After Chimborazo we returned to Morgan's hostel outside of Machachi, south of Quito. Most of us stayed the night. On the 30th everybody including Arthur, the hostel administrator, left. I took Arthur's place while he went on a four day jungle trip. Usually there are one or two other people present during the day to take care of most of the details so there isn't too much that I need to do. There was one or two days where I had to chef, but mostly I'm here to translate for any guests that arrive, handle the money, move the llamas to a fresh patch of grass, and chop firewood. I had a lot of free time to read and play on the laptop.
The picture is of the hostel's dining area and kitchen. It is raining outside and the place is empty. It is 18.00, I've got the fire going, and am working on the world's best website.
We had another group attempting Chimborazo a week after the last one, and Morgan put me up again. Two of the skydiving group were looking for more adventure after Cotopaxi and were also going up. The snowy hell on Cotopaxi satiated the two ladies's thirst for high mountains and they decided to visit the famous crater lake at Quilotoa instead (and they enjoyed it immensely). The fifth and organizer of the trip, Mads, came down from Cotopaxi with a black and painful toenail and left the country early. However the four of us spent some time at Hostel Valhalla before and after so we all got to share our adventures.
This trip turned out much better than the last. Chimborazo is a big mountain and I broke my previous altitude record but I was really exhausted. I should have done a trip up Cotopaxi immediately before for better acclimatization, but I really didn't have that option.
When we arrived it was cloudy but for the midnight climb, the sky was clear and it wasn't too cold. The first part of the glacier sucked just like last time. It was all crusty or gravel covered ice and some of it was steep. It was a lot of front pointing in crampons and having to stop in uncomfortable positions. Then climbers leave the lower glacier for a sandy arete before returning to snow and ice higher up. Regaining the glacier is sort of steep in parts too. I would say around 60°. It was steep enough that having decent technique helped tremendously. Then around 5800 meters the climb eased up. It was a more gentle 40° and the cramponing was much easier. We met the first team on their way down from a victorious ascent of the mountain. They made it to the Whymper summit at 6310 meters in an excellent time of 5.5 hours to watch pre-dawn flashes of light from Tungurahua erupting. I'm told the Danish flag made an appearance. We weren't quite so lucky. We made it to the second highest Veintemilla Summit at 06.45. That is about 45 minutes too late to head across the crevasses to Whymper. The horizontal distance is trivial but the roundtrip takes 1½ hours. The picture shows the Whymper summit from Veintemilla. The third team had turned around on the lower glacier.
Morgan made good on his promise and put me on Chimborazo with one of his clients and Marcial the guide. Marcial works for us a lot and is a pretty nice guy. We got out there and had some great views of Chimbo and it's smaller neighbor, Carihuairazo (5020 m). So we got good pictures right from the start and I was able to study the route we would be doing later that night. The plan was for a midnight departure.
For me it was a free trip (except for the $10 park entrance fee) so I can't complain too much but the client wasn't prepared for a 6000+ mountain. Everything he had was very old and he was wearing a strange pair of jeans. Jeans to climb a mountain in! Huh? They weren't even normal jeans. They only came to above his calves. Weird. He also thought that appropriate acclimatization was simply living here and hiking up a 3100 meter hill outside of town. Obviously it is not. So we turned around at 5800 meters (19,024 ft). I was pretty close to reaching a new altitude record for myself but that will have to wait. I did make a new personal sleeping altitude record at least. The refugio there is at just about 5000 meters so I was sleeping soundly at almost 16,500 feet. And what a good sleep it was.
A group of world renown skydivers came in and arranged a climbing program with Morgan. And I mean world renown. They are professional jumpers, own pro-shops, make instrumentation, hold world records, and so on. And I would be guiding them during the acclimatization phase of there stay here. Sounds good to me.
Their first day began with a Quito city tour. Actually I wasn't the guide but Morgan asked if I wanted to tag along unpaid. Sure, why not? So I went. I did get to see inside a couple more churches that I hadn't before and more importantly, I returned to the Basillica to climb the towers which I hadn't done the first time around. Everybody really enjoyed that and we got some great pictures. Near the top we even exited onto a ledge (more) - just the sort of thing that would be utterly unthinkable in a coddling, lawsuit-happy country. Then I and one other climbed the rebar to the absolute top of the steeple. Yea haw!
When we returned to the office I found out that some other tours were cancelled due to an emergency back home and my schedule was rearranged. I won't be spending any more time with the skydiving group after all. I'm pretty bummed because they seemed like a really great group. But on the other hand Morgan is putting me up Chimborazo for free with a client this weekend instead so it isn't all bad. Then again, watching the office isn't exactly the best acclimatization for a 6310 meter mountain. Wish me luck.
I met Irina through SummitPost. She lives in New York but is originally from Romania and was in Ecuador to do some climbing. We met a lot in Quito but I couldn't really get away to do any climbing with her until she invited me to Antisana with her and Edgar, her guide. She planned out the whole trip and as thanks for the help/advice I had given her invited me along at almost no cost. Shweet! Muchas gracias.
This ended up being quite a climb but we were stopped by a crevasse 30 meters or so under the summit. I hate that but I am almost used to having to climb everything twice in this country before reaching the summit. We tried a more direct variation on the standard climb and that was a risk we took. Oh well that's what happens sometimes. Still it was a fun climb with lots of good skills work. I'll give it another try next month.
Photo of me high on the glacier by Irina.
Every now and then I go through my website's logs. For me it is interesting to see where people are coming to my site from and if it is a search engine what they were searching for. Today I visited my-quito.com because I've noticed traffic coming to my site from there for a couple months now and I was curious. I discovered that they liked my Ecuador photos and linked to my pages, but what made me laugh out loud was the typo. Instead of "Restless Adventurer - website of Glenn Strouhal" they slipped up and wrote "Reckless Adventurer". Ha! Or maybe they consider some of my adventures reckless and it was intentional. What do you think? It is better than Feckless, I suppose.
This usually isn't something that I put on the website but it occurred to me that I don't really have a picture of the crazy viking, Morgan, on my website. So there he is in the helmet celebrating his 37th birthday with some old and new friends. Now you know who the boss is.
After the more sensible people went to bed, the boss kept me up way too late with cigars and designing new rescue equipment. It was around 04h before I finally sacked out. My alarm was set for 07.00 because we were leaving for 4 days of hiking and hot springs. Surprisingly it wasn't hard to wake up. The difficulty was figuring out how to get some hot water out of the showers for Ram and V. So we probably left an hour late but that really didn't matter.
The weather around Papallacta wasn't that great but we didn't have to hike during any storms at least. No views though. I had been getting spoiled. Everytime I've been to Papallacta the weather was better than the last time. Still it was a good 4 days. The last day was a little FUBAR'd with some transport problems so we wasted some time waiting around but still in the end everything worked out. Back at the office I learned I wouldn't be going with them to climb Coto and Chimbo like I had hoped though. :(