Kelowna – Seattle – Atlanta – Quito – April 28 – May 12 – American dollar
Ecuador, the land of plenty. Everything from tropical beaches, unaltered islands, lush jungles and the real reason why we are here… glaciated volcanoes. Shannon and I landed in Quito at an elevation on 2850m above sea level (ASL) on April 28, 2015. After a taxi ride down the windy poorly lit streets we found ourselves at the Chicago Hostel for our first two nights. We spent the days wandering the streets of both the old and new town, admiring the scenery and the odd church. Low and behold a random run in with the police was next, not just any police, but the tourist police. They wanted to see our passports and all that traditional stuff but they did not speak a work of English. Granted we are in a Spanish speaking country with quite limited English but this just didn’t sit well with me. Not actually carrying our ID we managed to pretend there was a huge language barrier and hum and ha until we separated ourselves from them without ever knowing the truth.
We had booked our mountaineering on line back home before we arrived through Andes Climbing so everything was set up and ready to go when we arrived. The following day we took a $2.50 bus ride to a town one hour south called Machachi. Not all that much in this small town but super friendly atmosphere, unique restaurants and a street vendor that sells some strange ice cream cone looking whipped meringue thing for a dollar. The following day our adventure started; hiking and altitude training. Our guide, Patricio from Andes Climbing, picked us up at 7:00 and one hour later after a muddy and sloppy drive we started our hike at 3600m ASL into the hills. After an exhausting 4 hours through fog, clouds, rain and rocks we summited El Corazon at 4571m. A quick hop, skip and a jump we were back at the vehicle into town. We found an amazing pizza joint in the centre square where we feasted for $7 and took our 6 litre, $1.25 bottle of water and returned to the hostel for the night. At 11:30 the following day we were back on our feet with packs on our backs and starting at 4000m ASL into the Ilineza Reserve, a 3 hour hike with intermittent views and a steep spine finish we were now at the Refugio hut for the night. Rest, relax, small nap, and some tea made for a great afternoon. Shortly then after the huts bunk beds started to fill, 13 others and their dog arrived, a beagle actually. Shannon had a great snuggle buddy now. Played some cards, ate some great food and settled in for the night. Slight headache, not all that hungry and hard to fall asleep; the joys of altitude. Alarms at 3:30 am after not all that much sleep, tried to eat a bit of food then load the packs and head out by 4:30. Shannon and I both were feeling a bit under the weather as the hut was extremely damp due to boiling water 24 hours a day, they may have some black mold issues in the hut. Clear sky morning with the moon light illuminating the fresh snow fall we just had and the glistening iced up rocks as well. We got to witness the sun rise at 5:40 as we pushed on, all roped together as the ice made for added issues. By 6:30 we dropped our packs at 5050m ASL and took on the steep incline up the final push to the summit of Ilineza Norte at 5125m ASL. Breathtaking 360 degree views of valleys, hills and glaciated peaks surrounded us; truly amazing. We greeted the others as they made it to the summit and then the descend, picked up our packs and took an alternate route with some boot skiing back to the vehicle. By 11:00 am we were back at our hostel and eating some random chicken, beans and rice for lunch. We finished the day with another pizza dinner, yummy! We kept pushing on and we now found ourselves with Patricio in the parking lot of Cotopaxi. From here, with packs loaded, we climbed the loose volcanic rock up 300m to the newly renovated, fully equipped lodge at 4864m ASL with a store, kitchen staff and triple decker bunk beds. We ate some food and tried to get some sleep. That didn’t happen all that much, I was way to excited for the following day and Shannon was not feeling all to well from the night in the previous lodge. By 11:00 pm we were now eating again and heading outside. After 20 minutes we were at the base of the glacier. Crampons on feet, check, axes in hand, check, roped all together, check, and we’re off. Weather was not that great, mix of rain/snow and fog. We could see the storms and lightning strikes way off in the distance near the coast, but we kept pushing on. The snow pack changed to where we were punching through the top crust and this posed a serious avalanche danger, but we kept pushing on, eliminating the switchback for a more direct route up the cone. The sky started to clear around 3:00 am and we could see the city lights of Quito and some others head lamps as they were following in our footsteps. By 5:45 am we were dragging ourselves to the summit of the volcano at 5897m ASL with temperatures around -10 