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Ecuadorian Volcanoes 1991-1992

Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi

Background

I had been interested in climbing in Ecuador since my climbing trip to Mexico in 1990. I had tried to join a Mazamas trip in 1991 but had no luck getting in. So when I heard from other Chemeketans that Gary M., Steve A., Mark B., and Pete B. were planning a climbing trip to Ecuador I quickly called and asked to join. Pete had to back out so that left an opening for me and I was in.

Gary was our trip leader, Steve was our Spanish speaker, and I was our climb leader. The original goal was to climb Cotopaxi, Chimborazo, and Cayambe. But the trip evolved considerably as it progressed.

While I was climbing in Ecuador Linda took a bad crash while rondenee skiing on Mt Hood. Over the following years the knee damage this accident caused became aggravated to the point she eventually needed to stop running and mountain climbing and have orthoscopic surgery. This lead her to shift her focus to bicycling which has been a very fun activity for both of us in recent years.

Diary

28 December 1991 (Saturday) Gary, Steve, Mark, and I flew from Portland, Oregon, to Quito, Ecuador by way of Dallas. We are staying at the Hotel Alameda Real in downtown Quito. It is a rainy evening.

29 December (Sunday) Met with the others and decide to stay another day and agree on a climbing schedule. Steve knows a travel agent who will refer him to a driver to transport us to the mountains. Walk around Quito in a drizzly day to acclimatize. Looking forward to moving into the mountains.

30 December (Monday) Went on a city bus tour. Steve talks us into going on a jungle river tour after returning from our Cotopaxi and Chimborazo attempts and we register for that. So the Cayambe option is out. Visit mountain tour operators and eventually arrange our transportation to Cotopaxi and Chimborazo.

Cotopaxi
Cotopaxi from Jose Ribas Hut

31 December (Tuesday) A van drives us from Quito to Lasso. Here we hire a pickup driver to drive us up to the end of the road, but he stops just below the old refugio (hut) where he refuses to go further. We carry our bags some distance, but catch another ride to the trailhead. We climb very slowly with heavy loads to the Jose Ribas Hut at about 15700 feet. The trail is not steep and by carefully pacing myself I do not feel badly. Gary, Steve, and Mark are on Diamox but I am not. Cotopaxi has clouded over and it is getting cool. The face above is steep. The plan is to scout the lower route tomorrow and climb the following day. We have an extra day scheduled before leaving in case of poor weather.

1 January 1992 (Wednesday) I was awake almost all last night. Whenever I was about to doze off my breathing rate would lower to the point that it caused me a suffocating feeling that woke me. Today we climb to about 17000' on the glacier above camp for reconnaissance and acclimatization. The glacier is beautiful and the experience is very encouraging.

Cotopaxi climb
Cotopaxi summit with Chimborazo

2 January (Thursday) I get only about one hour of sleep, then the four of us leave about 1 AM for the summit. Our pace is very slow and I am concerned that it will cost us the summit. There is steep, soft snow the last 700 feet but the snow conditions are safe. We summit about 8:30 AM. The weather is clear above low clouds -- only the highest peaks are showing: Cayambe, Antisana, Illinasa Norte, Illinasa Sur, and Chimborazo. The crater is huge and very impressive. The wind is very slight on the summit and it is very hot on the descent of the glacier. We are very tired after returning to the hut about noon. On the descent Steve states that he does not want to climb Chimborazo, but instead visit the coast. Mark says he will not attempt Chimborazo. We toss about several ideas. The hut is quite full this evening.

3 January (Friday) I am finally able to get a decent night's sleep. I feel lethargic and have a headache -- I think I am fighting a cold. It is sunny outside with a cool wind and is rejuvenating to stand in the sun. The plan is to travel to Chimborazo tomorrow, as planned, but ask the driver to return us to Quito a day earlier to give us time to clean clothes, repack, and shop before leaving for the jungle trip. Steve, Gary, and I plan to attempt Chimborazo. Mark does not. Nap in the afternoon and go on a short hike after dinner. The hut is cold in the evening and I am glad to have brought a down jacket.

Chimborazo from lower hut

4 January (Saturday) Omero picks us up on schedule at the first (old) hut on Cotopaxi. It has been a very windy night and many climbers have decided not to climb or have turned back before reaching the summit. We have a late lunch in Rio Bamba on our way to the parking lot at the first Chimborazo hut. From there we hike 30 minutes to the upper Whymper Hut at 16400 feet. We are better acclimatized, but Gary has a touch of diarrhea. The Wymper Hut has more individual rooms that the Jose Ribas Hut, but the space is more cramped and the rooms are much dustier. At the hut with us there are Germans, a couple of Americans, a solo visitor from Columbia, among others. We discuss the route with a guide and plan to take the route to the left, rather than the Whymper Route to the right or the direct route in front of us. The left route looks safest, but I consider taking my helmet since we will be traversing below rock cliffs. It has been windy this evening and Chimborazo is very impressive from the hut.

