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Skiing The Ring of Fire with Emily Harrington

Cotopaxi’s summit with the steaming caldera below.

We caught up with Emily Harrington for a quick chat in Quito right before she headed into the mountains for a Ring of Fire Ski Expedition. Both she and Adrian are in Ecuador this season to complete two different objectives. Adrain will be guiding a Cotopaxi Rapid Ascent team while Emily will be skiing and climbing Cotopaxi with Michelle Parker and crew. We’re wishing the team good climbing conditions this season. They have encountered some rough storms during previous attempts!


Q: First off, can you tell us about your objective in Ecuador and the Ring of Fire Ski Expedition?

Emily: The Ring of Fire Ski expedition was formulated a few years ago as a way to provide a more unique mountain experience for those of us who prefer to attempt to descent mountains on skis vs on their feet 😉 The Ring of Fire is actually is a string of volcanos and earthquakes around the edges of the Pacific Ocean. The general idea of the RoF expedition is to climb and ski the volcanos located in the Ecuadorian Andes, most notably Cayambe & Cotopaxi. The objective for this trip is solely to attempt Cotopaxi, because we are also utilizing the Rapid Ascent system, making the total trip only 5 days long. 


Final steps to the summit!


Q: Can you give us a rundown of who is on your crew?

Emily: My partner is Michelle Parker, a professional big mountain skier and longtime friend. We attempted to climb and ski both Cayambe and Cotopaxi in 2015 but failed due to crazy high winds. Hopefully, we can have a successful rematch this time around! We are joining the logistics of a main Alpenglow Rapid Ascent group, but we will be unguided. 


Q: How did you go from a pro climber and end up a ski mountaineer?

Emily: I started skiing when I was 2, climbing when I was 10. I quit skiing for 15 years to pursue climbing but rediscovered it again when I met my boyfriend Adrian Ballinger. He is a passionate skier, climber, and ski mountaineer and exposed me to the idea of ski mountaineering. For me, it combined a lot of things I love about being in the mountains: climbing, skiing, adventure, and partnership. 


Q: What’s the best part about being in Ecuador?

Emily: Ecuador is an amazing country, honestly one of my favorite places to visit. The combination of natural beauty, outdoor activity, food, culture, and the welcoming community is like nowhere else. The best part might be the people and the food. 


Emily enjoying the goods that Tahoe has to offer

Q: Can you fill us in on your last expedition in Ecuador?

Emily: We tried to climb and ski Cayambe and Cotopaxi but we had terrible weather. Adrian said it was the worst weather he’s seen in all his time spent here (30+ times). We got within 15 min of the summit of Cotopaxi but were forced to turn around because the wind was so strong we couldn’t stand up.


Q: You left home right before the snow hit Tahoe, are you hoping it will be a little more filled in when you get back so you can keep skiing?

Emily: Of course! I hope to come back to full on winter!