Tuesday, May 21, 2019

2019 Ecuador Cotopaxi Skills Expedition (Trip 4 May 4 - 13, 2019) Dispatch 1

Ecuador High Altitude Trip Report

Guide: Estalin Suarez

Climbers:  Lauren Walker, Ron Schincke, Dana Chambourova, Camille Considine, Julia Merz, Nikita Krasnikov and William Humphreys-Cloutier.

Early in the trip we heard from Dana who reported that on Monday (the second full day of the trip) the group had a success on their acclimatization ascent of 13,776-foot (4199 m) Pasachoa.  She said it was a bit cloudy and windy but there was no rain.  She added that she is enjoying the group a lot and also really likes the food!  Dana also noted that after arriving Friday and Saturday, the team had a nice Sunday morning breakfast and then did an equipment check followed by an enjoyable walking tour of historic sites of Quito.  

On Tuesday, guide Estalin called to say they had their second success in a major acclimatization hike, this time to the summit of 15,413-foot (4697 m) Rucu Pichincha.  He said they had a beautiful sunny day and were treated to great views of Quito and many of Ecuador's high altitude summits to the Northland south along the "avenue of the Volcanoes."  He added that team members were acclimatizing well and looking forward to their climb of Cayambe in a couple of days.

At the end of the trip Lauren called with a summary of their two big climbs.


This is Lauren calling on behalf of our climbing team.  I'm calling from Quito to let you know that we summited Cotopaxi this morning at 5:50!  It was an awesome climb, and we are so pleased to have succeeded. 

This has been a great trip in all respects.  We've had a lot of fun together, and our guides have been absolutely awesome.  I think my fellow climbers have enjoyed each aspect of the trip as much as I did, from exploring Quito to making really beautiful acclimatization hikes.

Before telling you about the climb, I'll say that we enjoyed the lodges and the good food, and for me it was also fun being a the huts, so close to the mountains and being with other climbers.  I hadn't thought much about it before the trip, but being in the huts was definitely fun.

Our first big climb was on [18,996-foot / 5790 m] Cayambe.  We felt pretty well acclimatized by the time we made our ascent.  The weather was good but actually a little too warm.  The guides explained that a lot of new crevasses had been opening up over the last week, and about a thousand feet below the summit, they decided we should turn back because of the weak snow bridges over the crevasses.  

It was a beautiful day, but it was just a little too warm.  And it was exciting to have clear views of Cotopaxi and Chimborzo way in the distance.  It was too bad not to go to the top, but the decision the guides made seemed totally sensible.  The climbing was really nice and the views were awesome.

After that climb we had a second night at the Hacienda Guachalá before heading south to Cotopaxi National Park.  It's beautiful countryside, and we were especially happy to be staying at Tambopata Lodge which is just across a rolling grassy plane from our next peak, Cotopaxi.  We really enjoyed being at the lodge in such a scenic place and being able to examine our next climbing goal across the grasslands.

The next day we drove and hiked to the José Rivas hut on the side of Cotopaxi.  The day was nice but the weather forecast wasn't too good, so we discussed possibly making our climb that afternoon but in the end decided not to because of the mild temperatures.  [ed. note:  They wanted firm/frozen conditions on the glacier.  We enjoyed hanging out in the big hut and enjoying some great food. 

We went to bed early so we could make an early start in the coolest conditions of the new day.  I woke up at 11 pm, hearing the wind howling outside.  I thought, "OK, this is going to be interesting!"  We had breakfast and discussed the plan for the day.  The guides were not convinced we were going to see any improvement in the weather, but they said if we wanted to give it a try, we would see how it goes and just get as high as we could.  We were all ready to give it a go.

It rained for the first hour of our climb, but it stopped around the time that we got off the lower rocky slope and onto the glacier.  It was pretty windy though, and it stayed about the same all the way to the top.  The conditions on the glacier were really good, and the climbing was fun.  

As we climbed higher, we got above a lot of low clouds and actually saw the sunrise over the Amazon just was we were getting to the summit.  Higher clouds were coming and going, so we got and lost views repeatedly.  We had good views of some of Ecuador's other high peaks, and that was awesome.  And Cotopaxi's crater was huge and deep!

We were on the 19,348-foot summit for about 20 minutes, part of that time waiting for the second part of our group to summit.  We didn't snack as we had planned because of the wind.  We weren't uncomfortable, but it was very "dynamic" up there! 

Our guides said we made good time.  We started the climb at 11:45 pm, summited at 5:50 am, and arrived back at the hut at 8:00 am.  And yes, we had a super second breakfast when we got back to the hut and had a little rest before heading back to Quito a few hours to the north.  It was a great day for us!   

All in all, it was an awesome trip!  It was totally fun to be be with our guides.  They did a great job. Absolutely awesome!  And we saw so many cool places on the trip.  The hikes were great, the climbing was excellent, and even being up in the mountain huts was a lot of fun.

We had a great team and a great trip.  Thanks for reading our report!

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