Friday, December 28, 2018

2018 Ecuador Cotopaxi Skills Expedition (December 21 - 30, 2018) Dispatch 1

Ecuador High Altitude Trip Report 

Guide: Freddy Tipan

Climbers: 
Shelby Denton, Karen Thiang, Jonathan Thiang, Irena Badelska, Pilar Malim, Quinn Montgomery, Alberto Taylor, Kathleen Witte, Christopher Barton

Day 1 - 

12/22: After meeting the group at the hotel, we reviewed the trip itinerary and then discussed how each climb would be conducted. Everyone was very excited about our coming adventures, and I could tell that we had a great team to climb together.

After that, we did a thorough gear check to make sure every climber had everything for the
mountains. There were a few questions, but basically, everyone did a great job with the
equipment list we had provided and came very well prepared.

Once we finished the gear check, we headed to Quito's old town to visit the churches,
museums, and a local market there. It felt good to be out walking at 9500 feet (the city’s average altitude) and gaining some active acclimatization. Everyone enjoyed the initial cultural insights we shared and discussed in our first time exploring together.

Day 2 -
12/23: We met the group at 8:00am and after a hearty breakfast, we jumped our private small bus and drove for about an hour-and-a-half south to the volcano Pasochoa. It took us
about three hours going up, and we all reached the summit together in the early afternoon. The day was partially cloudy but we had some views and definitely a very successful
acclimatization hike to get us ready for the high peaks. It was a fun day together.

Day 3
 -

12/24: After a great breakfast at Reina Isabel Hotel, we drove for about 20 minutes to the base of the gondola that takes people out of Quito and a good part of the way up the peak Rucu Pichincha. We jumped in the cable cars and got to 13,000 feet where we started our hike. After three hours hiking sometimes on dirt and sometimes on a greasy path, we reached the summit of Rucu Pichincha at 15,413 feet. After enjoying the summit, we hiked down to the parking lot where our private transportation picked us up to drive us north to Hacienda Guachala, an old and cozy hacienda built in the 1500s.

Day 4 - 
12/25: After a good night’s sleep at the hacienda and another delicious breakfast, we drove part way up the flank of Cayambe to reach the hut which served as our base for the ascent. The hut is at 15,400 feet, so it’s about the elevation that we hiked to the day before. We had some lunch and then went for an acclimatization hike, reaching about 16,000 feet. Each team member was adjusting well during each day of the itinerary.
Day 5 -

12/26: After a “fortifying high altitude breakfast,” we headed to the glacier for our glacier training. Although the weather was not cooperating, our team members were very motivated to work on the climbing skills. Some were new and some were for review. We worked on the glacier through the morning and headed back to the hut to make an early dinner and an early arrival into our bunks as we prepared for our climb the next morning.

Day 6 - 

12/27: We got up early and started our summit climb at midnight. It was clear that everybody was ready to give their best. The weather was still poor, but our motivation was very high.

Despite all of the wind, we made it to the beginning of the glacier without a problem and there put on our crampons and roped up. We went at a moderate pace but kept climbing strongly and steadily. In the end, five of our climbers made it all to the 18,996-foot summit of Cayambe, while four of them decided to turn back from high on the peak because of the weather conditions. Everyone was pleased by what they had accomplished under challenging conditions.

After summiting, we descended to the hut for a short rest and some food, and then drove back to Hacienda Guachala where we had a great celebration dinner.

Day 7 - 
12/28: Today is our rest day, and we are heading to a lodge near Cotopaxi, our next big peak. Of course today we are enjoying the sun! Crazy timing for the weather, but we are not complaining – it is so beautiful here! We are very happy about our success and are now looking forward to Cotopaxi and following that climb, to Chimborazo.