5 January (Sunday) Another poor night -- I may not have slept at all due to my usual breathing difficulties while sleeping. Gary also has a poor night and still has a weak stomach. Get up about 6:45 AM to see if I could see the Germans on the route but discovered it was snowing. Most climbers either do not leave or are soon to return, although two from Colorado do climb high on the mountain before returning. The weather turns sunny with a cold wind and a cloudcap on the mountain. Many people leave, leaving only our group of four, another group of two from Portland (Karen and Ray), and the caretaker.

6 January (Monday) We got up at 12:30 AM to find heavy mist around us. A guided pair of American climbers come up over night, but their guide takes the caretaker down to the lower hut -- he has HACE symptoms. We consider climbing the scree slope to the left to see if we can get above the mist, but the weather reminds us of yesterday, we are concerned about getting disoriented in the mist, and we have not slept well. We decide not to climb and we return to the bunks to sleep more. We sleep much better and get up about 6:30 AM to see signs the mist may be clearing, but it later fogs up again and begins to snow. We have rain and snow showers throughout the rest of the day. The caretaker and many climbers arrive and we learn that Cotopaxi has also been weathered in. Our one-day summit window has closed -- Omero is to pick us up tomorrow.

Chimborazo after storms

7 January (Tuesday) The weather is beautiful but Chimborazo's summit is cloudy while we wait for our ride. Many groups attempt the climb over night and it appears that many of them succeed. Omero arrives right on schedule and drives us back to the Hotel Alameda Real in Quito. We repack our climbing gear and enjoy dinner at a nearby pizza restaurant.

8 January (Wednesday) We learn where and when we leave tomorrow for the Oriente (river trip), and spend most of the day shopping, writing postcards, and exploring the city. I call Linda and learn she has taken a bad fall rondenee skiing on Mt Hood and had to visit the emergency room for her knees. Hopefully, she will recover soon.

Cayambe from the flight to the Oriente
Speedboat on the Augarico River

9 January (Thursday) Fly via Fuerza Aerea Ecuatoriana to the Tarapoa airport in the Oriente with a fine view of Cayambe from the air. Take a bus from the airport to the Aguarico River, then ride 4 hours in "speedboats" about 160 km downriver to Sacha Pacha, where we have lunch. After lunch we go on a 4-mile hike to Iripari Lake, where we cross the lake on canoes to our camp for the night. It is very warm and humid on the hike but a slight breeze comes up in the evening making it more comfortable. The dinner at camp is very good. After dinner we sip rum with the guides and employees -- the other clients go to bed early. Tomorrow we return to the river.

Iripari Lake

10 January (Friday) Had a pleasant sleep under mosquito netting and spent time before breakfast bird watching. Take a shower and feel much better. After breakfast we recross the lake and hike back to the Aguarico River. From there we ride a motorized, large canoe futher downstream, then up the Lagartococha River to a boarded walk. We hike a short distance on the walk, then board dugout canoes and row across the Imuya Lake to the Imuya Camp.

Imuya Lake at sunset

11 January (Saturday) In the morning we row up a stream to view birds for about four hours. After lunch we recross the lake and ride further up the Lagartococha River to view monkeys, then return to Imuya Camp at sunset.

Aguarico River

12 January (Saturday) A long day of travel -- 12 hours of travel in dugout canoe, motorized canoe, speedboat, another motorized canoe, and bus from Imuya Camp to a resort with a short stop at Sacha Pacha, a quick visit of an indian village, and a quick lunch at the Flotel Orellana (floating hotel). We have a relaxed and enjoyable dinner at the destination resort, where we spend the night.

13 January (Monday) Have breakfast, then ride to the Lago Agrio airport and fly back to Quito, where we do some last shopping and have dinner with Sandy, who we met on the river trip. The river trip was interesting, but both Gary and I wish we had allotted more time to climb Chimborazo. But Steve enjoyed the river trip more, and Mark has a blossoming relationship with Sandy (they eventually marry).

14 January (Tuesday) Fly to Portland from Quito via Miami. I watch Cotopaxi and Chimborazo as we turn for Miami. I may return to Ecuador another time to focus on climbing Chimborazo and Cayambe. There is so much climbing potential in South America.

Links

Summitpost (Volcán Cotopaxi,)
Summitpost (Volcán Chimborazo)
Summitpost (Volcán Cayambe)

Map

climbed = Peaks climbed   unclimbed = Unclimbed peaks

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