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TEAM FELLOWSHIP SUMMITS CHIMBORAZO!

Hi everyone!
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”

“Friday

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.

Saturday

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.

Sunday

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.

Levi”

TEAM FELLOWSHIP SUMMITS COTOPAXI! LEVI REPORTS.

Big congrats to the team on their successful summit climb of the second highest mountain in Ecuador: Cotopaxi! Levi reports from his “The Fellowship Climbing Diaries”:
“10:00 pm – alarms go off and we get dressed and head for “breakfast”. I had fruit and a pancake. We fill our water bottles with hot water to minimize the chances of them freezing during the climb.
11:00 pm – Pile into Nico’s 4wd with all our gear and drive to the trail head parking lot.
12:00 am – Arrive at the parking lot, have to deal with huge winds to get our jackets and gear on. We could barely hear each other talk. Start hike towards Cotopaxi hut. The hike consisted of uphill scree, the sky was clear and the almost full moon was red. All the other teams doing summit attempts today are leaving from Cotopaxi hut. So everyone got a head start on us.
1:10 am – Arrive at Cotopaxi hut for our first break.
3:40 am – Reach the foot of the glacier that encompasses the rest of our climb. Put on crampons and take out our ice axes, and rope together. 2 rope teams Jose Luis – Kristin – Eric Nico – Junia – Levi Ideally everyone is always roped in the glacier. The glacier was stunning, lots ice formations and crevasses. There was a well defined path and only a few sections felt “sketchy” but we were really careful on those sections, by keeping to rope tight between us.
5:00 am – hike high enough we can see the lights of Quito. 50 km away.
5:30 am – after a steep section of snow Junia expresses she is feeling tired. Nico asks me if want I switch to Jose Luis’s rope. I decline and say I don’t want abandon Junia and I don’t mind going slower. Jose’s rope slowly gains a lead on us. So it’s just the 3 of us. (Nico, Junia, me)
6:00 am – The sun begins to rise, we can see more of the ice formations of the glacier we are on, the surrounding peaks, and even the shadow of Cotopaxi on landscape. It was stunning, I didn’t get as many pictures as I wanted to because I was wearing gloves and when you are roped up you have to ask everyone to stop moving at the same time. 6:30 am – Junia announces to Nico that she needs to throw in the towel and head down the mountain. She doesn’t believe it is safe for her to continue to ascend the mountain at any speed. Nico radios Jose Luis to give him the sit-rep. After lots of Spanish chatter on the radio. Jose will come down. They will trade me off to Jose. I got traded off to Jose like a relay baton.
7:00 am – I met up with Jose’s rope team. Winded. We are at 18,000 ft and I didn’t want to tell him to slow down too much. After a break to catch my breath the new rope team is Jose Luis – Levi – Kristin – Eric. As we continue to climb the glacier the clear sky disappears and an ice/snow clouds roll in. We get coated with frost. I am exhausted. My internal monologue is “omg… I can’t fail my new team now, I just delayed them a half an hour and if I make them turn around because of me they’d hate me”
7:30 am – Jose Luis tells the rope team “Get excited only 20 more minutes and we will be at the summit”
7:55 am -Jose Luis tells us “only a few more steps to the summit” At least 80 steps later…
8:10 am – reach the summit We didn’t have much of a view, because of the storm and the crazy wind. When we faced the wind our ski goggles quickly got coated in a layer of ice. I had wished I had car windshield scraper to I could use to see again. As a substitute I used the Adze of my ice axe to clear away the layer of ice. Jose laughed at me and used his leather gloves and quickly cleared everyone’s goggles. Then he made us pose for a picture, insisting we lower our face masks and smile. We were not a smiling mood, we were wet, we were tired, and more importantly we got robbed of our summit view by some stupid surprise ice storm. (I’m mostly joking we were happy and felt accomplished) 11:00 am – Made it back to the parking lot with Nico awaiting for us. We are so exhausted. He had already taken Junia back to the lodge and she was recovering. She is hopeful the same thing won’t happen Saturday on Chimborazo.
Levi”

Ecuador 2019 – TEAM FELLOWSHIP ATTEMPTS CAYAMBE: SAURON ORDERS STORM OVER CAYAMBE, HOBBITS RETREAT

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,

Team Fellowship

Ecuador 2019 – TEAM “FELLOWSHIP” REVIEWS SKILLS ON CAYAMBE

Hi everyone! After a delicious breakfast prepared by Juan at the Yanacocha lodge, the team traveled by four-wheel drive up to the Cayambe Hut (4,658 m/15,282 ft). From there, they hiked for one and a half hours up to the glacier. They reviewed climbing skills, roped up and climbed to 16,100 feet. The snow conditions forced them to descend. They decided to continue training at a lower glacier located closer to the hut at an altitude of 15,400 feet. They all did a good job putting in practice different climbing techniques and then retraced their steps back to the hut and the vehicles. After a short drive, they were welcomed back to the Yanacocha Lodge by Juan and a beautiful rainbow. Showers and tea time were next! Tomorrow, they will move to the Cayambe Hut and prepare for their summit attempt. Junia, Kristin, Eric and Levi are feeling very excited about the upcoming climb! Everybody is looking forward to having dinner soon and a good night of sleep.

Thanks for following.

All the best! Team Fellowship

Ecuador 2019 – TEAM “FELLOWSHIP” HIKES TO ANTENAS PEAK

Hi all. The climbers have unanimously come up with a team name: “Fellowship”. They are talking about who is going to be in charge of taking care of “the ring”. Today, after breakfast they hiked to the top of Antenas Peak (4,391 m / 14,406 ft). There were some clouds up there in the sky but they could see Cotopaxi,  Antisana and some other lesser peaks. They are all doing great and are looking forward to touching snow tomorrow morning during skills review day at 16,000 feet. They are currently traveling to the foot of Cayambe.
They all say hi to family and friends.
Thanks for tuning in!

The training prior to the climbs was excellent. The glacier travel, cramponing and crevasse rescue practice was more extensive than I have received on some major expeditions!

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