Iliniza Norte Mountaineering Trip Log

Thursday, January 09, 2003

The hacienda San Jose is pretty cool.  It's a lot nicer than I expected. It's actually the house of a man who lived in the states at one time.  his wife is Mexican and they basically rent out their house and two cabins to guests who are usually going to climb at the Illiniza's.  The two cabins each have two bunk beds, a loft with beds in it, a bathroom with hot showers a toilet and sink, and a fireplace. 

Word of advice.  If you want to feel close to a heart attack, play basketball at 12000 feet!


Friday, January 10, 2003

Today we had breakfast, loaded our big packs on horses, and hitched a ride on the back of a pickup up to the "parking lot".  From there we hiked up to 15,200' where the refugio was.  It was pretty weird though.  Kind of like driving in fog because we were walking in a cloud most of the way. At most points, you couldn't see more than 50 feet ahead.  It was pretty difficult for me.  I was at the back of the pack the whole day.  But when I got to the top, I didn't have any feelings of altitude sickness. 

we waited in the refugio, which was cold, damp and green from the accumulated moss or algae or whatever it was on the walls. It took approximately 3 hours before our big packs came and we were able to set up camp.  Apparently, one of the horses had some problems and got away.  It took them a while to get back on track.  By about 6 we were cooking dinner. 

Today was my first taste of freeze dried mountain food.  I had the Beef stew.  a little tough to get it totally hydrated. Some of the vegetables tasted a little like styrophome.  But, overall, it was actually pretty good.  I was hungry like a hostage though!!!


Saturday, January 11, 2003

I didn't do a thing today but recover from the beef stew I had last night.   when. And then study some Spanish and nap all day.  It's called ....acclimatizing!!


Sunday, January 12, 2003

4:30 in the morning isn't bad when you're at altitude because you really don't sleep well anyway.  At least not when the tent is overcrowded and you barely have enough room to roll around.  We carried just our daypacks and headlamps and headed out in the dark to start the climb.  As always, I was the last to be ready so I was trying to catch up to the rest of the group.  By my 25th step I was already breathing heavily. 

Oh.  And by the way.  My gloves suck.  The fingers aren't sewn in (removable liners) so they're tough to get in and out of when you're hands are wet or sweaty. 

The first part of the climb was up a 45 degree hill of dirt and rocks.  By the time I had gotten to the top of the rock scree, I was dying.  But not sore or tired, just out of breath.  I couldn't believe how thin the air was at that altitude.  I can't even imagine what Everest or K2 must be like. 

The next part of the climb was where we began to traverse across.  There were a couple of shady parts.  Especially where the ice was covering about a 15 to 20 foot section and we had to basically step in the footprints of the people who crossed before us in order to keep from sliding a very long ways.  I thought I would be scared but it's weird.  You really just do it without thinking about it. 

Once we past that part, we stashed our trekking poles and started climbing over and around the rocks.  At this point I got a lot more comfortable.  The pace slowed a little because below a lot of the holds were steep drops off the side of the mountain.  Not only that, I just feel more confident when the conditions are not so slippery.  For the most part, overall, there were no really difficult or technical areas.  Just, as our fearless leader Roy would say in his regal English accent, "A good stiff hike."

We got up and down a few false summits and then we finally made it.  At about 8:15, I touched the cross in the middle of a cloud.  That's why Jules (our para rescue guy) usually starts at night so that he summits right around sunset.  Usually at sunset it's still cold and crisp and there are no clouds so you get a great view of everything. 

The view is ridiculous!  As we were coming back down, after a few in our party put their clothes back on after taking naked summit pics, the skies cleared.  In the distance you could see Cotopaxi above the cloud line.  It looked like a volcano in the middle of erupting that had been frozen in ice!  The clouds were coming off of it looking like it was exploding. 

On our way down, which was much easier than going up, I asked "Who put all these rocks up here?"  The only response I got was it was "somebody a little bigger than you!"  As the rocks gave way to the scree and dirt, the downclimbing turned into skiing and sliding, which was pretty fun.  At 9:30 I had officially climbed a mountain. 

We got back to the ranch, loaded all our stuff (big packs and day packs) onto another little Toyota, and headed off.  On our way we picked up an Ecuadorian man and his wife and child.  They squeezed into the back as the woman started to breast feed the child!!!  words can't truly describe and I couldn't reach my camera!

Once we got to the Pan American Highway, we piled into a bus to the humor of the resident Ecuadorians and got back to Quito where we went to Mongolian BBQ for dinner and had one of our last meals together. 


Monday, January 13, 2003

Today is my last day in Ecuador and I was able to finally get to the Instituto Geographico Militario to pick up some maps of the oyacachi trail and some satellite photos as well.  I had a big steak for lunch, organized, packed all my shit and relaxed. 

Overall, it was a great trip.  It was a great introduction to Mountaineering and hopefully, my next one will be Orizaba, Mexico!



"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."    — Robert A. Heinlein

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