My first summer with RMI was coming to a close and I was reading through itineraries of several different trips trying to plan some climbing over the winter. I ended up going with the idea of Ecuador after much help from one of our guides, Mike Walter who had lived and worked over there for quite some time. After a couple weeks of putting together my own itinerary, managing logistics and renewing our passports, we were on our way to Quito. Here’s the rest of the story!
Day 1 - Heading up to Rucu Pichincha for an acclimatization hike.
Day 2 - This morning, we finally got to meet Roberto after months of planning our trip with him via WhatsApp. He picked us up from our hostel and we headed toward Otavalo to Fuya Fuya for our second acclimatization hike just under 14,000ft. Then we drove back to Otavalo to stay the night at this breathtaking place called La Casa Sol. Complete luxury tucked in up on the hills overlooking the city and a sad little bahhing sheep on a leash. 🐑
Day 3 - Thursday was mostly a travel day for us. We packed everything up, left La Casa Sol and headed toward the Refugio (climbers hut) at Cayambe. On the way, we stopped at Otavalo market full of beautiful handmade clothing, decor and jewelry. We wished our luggage bags weren’t so full so we could bring something back for everyone. On the way to the Refugio, we picked up Roberto’s friend, Nico another Ecuadorian guide that will be climbing with us. Roberto dropped us off about 30 minutes prior to the Refugio so we could get another small hike to acclimate since we were just above 15,000ft. When we entered the refugio we were blown away. This place was a huge cabin with a large dinning/gathering room with a fireplace, a kitchen, actual bathrooms and multiple private rooms with bunkbeds and super thick mattresses. We sipped tea and ate quinoa potato soup with pork chips, rice and lentils for dinner. We were in heaven. Not the mountain accommodations we’re used to but definitely not complaining. After dinner, we tried to get some sleep from 7:00 PM - 2:00 AM while crazy winds were slamming into the cabin, we maybe got an hour or two and then geared up to start our climb.
Day 4 - After a blistering cold ascent through a windstorm and a layer of ice covering everything on our body, we made it to the summit of Cayambe at nearly 19,000’ yesterday morning! This was our first time climbing above 15,000’ and man were we feeling it. Near the end of our descent, the sun finally peaked through and the winds died down a little so we could start to see the mountain for the first time. We returned to the refugio, packed up and headed to Guachala where we stayed the night prior to our rest day.
Day 5 - Currently enjoying our rest day at Hacienda Guachalá before heading toward Cotopaxi this afternoon. This beautiful place was built in the 1600’s as a textile mill where the workers lived and worked and they shipped their products to Spain.
Day 5 (continued) - After leaving Hacienda Guachala, we drove to the base of Cotopaxi National Park and stayed at Chilcabamba Lodge. We were all big fans of this little Ecuadorian mountain lodge. When we arrived, we were welcomed with warm narajilla tea with caña. The weather was cold and moody and we had the entire place to ourselves so we sat in the lounge sharing stories and watched a storm roll in over the mountain. We were served the most delicious dinner and dessert we have had so far which was the perfect end to our rest day. The next morning, we woke for breakfast with a wonderful view of Cotopaxi, packed up our gear and headed into the park!
Day 6 - We left Chilcabamba lodge after breakfast and headed into Cotopaxi National Park. We arrived in the middle of a hail storm when we checked in so we drove to the parking lot below the refugio and waited out the storm so we could hike up. Little did we know, the hut was out of running water after a landslide took out the main water source a few weeks ago so all 60 climbers staying at the bunks last night had to get creative with using the bathroom outside the refugio. It was somewhat organized chaos with a hut full of climbers from all over the world. We chatted with other travelers, had dinner and then were off to bed for a few hours before our alpine start.
Day 7 - Around 12:30 this morning we geared up, had breakfast and left the refugio to begin our ascent. We were blessed with a clear and calm 6 hour climb and made it to the top of Cotopaxi at 19,350’ just in time for the sunrise.
Day 8 - After Cotopaxi, we stayed the night in an Airbnb in the town of Baños. Roberto and Nico went out and got pizzas and we all crashed pretty early. The next morning, we woke up enjoyed breakfast in town and walked around the streets to explore. Baños is a town we could have spent days in, they had canyoning, rafting, paragliding and just about any type of outdoor adventure you could ask for. This was also the home to the best dog in all of Ecuador. She followed us home from breakfast and sat on the porch until we left. I named her Chimbra and I miss her dearly.
Day 9 - This place. Our cabin at the base of Tungurahua. It may have been the most remote home in all of Ecuador but it was well worth the stay. We cooked pasta, watched movies and sat by the fire blocking out all thoughts of a cold sleepless nights and alpine starts.
Day 10 - Yesterday, on the way to Chimborazo we stopped by Acantilado de San Juan. I had my doubts about Chimborazo for a few reasons and after spending my fair share of time above 18,000’ this week all it took was seeing this place in person to sell me on swapping out the boots for climbing shoes. So that was my plan. We had dinner at the refugio, slept in and waited for Frosty and Nico to return so we could wake up and head to the canyon. All the teams on the mountain turned due to snow conditions and returned to the hut around 7:00 am. Unfortunately, since the canyon was just outside the mountain, the storm had hit there too which meant wet rock and no climbing. Chimborazo as a whole was a no go for our team but we’re so grateful for the climbing opportunities we’ve had while in Ecuador and are already planning our return.