November 24, 2011

Climbing Chimborazo, Ecuador

A cold morning on the summit of Chimborazo.

I have a rule about not waking up before midnight to go climbing. Unfortunately, I broke this rule on Chimborazo yesterday. To ease the pain of it all, I set the alarm tone to "crickets," hoping that the pleasant sound of these tiny winged creatures would soften the waking process. But at 11 pm, even the sound of crickets is hell.

By 11:50 pm, Johann and I were out the door and on our way up the mountain. The sky was overcast for the first few minutes, but as is typical in Ecuador, by midnight it was starry and clear. We walked for almost an hour before arriving at the glacier. Chimborazo has changed a lot in the twelve years since I first climbed it. Sections that used to be easy snow walking are now dry, icy and laden with rocks. In order to avoid taking a painful rock shower  later in the day, it is a good idea to be off the mountain by 9 am. Hence the early start.

I'm not sure what time we arrived at the Ventimiila summit because it was too cold and windy to check. It must have been early though because light had just appeared in the sky. I snapped a few photos and we headed down the steep track.

From Chimbo, we drove to the town of Banos at about 5000 feet - the lowest elevation we've seen since arriving in Ecuador two weeks ago. Banos is a mellow place that styles itself the adventure capital of Ecuador and many tourists pass through here on their way to visionary experiences in the jungle. Unfortunately, the ready supply of oxygen infuses the locals with an unprecedented ability to make lots and lots of noise. They may call it music and song, but do not be fooled, it is neither music nor song. At first, the timing of the noise is tricky to predict. In reality however, the schedule is executed with Swiss-like precision. Rest assured that the moment you lay down to sleep, or pick up a book to read, or try to engage in any restful activity, the noise will begin. In Banos, the art and science of-noise making is a time honored tradition and it is treated with great awe and respect.

Despite the noise in Banos, it's been a great trip! Johann and I got lucky with the weather and conditions, and managed to scrape our way up a few classic peaks. We will return to Quito this afternoon and Johann will fly home tomorrow. I leave Ecuador the following day and will head to Colombia for a few weeks before returning to Canada to face yet another winter. 

Thanks for checking in!

A brief clearing of the mountain and the route did not inspire much confidence. It looked dry! But the route was in surprisingly good shape as long as it wasn't cooking in the sun.

Passing the many memorials on the way to the Whymper Hut on Chimbo.

Johann arriving at the Whymper Hut at 16,400 feet.

The Whymper Refugio

Cool evening light in the skies over Riobamba.

View from the Hut Keepers room at the Whymper Refugio.

Sometime around 1 am on the way up. It was still warm at this point.

Sometime around 6 am on the Ventimilla Summit. 

Johann on the cold summit of Chimborazo.


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