Friday, February 28, 2020

2020 Ecuador Chimborazo Skills Expedition (Trip 4: Feb. 15-29, 2020) Dispatch 4

Ecuador High Altitude Trip Report

Guide: Ramiro Garrido

Climbers: Patrick Mullen, Jo McKeagg, Natallia Bortkevich, Adam Jackson

Feb. 28, 2020

Ramiro called today with a report on the final climb of the trip.

Hello from Ecuador,

After very snowy times on Chimborazo, we arrived in sunny and warm Baños in time for a much anticipated lunch, and we have spent the afternoon doing short hikes to beautiful waterfalls. It's fun to be so warm after being in cool and cold temperatures for our climbs.

We are a happy crew, but unfortunately, we were not able to climb Chimborazo due to weather conditions. To start off, there was a huge snow storm the night of our first scheduled summit attempt. It started snowing in the morning and continued all through the night. In the end, I measured 18 cm [7 inches] of new snow, which a lot more than is usual in this region, especially at this time of year.

The next day was windy, sunny, and cold – resulting in a very wind-packed crust on top of a lot of new, unstable fresh snow from the day before. These conditions are not safe for climbing, so we decided early this morning to end the expeditionary portion of our itinerary and head to a lower elevation for some fun and a different kind of exploring.

After lunch our very nice lunch, we did some hiking as I mentioned, and some in the group experienced the "Swing at the End of the World", which overhangs a steep slope, giving the person swinging an exhilarating experience of flying above the rainforest. Crazy!

Tonight we will be in a very comfortable hotel in Baños and tomorrow, and tomorrow after an easy morning, we will have a few hours drive back north to Quito via the Pan American Highway where folks will rest, repack, and prepare for journeys home before heading out to a final dinner together.

It's be an excellent trip. We had a really good time together and had very nice successes on Pasachoa, Guagua Pichincha, Cayambe, and Cotopaxi. We saw a wide variety of landscapes and pretty scenery and really enjoyed the challenges of climbing at altitude on those four beautiful peaks. We also had some good laughs and enjoyed each other's company throughout our journey through Ecuador.

That's our news for now. Hello to everyone at home!

The group enjoying a warm day in Baños. Photo by Nataliia Bortkevich. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

2020 Ecuador Chimborazo Skills Expedition (Trip 4: Feb. 15-29, 2020) Dispatch 3

Ecuador High Altitude Trip Report

Ramiro Garrido

Climbers: Patrick M., Jo M., Natallia B.h, Adam J.

Feb. 24, 2020

Hello again!

I am calling to let you know we have had two more successes.

On Cayambe we had two good days of acclimatization, at and above the hut at a little over 15,000 feet. The first day we got to the hut we did some easy skills practice and the next day we did more skills including cramponing on Cayambe’s lower glacier. The conditions were firm on the glacier and really quite good for refining cramponing technique.

We went to bed very early, as always, and got very early, as always, to get the best conditions on the mountain, with the glacier surface nice and frozen. We got up around 11 pm and started climbing at about midnight.

We made very good time. It was quite nice weather on the way up but just before we got to the summit, we climbed into the clouds. Not ideal, but we all did make it to the summit and that was a great feeling for everyone. At 18,997 feet, it’s a very big mountain to climb and it took a lot of concentration and effort to do it. This is a great team, and I am very happy to be climbing with them! We made the summit around 5 am and after a rest on top, we were back to the hut by about 7 am.

After some food at the hut and some packing, we headed back to Hacienda Guachalá for some well-earned rest and recuperation!

The next day we drove to Cotopaxi National Park and to the lodge of Tambopaxi, which gave us excellent views of Cotopaxi across the paramo. It’s such a beautiful spot!

After good rest (and dining!) at the lodge, we drove to the base of Cotopaxi and then hiked up to the José Rivas Hut. Again it was early to bed ad early to rise for a very nice climb!

It was long but interesting, and everyone enjoyed the views on the way up. Unfortunately the weather changed by 6am, and after that the clouds were coming and going. We were worried we would have a white-out on the summit, but the clouds cooperated from time to time, and we ended up getting some good views. I have attached some photos of us on Cotopaxi’s 19,348-foot summit!!