C and wind and clouds that made for nothing of a view. On a clear day we were told that you can look down into the mouth of the volcano and see the smoke plumbing out, but that was not the case for us, all we saw was a white out. Still had an amazing feeling as we had made the goal but the cold was starting to set in and we needed to head down. Shannon was down to zero warmth in her upper layers as we were literally wringing out her down jacket. I think we need to invest in some Gore-Tex for her real soon. The descent in the day light now made for amazing terrain as we passed near crevasses, seracs and other glacier features that were not seen in the dark assent. After the 6 hour grind we managed to return to where we started in only 2 hours, ate a bit of food and relaxed a short while. By now I was beaten down tired to the point that my legs were shaking and Shannon’s stomach was quite testy to boot. Down to the parking lot to view a random truck was balancing on a bolder almost rolling down a ditch, then off we go. Roughly 3 months after our summit this volcano erupted and canceled all climbs until October 4, 2017. From the road we grabbed the rest of our bags and on the bus to Baños. All settled into Hostel Chiminea for food, laundry, and sleep. The following day we had a relaxing one just to walk around the town, enjoy the waterfalls, recover from the hikes and fill Shannon’s stomach with pills from the pharmacy; She was still not doing well. After the second night we were off again, loaded up with Patricio and off to Chimborazo. Because of the earths elliptical shape Chimborazo is actually the furthest point on land from the centre of the earth, further than Mount Everest. We slept at the newly rebuilt lodge at 4800m ASL, Ecuador’s facilities are top notch. By now Shannon’s stomach was really taking a toll on her. She was now barely eating a few bites of her meals and this still resulted to regular visits to you know where within the hour. Like a trooper Shannon’s alarm rang again at 10:00 pm and it all began again. Patricio and I ate some food and Shannon went to the restroom, then we started our climb up. After 900m we came across a high camp that was being constructed and shortly after that we dawned the crampons and harnesses. Amazingly clear skies, stars out in full force and the glistening snow was something that you had to experience to believe. Up, up and up, over snow, ice and rock. After 5 hours I could see that Shannon had finally hit a wall of exhaustion. She some how pushed on for another hour, then another hour, I don’t think I would have even gotten out of bed if that was me. Not sure of the exact altitude but I believe we were around 6000m ASL when we decided to stop and head back down. With the summit being at 6300m we still had a fair distance to go and with the weather warming up as well was starting to create both avalanche and rock slide conditions. We were back down to the lodge by 7:30 am and drove back to Baños shortly after that. Ate some food, did some laundry and made frequent visits to the bathroom. Next day was a relaxing day for recovering and organizing. There was an amazing hot springs in the town, hence its name but as it was the weekend and Mother’s Day you could barely see the water through the heads bobbing up and down. We had to postpone that experience. So me being me and Shannon putting up what whatever, I seem to think of the plan for the following day. As you could imagine there would be no worse place to be with an upset stomach than tied to two guys on a glacier in a harness 6km in the sky, well guess again time for some wet suits! At 8:00 am in the pouring rain we loaded up into the back of a Toyota pickup and heading to hills. After a 15 minute walk we found ourselves at the top of a waterfall with ropes and harnesses. We spent the next 3 hours repelling, sliding, jumping, swinging and zip lining down waterfall after waterfall deep in a canyon. Back to town for some lunch then back in the trucks for another 3 hours of white water rafting some wild and crazy rapids. The next day we picked up some stomach meds for Shannon and piled onto a bus heading north to Otavalo. Then 6 hours later with a bus exchange in Quito we managed to blow right by our destination and end up on the road side where some local helped us out with a place to stay for the night. Recommends, the over our budget, Panamericano Hotel; it will do for the evening. After a game of human frogger across the highway for dinner we settle down for the night. May 12, now we hop back on a bus and head for the boarder. Stomachs were now swinging back in line, amazing adventures were had and we were now on to Colombia. Can’t wait to see what this country has in store for the both of us.
Here is also a little video for our time down south, both Ecuador and Colombia combined in one.
Attn: Spoiler alert if you have not read about the adventures of Colombia.
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