Your HostYour Host
Big Gee in Action
Visitor Map YouTube Channel Home Backpacking Caving Climbing Travel Mountaineering Rappelling email Me       
Links Disclaimer Credits
April  May  June  [July Highlights] August  September  October  November  December  January  February  

July 2004 in Ecuador

30 July - 01 Aug: Return to Baños

Baños waterfall

Even though she spent a year living in Ecuador about 3 years ago, Katya had not been to Baños yet, and I was eager to return. Unfortunately going this weekend meant that I missed the SAE anniversary BBQ which probably would have been the better choice it turns out. We arrived Friday night and got a room at the Princesa María which was recommended by Sam. It was really, really nice and only $4 each. Thanks Sam. The problems began later than night when it started raining. Besides the bars and clubs at night there really is not anything to do in town. People go there for the waterfall hike, horseback riding, rafting, maybe watching the volcano above erupt, canyoneering, et cetera. When the rain started that night it did not stop until Sunday.

Also on Saturday I fell victim to some sort of stomach bug. It was pretty mild but I spent about 8 hours in the room mostly asleep. That was preferable to Katya's experience of watching bad American sitcoms and Shrek two times in the common room with the other bored foreigners waiting out the rain. By that night I was hungry and ready to go out. We got some quick food and some great desserts before joining a Brit and another Coloradoan for a night at the Leprechaun. My plan was to drink coca leaf tea but that was foiled by it's absence along with any other tea at this particular watering hole. So I made two beers last 5 hours as we watched the Ecuadorian staff trying to seduce gringas. One guy in particular was the most entertaining. We know he worked there because he took our order when we first arrived and the place was empty. Once other people arrived all he was doing was dancing with white chicks or dabbing sweat from their brow or pretending to be interested in their bad Spanish.

Sunday began cloudy but started clearing up right away. Too bad for me. I had to leave as I had a climb of Cayambe planned the next day and still had to prepare. We got some breakfast and took a walk to the thermal baths and a waterfall at the edge of town in the morning but that is all I had time for. Katya finally talked to one of her friends and arranged a trip for the two of them later that day so she and I split up. I wonder how that went.

29 July: City Adventures

Remember Sam from the former climbing team? He returned to Quito and on Thursday he and I plus Ellen and Mat met at a restraunt/bar/former net cafe called TomatoNet. We had nothing planned other than a little dinner and some stories but it turned into a real late night. And I found out that Ellen has some mountain experience and would like to do a couple while she is out here. Bonus. Anyway after food, drinks, a magician, and stories of Burning Man, we eventually left and someone suggested we sneak onto the roof of one of the swanky high rise hotels in the area. That sounded like a good idea so we smiled and buenas noches'd our way through the lobby to the elevator of the Hotel Rio Amazonas Internacional. Next stop the roof. The top floor was set up for business conferences and was deserted. After a little exploring in the dark I found a door to the outside. The views were beautiful. Ellen did not participate in peeing off the roof but like Mat and I she thoroughly enjoyed laughing at Sam who did not feel comfortable standing so close to the edge and was peeing off a metal staircase from a kneeling position. After watching a dinner plate explode on a warehouse roof far below we went back inside and after a little more exploring we headed out. The night was far from over however. We spent the wee hours of the morning at a salsa club.

25 July: Laguna Mojanda and Fuya Fuya (4,263 m / 13,986 ft)

Fuya Fuya

Anthony decided not do this one with us but he was replaced by Rob (Liz' friend that I had met before) and Katya who I met online through the SA Explorers Club. We hopped a bus for Otavalo 2 hours north then a pickup truck to Laguna Mojanda. This is a crater lake. The Mojanda volcano erupted in ancient times and the cone collapsed on itself after the magma chamber emptied. All that is left is a much eroded rim and the lake. The highest point is Fuya Fuya. From the lake it is a short 2 hour hike up to the summit. As so often happens with my trips here in Ecuador we were rained on beginning a half hour below the summit and not ending until we were driven back down to Otavalo.

We were wet and muddy but managed to have a good time anyway. There was lots of laughing the whole day. It was nice to combine this short summit hike with some tourism of the popular Laguna Mojanda and some time in Otavalo. We had a great time together as a group and I am eager to go back out with them.

24 July: Atacazo (4,463 m / 14,638 ft)

I had been planning this one for a while now. I thought I would hike up much earlier than the 24th of July but not so. For this one we were a group of 3 and we split a ride with Chris the Aussie. We drove in from the north and had quite a short hike to the summit but that was good for Liz, another SummitPoster, and Anthony, another South American Explorer. The hike back down to the Panamericana was neverending. Eight kilometers my ass. Unfortunately I forgot both my camera and GPS in the rush to get out in the morning. It was a very late night and I was not feeling super in the mañana. The picures would not have been too great anyway.

