise very good and every team member was incredibly persistent.

A few team members had some doubts about continuing when we were pretty high up on the mountain, but their drive combined with a lot of encouragement from their guides and teammates made it all happen.

We started early to get the lowest temperatures possible and good snow conditions on the glacier. We got up around 11:30 pm Tuesday night and started our approach to the glacier at 12:40 am yesterday morning.

It was a slow climb because of the wind. It was quite tiring. I think we took about nine-and-a-half hours for the ascent and three-and-a-half hours for the descent, and our excellent guide Franklin said that may have been a record slow speed! But we all had a laugh, and he added that our team was among the few that he had ever guided under such challenging conditions where every single team member made the summit. He said he believes the mutual support and encouragement made all the difference.

When we got back to the hut, people we extremely tired, so we had some food and rest before heading back down to beautiful Hacienda Guachala. Today would be our normal summit day according to our itinerary, but we moved it up a day because the weather report indicated there could be snowfall today.

So we have a day of rest and good food here at Guachala, and tomorrow we will have an easy day, driving south to Cotopaxi National Park, and then morning up into the mountains where we will stay at Tambopaxi Lodge.

We plan to make our attempt on Cotopaxi on Saturday, so we’ll call you Saturday night or sometime on Sunday. Talk to you soon!”