Sunday, December 23, 2018

2018 Aconcagua Upper Guanacos Expedition - Team 1 (Dec 10 - 31, 2018) - Dispatch 14


Guide:

Tad McCrea

Climbers:

Jennifer Jolliffe
Shelby Clippard
Michael Abel

From AAI lead guide Tad McCrea:

Wind was the name of the game on the lower mountain, and without our trusty hilliberg tents we would have been demolished... however, we awoke to a clear and windless morning today, the 23rd. We departed camp at 4:45 this morning and began our march up the mountain. We kept a a good pace and timed the sun at independencia perfectly. A fter exercising all of the teams perseverance and fortitude we made  it to the top of the America’s just before 2pm. We enjoyed an hour on the windless summit making new friends with other climbers from  around the world. At 3pm we busted back down the canaleta before t he evenings snow and whiteout made for an all encompassing 5star da y! We made good time descending through the thick fog and arrived back at high camp just after six. We had phenomenal forcasting  this trip. This and our fitness and allowed for us to strategise a nd put ourselves in position for the summit in a harsh year on Aconcagua. Until last week only three people had summited the mountain.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

2018 Aconcagua Upper Guanacos Expedition - Team 1 (Dec 10 - 31, 2018) - Dispatch 13


Guide:

Tad McCrea

Climbers:

Jennifer Jolliffe
Shelby Clippard
Michael Abel

From AAI lead guide Tad McCrea:

We waited till the sun hit our tents today before packing up and taking off for high camp just after 11 am. We moved up with heavy loads and arrived at Camp at 3 pm, 12 hours before we will head up for the summit tomorrow. We are resting and recovering right now biding our time, respecting our calories and carbohydrates. Tomorrow boasts the lowest projected winds yet this season, and they are forecasted to pick up by the end of the 24th. Tomorrow is our day,  and we are ready! We will report back tomorrow evening after our summit bid.

Friday, December 21, 2018

2018 Aconcagua Upper Guanacos Expedition - Team 1 (Dec 10 - 31, 2018) - Dispatch 12

Guide:

Tad McCrea

Climbers:

Jennifer Jolliffe
Shelby Clippard
Michael Abel

From AAI lead guide Tad McCrea:

After a couple of blustery days moving up the mountain, the team enjoyed a rest day today at Guanacos Camp 3 (18,000ft). We plan to leave for Camp 4 (19,300ft) tomorrow at 11 am. The team feels healthy and strong. If nothing changes in our health or the forecast we plan to go for the summit on the 23rd, the day after tomorrow. Today we deliberated over freeze dried meals. Not only which are the tastiest, but also which provide the best marketing blurb regarding flavor. We look forward to proper Argentine cuisine on the other side of the mountain. Ciao!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

2018 Aconcagua Upper Guanacos Expedition - Team 1 (Dec 10 - 31, 2018) - Dispatch 11

Guide:

Tad McCrea

Climbers:

Jennifer Jolliffe
Shelby Clippard
Michael Abel

From AAI lead guide Tad McCrea:

The team fought through some pretty gnarly winds last night clocking in at at least 80mph out of the west that lasted till the early morning. We had a couple guy lines bust but the explosive electrical storm to the east coupled with the nearly full moon allowed us to mend the lines sans headlamps. We broke camp during a lull in the wind and powered up into the headwind to Guanacos Camp 3 (at roughly 18000ft). We took the afternoon to rest. It seems like the weather  is setting up for us in a couple days, as soon as the winds die down a bit.


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

2018 Aconcagua Upper Guanacos Expedition - Team 1 (Dec 10 - 31, 2018) - Dispatch 10

Guide:

Tad McCrea

Climbers:

Jennifer Jolliffe
Shelby Clippard
Michael Abel

From AAI lead guide Tad McCrea:

We packed up and carried a cache to Camp 2 (18,000ft). It took us a mere 3 hours, so we took a little nap before returning to Camp 1 (16,400ft) just before the evenings' wind and snow ramped up. The wind is blowing 60mph. We are hunkered down eating cheese and onion pizza, watching the Chapple Show on Netflix. Needless to say, the team is accommodating well to the harsh reality of the high mountains. We will see what tomorrow brings tomorrow!

2018 Aconcagua Upper Guanacos Expedition - Team 1 (Dec 10 - 31, 2018) - Dispatch 9


Guide:

Tad McCrea

Climbers:

Jennifer Jolliffe
Shelby Clippard
Michael Abel

From AAI lead guide Tad McCrea:

Today (Dec 18th) we sent our basecamp duffels down the hill with the mules, then packed our backpacks for the upper mountain and made it to camp just before the snow and wind came through for the evening. We made pizza and watched "Curb Your Enthusiasm" to aid our acclimatization. Tomorrow (Dec 19th), weather permitting we will carry a load to Camp 2 (18,000ft) and descend back to Camp 1 (16,400ft) to rest before continuing our push up the mountain.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

