Friday, December 28, 2018

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

Ecuador High Altitude Trip Report 

Guide: Freddy Tipan

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.

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