Ecuadorian Volcanoes 1991-1992
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 worsened to the point she eventually needed to stop running and mountain climbing and have orthoscopic surgery. She eventually shifted her focus to bicycling which has been a very fun activity for both of us for many years since.
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)
We meet 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. I walk around Quito in a drizzly day to acclimatize. Looking forward to moving into the mountains.
30 December (Monday)
We took a fun and interesting city bus tour and walk around Quito. We visited some markets. I was especially impressed with the Virgen de El Panecillo, a huge aluminum monument above the historic center of Quito.
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. We visit mountain tour operators and eventually arrange
our transportation to Cotopaxi and Chimborazo.
31 December (Tuesday)
We take a van 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 climbed to about 17000' on the glacier above camp for reconnaissance
and acclimatization. The glacier is beautiful and the experience is very
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 nearly calm 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.
Some team members have decided they do not want to climb Chimborazo next, but instead visit other parts of Ecuador. We toss about several ideas. The hut is quite full this evening.
3 January (Friday)
Today is a backup summit day so we spend the day at the hut. I was 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 it 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 a jungle trip.
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.
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 lower Chimborazo hut. From there we hike 30 minutes to the upper Whymper Hut at 16400 feet. We are better acclimatized, but one of us has digestive problems.
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.
Our team discusses the route with a guide and we 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. 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 at high altitude after rapid ascent.
I get up about 6:45 AM to see the Germans on the route above but discover it is snowing. Most climbers either do not leave or are soon to return, although two from Colorado do climb high on the mountain before returning.
Today we climbed above the Wymper Hut for route reconnaissance and acclimatization. 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)
Today is our last summit day. We get up at 12:30 AM to find heavy mist around us. A guided pair of American climbers have 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 conditions remind us of yesterday's weather. We are concerned about getting disoriented in the mist and we have not slept well. Eventually, we decide to return to our bunks to sleep more.
We sleep much better and get up about 6:30 AM to see signs the mist
may be clearing. It soon fogs up again and begins to snow. Rain and snow showers continue 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.
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 some 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
9 January (Thursday)
We fly via Fuerza Aerea Ecuatoriana to the Tarapoa airport in the Oriente with a fine view of Cayambe from the air.
From there we 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.
10 January (Friday)
I slept well under mosquito netting and spent time before breakfast bird watching. Then I 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.
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. We return to the Imuya Camp at sunset.
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)
We 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)
We 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.
LinksPeakbagger.com: The Ultras of Ecuador and Peru
Summitpost (Volcán Cotopaxi,)
Summitpost (Volcán Chimborazo)
Summitpost (Volcán Cayambe)
Map: Ecuador's 5000 meter Peaks
= Climbed = No Current Plans