2018 Aconcagua Upper Guanacos Expedition - Team 1 (Dec 10 - 31, 2018) - Dispatch 8

Guide:

Tad McCrea

Climbers:

Jennifer Jolliffe
Shelby Clippard
Michael Abel

From AAI lead guide Tad McCrea:

The team enjoyed a solid rest day (yesterday Dec 17th) and feel confident and excited for the upper mountain. Today (Dec 18) we will pack up from BC (14,000) and make our way up the slopes to Camp 1 (16,400ft). We are expecting a little bit of snow later in the evening which will serve as a good test for our fortitude.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

2018 Aconcagua Upper Guanacos Expedition - Team 1 (Dec 10 - 31, 2018) - Dispatch 7


Guide:

Tad McCrea

Climbers:

Jennifer Jolliffe
Shelby Clippard
Michael Abel

From AAI lead guide Tad McCrea:

After our first real rest day, we were prepped for a carry and a day of acclimatization. After breakfast, we loaded up our packs with food and some high mountain supplies. We wove our way up and through moraine and Penitentes to the final steep snow slope leading to Camp 1 (16,400ft). We cached our kit and promptly made our way back to BC (14,000ft) just before the cold winds turned the snow to ice. We enjoyed some hearty shepherds pie for a well-earned dinner. Looks like some more high pressure on the way for some good move days up the mountain this week.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

2018 Aconcagua Upper Guanacos Expedition - Team 1 (Dec 10 - 31, 2018) - Dispatch 6

Guide:

Tad McCrea

Climbers:

Jennifer Jolliffe
Shelby Clippard
Michael Abel

From AAI lead guide Tad McCrea:

Today was the teams first rest day. We started the day with our medical check-up at the rangers headquarters in base camp. All of us appear to be in good health, and we will continue up the mountain as planned. Tomorrow morning we will carry some equipment and food up the mountain to Camp 1 (16,400ft) where we will select a campsite and make a cache before returning to BC (14,000ft). The mountain is still quite cold and snowy so it will be a good test for the rest of our climb, and help to prepare us for the elements.


Friday, December 14, 2018

2018 Aconcagua Upper Guanacos Expedition - Team 1 (Dec 10 - 31, 2018) - Dispatch 5


Guide:

Tad McCrea

Climbers:

Jennifer Jolliffe
Shelby Clippard
Michael Abel

From AAI lead guide Tad McCrea:

The team got an early morning wake up call crossing the river to the Relinchos Valley. After a cold and windy start, we wove our way up braided trails to Plaza Argentina (14,000ft) also known as Base Camp on Aconcagua. It is unseasonably cold up here at Base Camp, but we are looking forward to warmer weather and a full rest day tomorrow!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

2018 Aconcagua Upper Guanacos Expedition - Team 1 (Dec 10 - 31, 2018) - Dispatch 4

Guide:


Tad McCrea

Climbers:

Jennifer Jolliffe
Shelby Clippard
Michael Abel

From AAI lead guide Tad McCrea:


Another get day of trekking! We took off from pampa de lenas just before 10 and eith a nice little head wind, meandered our way up the Vacas valley to cas a del piedra. We ate some tasty roast chicken and prepped our kit for an early departure and frigid river crossing to put us on our way to Plaza Argentina tomorrow. The upper mountain has been getting doused with some pretty high winds, but with all of this sun, and continued high pressure we are in a good position for the summit when the time is right.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

2018 Aconcagua Upper Guanacos Expedition - Team 1 (Dec 10 - 31, 2018) - Dispatch 3

Guide:


Tad McCrea

Climbers:

Jennifer Jolliffe
Shelby Clippard
Michael Abel

From AAI lead guide Tad McCrea:

Today went pretty smoothly. We had one last breakfast in civilization before departing Penitentes at 11am. After checking in with the park service at the trailhead we casually trekked to Pampa de Lenas (9,330ft) in 5 hours. We were treated to an authentic gaucho asado with chorizo, roasted veggies and an amazing steak. Prepped for the “hunger to come” we are looking forward to another epic day of trekking in the Vacas Valley to Casa del Piedras and our first view of Aconcagua tomorrow. Thanks for tuning in sports fans!

