Glad to announce that all team members summited Chimborazo. Levi reports below from “The Fellowship Climbing Diaries”. Big congrats to Junia, Kristin, Eric and Levi!
Thanks for tuning in.
All the best
“Chimborazo Summit Climb”
1:20 pm – Arrived at Chimborazo
parking lot. On the way we picked up our two new guides for this climb (Christian and Manuel) and Manuel’s cousins who are going to be our porters for the tents and water. It’s about 25c and the sun in blazing. The terrain around Chimborazo is basically a
desert as the snow covered mountain seemed to suck up any precipitation that hits the area.
3:15 pm – Made it to the site Jose Luis calls Stubel camp, for being at the foot of the Stubel glacier. The porters and guides quickly set up the tents. The climbers unpack their sleeping mattresses and prepare their bags for the summit attempt.
Eric had tried to climb this mountain before 5 years ago. Although he didn’t acclimate in advance and ended up throwing up and needed to turn around.
Junia’s goal was to make it to the first summit and not end up as fatigued as she did on Cotopaxi.
4:45 pm – We have some ramen soup and chocolate cake prepared by our guides and crawl into our tents to try and sleep.
6:30 pm – The sun sets and the temperature drops to 5c. I take photos of the sunset from the tent. (I should be sleeping)
11:00 pm – Alarms go off and the guides start making breakfast. Bringing us oatmeal and coffee to our tents. We start getting dressed in our gear and packing our summit bags.
When I crawl out of my tent I can see the moon illuminating Chimborazo and cloud hugging the snow capped summit.
12:15am – Depart Stubel camp.
1:00 am – We reach the foot of the Stubel glacier. Which is basically a thin ice sheet, free of crevasses we will walk up with our crampons on. It’s time to rope up with our guides.
Because the guide ratio is 1:1 on Chimborazo we (the climbers) had all been gossiping about which guide Jose Luis would pair each person with. Of course Jose Luis was coy with us when we had asked him directly, likely so he can change his mind at the last minute and also to avoid the opportunity for anyone to complain.
Jose Luis paired with Kristin – Which made sense because she always like the pace to be fastest and Jose would be able to come down the mountain if there was any trouble with anyone else.
Junia was paired with Manuel
Eric was parked with Christian
Levi and Nico! – I thought “Nico? The guy that had the world record for climbing this specific mountain in 4 hours 50 minutes… Nico… The ultra marathon runner… Oh man I’m in trouble now”
Sure enough Nico made sure we were leading everyone when the climb first started. Not that this is meant to be a race, but I can’t help wonder if Nico subconsciously treats it as one. I had to channel everything because I didn’t want to let him down.
2:00 am – We reach the top of the Stubel glacier, traverse towards the rocky step (a scramble) to merge with the more traditional route. Eric mentions his stomach is upset. Junia says she still feels good but doesn’t want to jinx anything. I feel good, although my appetite is waning, I force myself to eat an Oreo for the sugar.
3:30 am – We arrive at the “slog”. Basically a glacier slope that is wind sweep that eventually transitions into the summit. Everytime you reach the uphill horizon and think you are done, it doubles in size.
Something important to realize is in mountaineering walking is very methodical. The pace is set so that you (hopefully) never get winded. The size of the steps you take up a slope are very small to converse energy and maximize stability. (Falling can be dangerous) Which type of step you take depends on the incline, material you are walking, etc. For the slog, most steps we took are known as the French step.
Wearing crampons on a moderately steep slope of ice or firm snow. The French step works like this. You stand sideways to the slope you are ascending. Your uphill leg has a bent knee, your downhill leg is straight and baring most of your weight. Your ice axe is in your uphill hand and dug
into the snow/ice for stability. First, you straighten your uphill leg. Second, you wrap your now hanging downhill leg in front of your uphill leg so it is stepping uphill. You look like you might trip. Third, you wrap your uphill leg back behind, stepping uphill to become stable again. Four, you adjust the ice axe further uphill. Repeat. Also, because you are wearing crampons your ankles may be tilted a little because you want all the points to make contact with the snow/ice.
I only go into this much detail because I did the French step for at least 4 continuous hours on the same dark, snowy, windy mountain slope. It made me question my life choices.