Looking out over the Amazon Basin from the summit of Cotopaxi. There was no wind on top, and it was very comfortable (as well as beautiful) to be there! Ramiro Garrido.

Yesterday after our climb it totally cleared up again, and we enjoyed the views of the majestic mountain we had just climbed. Back at Tambopaxi Lodge we showered and then had an excellent dinner. We felt well rewarded for our labors.

Today we are driving from Cotopaxi National Park to the Chimborazo area. It’s an easy drive and it will mostly be a rest day. We just had a nice Ecuadorian ceviche for lunch in the small city of Ambato in the central valley. In a few minutes we’ll be leaving for Estación Urbina, which is an old train station located on the lower skirt of Chimborazo and converted to a bread and breakfast. It is at an altitude of 11,870 feet, so we will be maintaining our acclimatization.

Tomorrow we will get into the Chimborazo Reserve and hike up to the high camp at 17,400ft for our first attempt to this summit.

After the climb we will descend back to Ecuador’s central valley located between the country’s two parallel lines of mountains, and then follow a river that slices through the eastern chain of mountains and drops into the Amazon Basin. We ourselves will drop down to the semi-tropical town of Baños (the baths, named for its extensive hot springs). We’ll call in from Baños and let you know how our climb went. Wish us luck on the climb!

Baños is at an elevation of 5971 feet, and besides hot springs and numerous waterfalls it offers palm trees and a huge variety of hummingbirds. Quite the contrast to the mountains we have been climbing. AAI Collection. 
Another shot of two of us on the summit of Cotopaxi next to its huge summit crater. Ramiro Garrido.
And here we are - happy climbers on top of 18,997-foot Cayambe. We didn't have good views on this climb but we were so happy to have reached the summit! Ramiro Garrido.

Friday, February 21, 2020

2020 Ecuador Chimborazo Skills Expedition (Trip 4: Feb. 15-24, 2020) Dispatch 2

Ecuador High Altitude Trip Report

Ramiro Garrido

Climbers: Patrick M., Jo M. Natallia Bo., Adam J.

Feb. 20, 2020

Ramiro called on Wednesday to give us the dispatch regarding the last couple of days.

Hello again! Here's the latest news from our team.

After the nice weather on Monday, on Tuesday we woke up to a windy, overcast morning. For this acclimatization climb of Rucu Pichincha (15,413 ft / 4698 m) we take a cable car out of Quito that brings visitors up the lower part of the mountain. It was clouded in and windy when we began our hike and scramble, but by the time we summited in the middle of the afternoon, the clouds moved away and we had beautiful views of the nearby big volcanoes. Everybody did well with the altitude, and everyone enjoyed the scrambling, especially the rocky section of the summit pyramid. It was fun to be on top as it is on every summit, especially since we got some very good views as our summit reward!

Climbers celebrating a successful acclimatization hike on Rucu Pichincha. Ramiro Garrido.

After the climb we drove about an hour-and-a-half to Cayambe Province, where we had a great stay at Hacienda Guachala. where they spent the night at the Hacienda Guachala at (9199 ft / 2804 m).

We had some rest here, then an excellent dinner, and then a very good sleep last night. Today (Wednesday), we will continue up towards our next climbing goal, beautiful Cayambe (18996 ft / 4900 m). We'll drive up a rough track and then hike the final part for about an hour to get to the refuge.

The Oleas– Ruales–Berge Refuge is at 15,092 feet, so our acclimatization will continue by just being there. The weather is pretty windy and a little wet, so it should be warm and cozy in the hut – and we are planning a very nice meal together.

Everyone is looking forward to learning and practicing alpine climbing skills – with some training this afternoon and then more tomorrow on the Hermoso Glacier. Our climb will be super early Friday morning, with a planned start time of about midnight so we can make our ascent in the coldest part of the day and have good conditions of the glacier.

We'll try to call in a dispatch after the climb. Wish us luck on our ascent!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

2020 Ecuador Chimborazo Skills Expedition (Trip 4: Feb. 15-24, 2020) Dispatch 1

Ecuador High Altitude Trip Report

Ramiro Garrido

Climbers: Patrick M., Jo M. Natallia Bo., Adam J.