2018 Aconcagua Upper Guanacos Expedition - Team 1 (Dec 10 - 31, 2018) - Dispatch 2

Guide:

Tad McCrea

Climbers:

Jennifer Jolliffe
Shelby Clippard
Michael Abel

Crew is thriving and doing well! We are scheduled to leave tomorrow morning at 11 for the trailhead. So far the team has peaked up the classic gringo hobby of empanada sampling, and eaten a collective Total of 30 empanadas! If we can keep this up in the mountain we will be a force to be reckoned with! We will spend tomorrow night in Pampa de Lena’s and enjoy a nice Assad’s with our gaucho arrieros. Until tomorrow!

-Tad and crew!


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

2018 Aconcagua Upper Guanacos Expedition - Team 1 (Dec 10 - 31, 2018) - Dispatch 1

Guide:

Tad McCrea

Climbers:

Jennifer Jolliffe
Shelby Clippard
Michael Abel

Hello all and welcome to the first dispatch of the AAI Aconcagua season. AAI lead guide Tad McCrea and this small, but experienced, group began their expedition yesterday with a thorough equipment check before dining at a local eatery. Today the group left for Penitentes where they will stay in a hotel and enjoy one last night "not in the mountains". A beautiful high-pressure system has graced the beginning of this expedition and the team wishes for a swift start to take advantage. Tomorrow they will make the trek to Papa de Lenas (9,330ft). Looking forward to hearing more from the team tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

2018 Ecuador Antisana Skills Expedition (October 5 - 14, 2018) Dispatch 1

Guide: Romel Sandoval

Climbers: Jim H. and Wade L. 


Romel called with the following reports:

Greetings from Ecuador!

We had an excellent acclimatization hike on Pasachoa (13,776') yesterday, and just now we completed our second acclimatization hike on Rucu Pichincha (15,413'). We had fairly cooperative weather, and despite some clouds, we didn't have any precipitation until we were just finishing our descent.

We are now traveling to the Illiniza area to get in position for our climb of Illiniza Sur. There is an international bike race here on the Pan-American Highway, so we are experiencing delays, but we will get there eventually!

Romel called again with the following update:

Hello again from the Andes!

Yesterday we made an attempt a steep face on Illiniza Sur (17,217'), but conditions were not very cooperative. After we were on the route, the weather got wet and we began finding very hard water ice. So we decide to call it got and instead retreat and climb Illiniza Norte (16,817'). After a little break, we made a quick push for the north summit and reached the top before noon.

Here is one of our team members Wade Lindley who would like to add to our dispatch:"

"Hi – this is Wade. I have the pleasure of reporting that I am feeling great down here in the high mountains! I'm from Mississippi where we are not much above sea level. so the adjustment to the altitude of Quito [9,350'] was very interesting. I haven't had any complications or illness from the altitude. I hear myself breathing differently, but I have been pleasantly surprised not to feel bad at all.

To recap the trip, I loved our time in Quito. It's a beautiful and intriguing city. I really like our hotel there and exploring Quito with Romel on our first full day was awesome. Walking around exploring was also a very good way to begin our acclimatization since Quito is so high!

The acclimatization hikes were more amazing than I expected. I figured they would be nice, but they were really beautiful, with interesting terrain and views on both of them.

I think Romel's climbing instruction has been excellent and his decision making on the Illinizas was great. I learned a lot and enjoyed learning some things about how he made decisions on the mountain.

I found the altitude pretty comfortable on the Illiniza climbs. I think it shows that our acclimatization in Quito and on the two hikes up Pasachoa and Pichincha really helped us a lot. During our ascents on the Illinizas, I felt very comfortable going up, but I could feel it a lot more on the way down. I understand from Romel that it's because we are working so much less on the descent – it's just a lot easier – so we tend to feel like we don't need to breathe as much. So we breathed less and then start feeling the altitude (slightly headache-y ). We have to remind ourselves to breath often and deeply on the way down, even though we aren't working hard. In general, though, I feel fully acclimatized to 17,000 feet,

Today we woke up to perfect views of Pichincha and the IIllinizas. It was a very relaxing morning, and now we are at the market in SaquisilĂ­. It's lively and colorful and a lot of fun to be here. Quite a contrast to the mountains where we've been hiking and climbing this week.

It's great being here. Thanks for reading our update on the trip!"