19 July: The Pichincha Traverse (4,627 m / 15,176 ft and 4,794 m / 15,728 ft)

Pichincha Traverse

After thinking about it for some time, I went out and did the Pichincha Traverse, Rucu to Guagua. I had barely any information about the route and a late start from a lower altitude than I expected. And I underestimated the Rucu ridge route. Fortunately I was planning on spending the night out (in the climbers hut on Guagua) so I had my sleeping bag and sufficient food to bivy in a cave below Rucu's summit around 4,500 meters. The summit ridge took me 3 hours. Most of that was on an exposed crest that required class 4, maybe 5.easy, moves with my backpack. But I survived and spotted the cave from the summit. I descended to my new home and had dinner. The next morning I started the actual traverse which turned out to be rather easy. There was even a trail to use. The picture was taken in the morning from near my cave. So that is Guagua Pichincha in the background, Padre Encantado in the middle left, and part of Rucu in the left foreground.

15 July: Big Gee gets 30 days from the Policia Nacional

Yes it is true. I received a 30 day extension to my tourist visa on Thursday. 90 days are usually granted upon entry in Ecuador and 3 separate 30 day extensions can be added on top of that. That was my first one. Hard to believe my stay here is half over.

14 July: City climbing

The family's oldest son, Antonio, and I checked out Quito's local climbing scene this afternoon. It is an outdoor sport climbing facility located in a large sport complex. Is it more or less the same as those I have been to in the US? Well lets just say there was no belay test before we were allowed to climb. Any problem letting a 90 pound kid who had never been climbing before lead belay me? Nope. Any anchors for that kid to clip into? Nope. Any problem letting him lead climb after my 1 minute of instruction and a test that consisted of me holding up a spare carabiner to practice clipping into twice (and he used both hands to do it)? Ahh Ecuador. How refreshing compared to the uptight US. But don't worry. Between the rain and climbing in my boots and not being willing to take a big fall on Antonio's belay, I was very conservative and the only real danger I witnessed was some girl's nonexistant belay for her sister some 60 feet off the deck.

10 July: Panacillo, La Cima de la Libertad, and Museo de la Ciudad

The weather was nice today at least initially so I decided to visit some tourist destinations in Quito. I also got to enjoy some nice food and ice cream while I was out.

La Virgen

Panacillo: Translated as "Little Bread Loaf" this small hill in the south of Quito was once the site of precolumbian religious significance and still hosts various indigenous festivals such as Inti Raymi. It also played a part during the Battle of Pichincha that won Ecuador its freedom from Spanish rule. Today it is best known as the hill topped by La Virgen, the only winged madonna in South America (or the world?). The description is taken from Revelations I believe. Including base the statue is some 45 meters high. The views of Quito were as nice as the food and ice cream. Mmmmm.

La Cima de la Libertad: Near the Panacillo is the military museum dedicated to the Battle of Pichincha that was won on the slopes of Volcán Pichincha. Hear Marshal Sucre beat the Spanish and freed Ecuador. The museum is pretty small. Actually it is really small but still interesting and has great views of the city below. The day was beginning to grow hazy by this time so for me it was not as nice as the Panacillo.

Museo de la Ciudad: On the way back down I hitched a ride with a young couple leaving La Cima back down to the old town. They were very nice and offered to take me to La Virgen with them but of course I was already there that morning. So the dropped me off a few blocks from the main square. On the way there I walked by the City Museum so I stopped in. $2 later I was wandering among the exhibits. Normally the museum doesn't host art but artifacts from daily Quito life over the last centuries such as 18th century kitchens, carriages, brass telescopes, etc. However there is a temporary exhibit dedicated to illustrations from Don Quijote so I was able to see that too.

After a quick walk through the old center I hopped on a bus and ended my tourist adventure for the day.

06 July: Cotopaxi victory (5,897 m / 19,347 ft)

Climbing Cotopaxi

The US-DE team is reborn in Big Gee and Konrad. We went out to Cotopaxi on Sunday. The weather was not looking good but it cleared up for our 01h30 start. Winds were moderate and visibility was great with the moon illuminating the glacier. Near the top the conditions changed and wind and clouds made it less pleasant. The photo on the right (that is a big crevasse!) is high on the mountain just before the sun rose. It is a remarkable 2 second exposure considering it was not very well stabilized. I don't really have many good pictures so there won't be a photo gallery from this climb.

I was really dragging by the time I got to the summit. I can't believe 1.100 meters took 7 hours! I was hoping for 6 hours to the summit but I had spent the last week lounging in Quito so my acclimatization wasn't great. The return to the hut was another 3 hours during which I managed to punish my right toenail against the inside of my boot. Ouch. Konrad does not have time to try for Chimborazo so that is not an option for the immediate future.

April  May  June  [July Highlights] August  September  October  November  December  January  February