Feb. 17, 2020

Good afternoon:

We're just back from a wonderful acclimatization hike on Pasochoa (13,776 ft / 4200 m). Everybody is acclimatizing well and enjoyed the hike. It was a pretty day, and we got excellent views of both Cayambe and Cotopaxi which we will be climbing soon. Because our team members are acclimatizing well and are in good shape, we made it to the summit today in record time – just three-and-a-half hours! It's usually four hours and sometimes more. But today as always, we went at a pace that everyone was comfortable with. We weren't in a rush, and I was surprised at the good pace up the mountain.

Climbers ascending their first acclimatization hike of the Expedition, Pasochoa, along the narrow trail through Ecuador's expansive páramo grasslands. Ramiro Garrido.

We began our program on Sunday, and after a program orientation and gear check, we had a nice active day of acclimatization in a walking city tour of Quito. Our climbing team had a great time and everyone was quite interested in the history of Quito and of Ecuador. It's fun for me to talk about it!

We started in a modern part of town and made our way to the old town which has a lot of architecture dating from colonial times. We saw some beautiful churches too and then visited the National Museum of Ecuador. Our team especially enjoyed the exhibits on the pre-Columbian history of the country.

It looks like we will be having good weather tomorrow for our acclimatization ascent of Rucu Pichincha (15,413 ft / 4698 m). It's a good forecast and everyone is looking forward to our second big hike and scramble. After that, we will drive north to Hacienda Guachala which is a beautiful place on the gentle slopes on the approach to Cayambe. I think our team is going to really enjoy the scenery and the food there!

The next morning, we will drive up a rough road to the hut on Cayambe and do a little walking at the higher altitude. The next day we will work on glacier climbing skills on the lower glacier, and then that night around midnight will will begin our summit attempt on Cayambe (18,996 ft / 5790 m). This is going to be a lot of fun, and the climbing conditions on the glacier should be quite good.

We'll try to call again in a few days. That's the news for now.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

2020 Ecuador Chimborazo Skills Expedition (Trip 2: Jan. 28 - Feb. 1, 2020) Dispatch 1

Ecuador High Altitude Trip Report

Romel Sandoval

Climbers: Stephen A., Philip B., Timothy M., John C.

January 30, 2020

Romel called this afternoon with a final trip update!

Hi everyone!

We are calling again to let you know that we all made it to the summit on our highest peak, Chimborazo!

We had a great day together. Once again we got up around 11 pm and started climbing at midnight to have nice frozen conditions in the snowpack to make the climbing as easy and secure as possible. Conditions were really good and the weather was brilliant. It was really a gorgeous day! It was foggy up high, but none of us were complaining. Getting to the top of a 20,700-foot mountain is quite a wonderful thing to share together.

Now we are in semi- tropical Baños, which is off the high plain of central Ecuador on one of the routes down to the Amazon Basin. Instead of rock, snow, and ice we have flowers, hummingbirds, and palm trees! We're looking forward to a good dinner and rest tonight and then some exploring tomorrow.

We've had a great time together and are really happy about our climbing successes. This has been an absolutely wonderful team to climb with.

Thanks for reading our dispatches and bye from Ecuador!


Friday, January 24, 2020

2020 Ecuador Cotopaxi Skills Expedition (Trip 2: Jan. 18 - 27, 2020) Dispatch 3

Ecuador High Altitude Trip Report

Guide: Romel Sandoval

Climbers: Taaryn W., Geneva B., Diana S., Stephen A., Tom W., Philip B., Timothy M., John C., Marcus B., Richard M.

January 24, 2020

Romel called with an update:

Hello again,

I am excited to report that eight of our team climbed the great glaciers and made the summit of Cayambe today!

I think the 18,996-foot / 5,790-meter summit was the highest so far reached for each of them, except for one person, and what was really great was the fact that everyone felt pretty good with the altitude. There were a few "tired heads," but otherwise, the team was very comfortable on top. This team has acclimatized very well!

We were lucky to have such great weather. The forecast was good and it all came true. It was perfectly, beautifully clear, and we were treated to a fine sunrise and then excellent views of all of Ecuador's big peaks. The team had fun identifying each one.

The air was crisp but not too windy, so it was a comfortable climb. And it was cold enough that the glacier was nicely frozen up and it gave us perfect conditions for climbing. We made very good time on both the ascent and descent.

