Monday, January 7, 2019

2018 Ecuador Cotopaxi Skills Expedition (December 21 - 30, 2018) Dispatch 2

Ecuador High Altitude Trip Report

Freddy Tipan

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

Hello to family, friends, and followers of AAI Ecuador High Altitude Expedition Team.

This is our final report, covering the last two climbs on our trip:

December 29: After having a great breakfast at Tambopaxi lodge, a cozy and relaxing hotel located close to Cotopaxi, we started packing for our much-anticipated climb of this symmetrical and elegant volcano. All nine climbers were super excited, perhaps a bit nervous about the climb because its steepness and the imposing shape of this side of the mountain. Having said that, for sure each of us was eager to begin the climb. We all felt very well rested, well nourished, and ready for the climb.

We drove to the parking place and hiked for about 45 minutes to the hut, had a great early dinner, and then rested in our bunks until 11 pm.

As planned, the team woke up at 11 pm, had a little to eat, made final adjustments to our packs, and then set out for the ascent. The weather was good and the snow conditions on the glacier were excellent. We always begin early so we can climb in the coldest part of the night and have the best conditions with the snow and the ice and also make our descent before it gets hot on the glacier.

After climbing steady and strong for about six hours, we were excited to reach the summit of Cotopaxi, the second highest peak in Ecuador. We were amazed at how beautiful the weather was. The atmosphere was very clear and we got tremendous views including the many other high peaks of Ecuador and out to the east across the Amazon basin.

After enjoying all the sights from the top and having some food and water and a rest, we made an efficient descent to the hut. Everyone did a great job with their climbing techniques and the handling of the ropes. It was an excellent team effort and each person can be proud of the role they played.

At the hut, we snacked some more and packed up all our gear for the short walk down to our vehicle. From there we drove down through beautiful Cotopaxi National Park and then drove to Chuquiragua hotel.

Four of our team members were ending their trip at that point and not joining us for Part 2, so after a warm send-off, headed back to Quito for their flights the next day

For those continuing on for the ascent of Chimborazo, the highest peak in the country (and the closest point to the sun because of the irregular shape of the earth), we had a couple of rest days and spent New Year's Eve at a hostel located right on the Chimborazo foothills

January 1: On the first day of the year, our climbers felt very well rested, well acclimated, and ready to go. We all looked forward to the day which would be a hike up to 17,400 feet, where we would locate out Chimborazo advanced base camp.

After loading our powerful Toyota land cruiser, we started our way to the Carrel hut, where we parked the vehicle and started the two hours hike to the base camp. The mountain was welcoming us with its good weather and impressive, massive shape. We got to the base camp, set in the tents, had an early dinner, and had a good rest after enjoying the astonishingly beautiful sunset.

“Rising and shining” at midnight, we started gearing up and getting ready for the last climb. We had very windy conditions, but despite that, our team climbed very strongly and in a very determined manner. After climbing for about six hours on gradually steeper ground and windier conditions, we all got to reach the summit of Chimborazo. We got a spectacular view and enjoyed our time there taking a lot of photos.

We made good time down climbing to the hut. Everyone was in great spirits and feeling energize despite the huge output to get to the top. From the hut, we drove down to Ecuador’s central valley and Pan American Highway, then left the highlands to descend one of the access valleys (through the Occidental Oriental, Ecuador’s eastern line of peaks). We descended to about 6000 feet where we reached the town of BaƱos in a tropical setting with lots of birds, waterfalls and hot springs (hence the name “the Baths” for the town).

Needless to say, we took advantage of the warm temperatures, flowing water, and abundance of good food. It was a fun contrast to the stark beauty of the high alpine regions we had been in for the last two weeks.

We had a wonderful trip together and look forward to staying in touch and climbing again in the future. That’s our news from Ecuador!

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