Dawn found us high on the mountain. The last several hours had been filled with the rhythmic crunching of crampons, interspersed with stories of past adventures and thoughts of the route to come. The angle of the ice and snow demands good crampon technique, and my team is showing me that they were paying attention during the training the day before.
By the time the sun hits us, we were at the base of the summit headwall. The morning light rejuvenated the team, along with some hot tea and snacks. The challenge of climbing at this altitude is felt everywhere. Simple tasks like eating food and adjusting boots is just a little bit harder. Our team is great though, everyone helped each other out and before we got too cold we are moving again. The crux of the route was next, with numerous large crevasses to negotiate. We must take care in terrain like this, moving amongst complex glaciated features at 18,000’ is no joke!
The route gets steeper and steeper as we close in on the summit, our grip on our axes got a little tighter and our focus a little sharper. Soon we were on the broad summit ridge, and then there was no more mountain to climb. The terrain fell away from us on all sides, the sea of clouds below give us the feeling of floating in the sky. It is always difficult to describe the feeling of summiting a big peak, the intense work and focus all come down to this moment. We eat, drink and take photos. I have guided and climbed many peaks in my life, but it sure is fun to climb a new one!
The descent was tiring, but within a couple hours we were back at the refugio. The cooks prepared us a killer lunch, and we were on the road back to Otavalo in no time. Again we stayed at the Hacienda Pinsaqui, and again we were taken back to another time and place amongst the gardens and historic buildings. No trip to Otavalo is complete without a trip to the Saturday market, which was conveniently timed for the following day. The colors, smells and vibrancy of the market were unbelievable, the people are friendly and my money goes a long way! I was able to buy all sorts of gifts for friends and family, I hope I have enough room in my duffles……
At last it is time to go home. Our trip has come to an end our team has to part ways. Several of the climbers are staying on for the extension, during which time they will successfully climb both Antisana (18,714’/5,704m) and Chimborazo (20,564’/6,263m). After a final team dinner the rest of us head back to the airport and once again check our duffle bags and head north.
The last nine days were a whirlwind of adventure, challenge and new friends. The ease of access to high mountains and overall experience blew me away. Ecuador is a real gem, I’ll be back soon.
For more information on our Ecuador Climbing School and other international expeditions check out our website and for any questions call the office at 877-873-5376 or send an email to info@alpenglowexpeditions.