4:00 am – I think, this slog isn’t too bad I can see the top already. I turn around and see Junia and Eric are a little behind. Nico is driving me hard, but I think I can manage. Kristin and Jose Luis are usually 5 minutes ahead or behind Nico and I.
4:45 am – F***, there is more.
5:30 am – Ok I can see the real top for sure now.
5:45 am – Nope, still a ways to go.
6:00 am – The sun is rising on the opposite side of the mountain. The sky turns pink then blue. The desert landscape around the mountain is revealed to us. Me, continuing to french step, my legs are sore.
6:45 am- I cave and complain to Nico. “When does this end?” He replies with a smile “At the top!”. Jose Luis overhead the conversation and yells out “The summit is 20 min away!”
I yell back “I’m not falling for that again”
7:30 am – The slope of the slog gradually flattened out. The snow started to change its shape into what looked like bushes, each being shaped and molded by the wind, ice, and snow. We followed the well compressed snow path to the center where the snow was highest. This was the Veintimilla summit (20,453 ft/6234m). The sky was blue and the scene reminded me of a Philadelphia Cream Cheese’s commercial version of heaven. As Nico and I arrived Kristen and Jose Luis were already taking it in.
Of course this wasn’t the real summit, that was another 30 minutes walking away and about 100 feet higher. I was very tired and secretly hoping Nico would forget about the Whymyper summit and suggest we turn around now. I could always plead ignorance..who am I kidding no one would believe that.
Nico and I left for the Whymyper summit a few minutes later, ahead of Kristin and Jose Luis. I think he wants us to get there first. We descended gently into a pasture of snow then followed the trail up towards THE summit. The climb up was more gradual than I expected although still tiring given the state of my body.
8:07 am – I may not have been on the summit alone, but I was the tallest person there. For that brief moment I was the furthest person from the centre of the earth. (I mean, if we ignore airplanes and astronauts.) We could see the Veintimilla summit in the distance but the weather had turned into a ice flurries and wind.
I reached below my chin to adjust my neck warmer and felt that icicles had formed in my beard. I thought to myself..”I am a mountaineer”
Kristin and Jose Luis arrived after us. I asked Jose if he knew where Eric and Junia were. He told me they made it to the first summit.
I was eager to get down the mountain because I was tired but had no appetite. A combination that was could only doom me if I hung around more. So after a few pictures, I looked at Nico and said “Let’s get out of here”
9:30 am – After we descended the slog. We sat with Kristen, Jose Luis for a quick break. Like all my breaks at this point in the climb, I plop onto the ground and take off my pack. I open it and put on my big down jacket to stay warm and eat a snack. Then I drink some water.
10:15 am – Nico, Jose Luis, Kristin and I come to the bottom of the Stubel glacier, catching up with Junia and Manuel. We all unrope. Junia is smoked, but said her and Eric made it to the first summit.
11:02 am – The last of us returned to Stubel camp. I find Eric resting in the tent.
The wind was also picking up and forecasted to get worse. So we packed up our sleeping bags and the porters arrived to take the tents and other supplies.
12:04 pm – We arrive at the bus sweaty and gross. Patricio is waiting with a big smile and shakes all of our hands. We drink water, decompress, joke and drive back to our hotel for the night.
We drove back to Quito and are about to have our celebration dinner. Tomorrow I have nothing to do but wait for my flight which is at night. I land in New York Tuesday morning.
The Fellowship left late on the 15th to head to Cayambe hut for the summit attempt. They had a exciting time getting to Cayambe hut because the road was rained out and muddy.
Upon arrival of the hut the team had a small dinner and went straight to bed around 5:30pm. Gandalf (aka Guide Jose Luis) and Aragorn (aka Guide Nico) and awoke the hobbits (aka Eric, Kristin, Junia, Levi) at 11:30pm departing the hut at 12:30am. The team endured a unexpected snow storm that reduced visibility and decreased the pace they were able to ascend due to the freshly accumulated snow. Unfortunately due to the snow conditions on the slope near Superior and Hermoso glaciers, it was determined that there was an increased chance of avalanche, so the team decided to turn around 2am. Arriving back at the hut around 3am.
Of course, because we are team “Fellowship”, the joke was that Saruman was casting this storm on the mountain and we had to turn back.
All the climbers are in good spirits and felt confident in our abilities and acclimatization on the mountain and are looking forward to the future summit attempts.
All the best,