Everyone is feeling happy, but tired after their hard work. We'll have a nice evening and a good dinner at Hacienda Guachalá, and then tomorrow we will drive south to Cotopaxi National Park and a stay at Tambopaxi Lodge, with beautiful views of our next mountain to climb.

So tomorrow, Saturday will be a rest day, except for the drive that won't be too long. Then on Sunday we'll drive to the base of the mountain and hike up to the climbing hut. We'll go to be early Sunday evening and get up around midnight Monday morning for our climb. Wish us good luck!!


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

2020 Ecuador Cotopaxi Skills Expedition (Trip 2: Jan. 18 - 27, 2020) Dispatch 2

Ecuador High Altitude Trip Report

Romel Sandoval

Climbers: Taaryn W., Geneva B., Diana S., Stephen A., Tom W., Philip B., Timothy M., John C., Marcus B., Richard M.

January 21, 2020

Romel called again today with another update.

Hello from Ecuador! We had another great day today and we all summited on our final acclimatization peak of Rucu Pichincha!

Everyone was excited to make it, especially considering that the weather was terrible - very cloudy with no views and relentless rain. Does that qualify for a “terrible weather” rating?

I am pleased to say that despite all that, the spirits of the group were high and the team was very strong throughout the day.

The rain didn't dampen anyone's spirits! If anything the day was even more motivating for the team.

We also like the fact that the weather outlook is better for tomorrow!

I’m now going to give the phone to one of the climbers on our team, Tom Wilson.

Hello folks. We had a great day, and I’ll add that if there ever was a day where "overcoming adversity" was the theme, then it would have been today!

It was not just regular rain; it was freezing rain with very low visibility. But the bright side was that the low visibility made the summit quicker since we didn't have to stop for photos!

Our guides were great again today. And a nice touch was having hot coffee on the gondola on the way up to where our hiking began. It was definitely a welcome contrast to the cold rain.

We are now on our way to Hacienda Guachal
á which means hot showers, another excellent meal from what I’ve heard, and a very good sleep!


2020 Ecuador Cotopaxi Skills Expedition (Trip 2: Jan. 18 - 27, 2020) Dispatch 1

Ecuador High Altitude Trip Report

Romel Sandoval

Climbers: Taaryn W., Geneva B., Diana S., Stephen A., Tom W., Philip B., Timothy M., John C., Marcus B., Richard M.

January 20, 2020

Romel called to give us an update on the program.

We are off to a good start after meeting in Quito Saturday evening for dinner. On Sunday we did an orientation on the program and a gear check followed by a city tour of the old part of Quito.

Today, Monday, we drove from Quito to the Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge for our first acclimatization hike. Everyone in our group (10 climbers) did very well and was able to make it to the summit of Cerro Pasochoa which is 13,776 feet or 4199 meters. s 4,199m/13,776ft

4,697meters or 15,413 feet. I would say everyone had a wonderful time on the hike. They were feeling good, and while people hiked at different paces that were most comfortable for them, I think each person was feeling quite strong.

I think I would class today's weather as "very crazy." The day started off cloudy with showers from time to time, then the clouds would break and the sun was out. It was gorgeous. And then in the distance there thick clouds and thunder – which never reached us. Very changeable and unusual for this time of year.

Here is Diana to provide some updates:

Hello from Ecuador. The first thing I have to say is that Romel and his team of guides have been incredible! They have a great sense of humor and are wonderful instructors. I'm not sure I can list all the good things about them. Today was a lot of fun, and we were so happy that everyone did well, felt good, and made the summit. We are happy and in a very good mood! It is fun to be in such a beautiful country. As Romel said, the weather was hit or miss plus some welcomed sun, and the food was just fine. We're all working up good appetites! And the snacks and lunch Romel and team provided gave us just the energy we needed. Here's Romel again. Bye!

Tonight we are staying at our hotel the Reina Isabel in Quito, and tomorrow we'll do another acclimatization hike, this time on Cerro Rucu Pichincha which is 15,413 feet or 4697 meters. After our ascent tomorrow, we will drive to Hacienda Guachala near the base of the first big peak we will be attempting, Cerro Cayambe. Then we we will move up to the hut on the mountain for two more nights of acclimatization plus some skills training for the glacier climbing.

We are all looking forward to tomorrow's climb on Rucu Pichincha. We will try to call after the climb with an update. That's all the news for now!