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Ecuador Peaks

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Ecuador Peaks

Postby susanjoypaul » Fri Mar 20, 2009 11:45 am

I’m heading south to Ecuador in June and thought I’d throw out my plans, and get some feedback from my fellow 14nerds!

My hiking buddy and I have been planning this trip since February 2008 – right after we got off Orizaba, actually, so we’ve had plenty of time to make all the *big* decisions about how we want to proceed. We have the tickets, guide, transportation, and hotel all taken care of – oh, and we’ve decided which peaks we want to attempt also: Cayambe, which is the highest point on the equator and – according to Brain (Yossi, not Pinky and the) “the only place in the world with a temperature and latitude of zero;” Cotopaxi, because we’ve done an 18er and want to try a 19er; and Chimborazo, because it’s a country highpoint!

For gear: we’re both done Rainier and Orizaba, so we’re well-prepared in that regard. The only upgrades I’ve done are new La Sportiva Nuptses (upgrade from Glaciers); Patagonia wool base layers – top and bottom (up from UnderArmor); a hooded OR Refuge down jacket (up from my $18 non-hooded jacket that I bought at Ross); and some wonderful down booties for around the hut/camp (instead of my Tevas).

Technical training: We’ve both been through HAMS (high altitude mountaineering school) twice, so we’ll just be running through indoor z- and c-pulley set ups (crevasse rescue practice) one evening a week for the six weeks leading up to the trip, and probably spend a couple of days on some snow doing the same, along with self-arrest practice, prior to the trip.

Altitude acclimatization: Get over 13,000’ every other week now – and over 13,000’ every week for the six weeks leading up to departure.

Fitness training: Cardio to include at least one peak, and at least 20 miles, every week. Hiking supplemented with bike/treadmill/stairmaster/elliptical gym work.

Weight training: 45 minutes, 4 times a week. Focus on free weights for balance and to hit a variety of muscle fibers, rotating between 6-12 exercises for each muscle group to hit all the heads, and between high-rep/low-weight and low-rep/high-weight to engage the slow- and fast-twitch muscle fibers.

Diet: 3 servings each of fruits and veggies every day, whole grains only 2x a day, fish 6x a week. No alcohol (just kidding :D ). The goal is to have 15 fewer pounds on my back (end) to haul up those peaks.

Sacrifices: I quit cigarettes for Rainier, and ice cream for Orizaba, and I’ve given up TV dinners for these peaks. I have a weakness for the fried chicken, creamy white paste that somehow passes for mashed potatoes, 10 dinners for $10 ones – not the Lean Cuisine things – the greasy, full fat, clog-your-veins, stop-your-heart variety. This, so far, has been the toughest challenge.

Education: Checking out trip reports here and on SummitPost, and I’ve read Yossi Brain’s Ecuador climbing guide from cover to cover. I’ll start a thread out on SP a few weeks prior to departure, for current condition updates.

Soooo… what am I missing? Even more importantly – for those of you who have been on these peaks – what did you discover that you wish you had known before going to Ecuador, and attempting these peaks? I’ve heard some rumblings about the poor quality of food from a few folks… any truth to that? Any other advice you can offer will be greatly appreciated!

Finally – we expect to have a few “down days” in Quito – so if there are any must-see places to visit (I’m partial to museums and historical sites) would love to hear your recommendations.

Thanks guys!

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Re: Ecuador Peaks

Postby MountainHiker » Fri Mar 20, 2009 12:28 pm

Susan,

My trip to Ecuador was my least successful of my foreign trips. I went with a group of friends who were self organized as a group. It was Jan – Feb of 96. One of the two climbing seasons is Nov – Feb, however our arrival brought the end of the drought they were having. We were on both Chimborazo and Tungurahua without summits. If I go to Ecuador again I will comb through many trip reports for clues to avoid similar weather problems. On that trip I was a follower of someone who had made the arrangements, so I would have to start almost from scratch on the research.

I remember we visited a cultural museum in Quito. I also heard about an artist market outside the city at or near the equator.

Food – I liked the food, especially the trucha – trout, and their café con leche is good. There was often chocolate powder on the table to add to it. They will also have guinea pig!

I also have Nuptses and really like them.

Continue practicing your Spanish!

Maybe someday I will make it back to Ecuador. I enjoyed the trip even though I didn’t get any summits.
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Re: Ecuador Peaks

Postby susanjoypaul » Fri Mar 20, 2009 7:10 pm

Thanks MountainHiker. Weather woes seem to be a recurring theme on those peaks - I've spoken to several people who've been stormed off them. I chose my dates carefully, but it's still a crapshoot when it comes down to it, isn't it? I do have several rest days built into the schedule, so I'm hoping we can work around any bad weather summit bids.

The cultural museum and artist's market sound like good bets for my interests - I'll look them up. And thanks for the food and beverage tips as well. And finally - YES - I hate that I never took Spanish in high school, when my brain was still all spongey and absorbent... everything just seems to roll off nowadays! I'll get some learning CDs or something though - at least make a concerted effort. That was indeed a frustration in Mexico - not being able to converse fluently with all the people, especially the ones who went out of their way to help me out.

I hope you get down there again too. But at least you went - you tried. More than most will ever do.

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Re: Ecuador Peaks

Postby Bullwinkle » Fri Mar 20, 2009 8:08 pm

Ecuador used to be part of my patch when I lived in South America and my son is now on a semester abroad program at the university in Quito. He was on Tungurahua in January, but failed to summit due to weather and volcanic emissions. He summited Cotopaxi on 8 Feb in decent, but cold, windy weather. I have posted a few pics.

Recommend you spend a few days in Quito prior to ascent to get your legs under you. Elevation is similar to Summit County, but generally warmer and more humid in the daytime. Make sure you bring rain gear to handle the frequent showers. The teleferico ascends from Quito at 2,850m to a shoulder of Pichincha at 4,050m. You can test your legs a bit at the top. Quito is a pleasant city with a nice mix of indigenous, colonial, and modern influences. There is a fantastic bike path that follows an old railroad grade--if you can find a bike rental. Old churches, such as San Francisco and La Compania. Must see: the equator monument just 10K north of town. Ecuador has also become a noted exporter of roses and other flowers--may be worth a nursery visit. There is a nice indigenous market at Otavalo. Depending on budget and travel plans, there is a really nice hacienda on the route south past Cotopaxi, named La Cienega. http://www.hosterialacienega.com/

Ambato, Banos, Riobamba, and Cuenca form a chain of regional cities as you head south (Cuenca is probably the nicest--and furthest).

I know you are an accomplished climber with keen discipline. Just use your good judgment with the crevasses, seracs, and the rock/ice wall. Cayambe is more technical that either Cotopaxi (essentially, a steep walk-up) or Chimborazo. The Ruales-Oleas-Berge refugio at 4,800m is one of the nicer ones in country. It bunks about three dozen, has running water, a kitchen, fireplace, and emergency radio. In peak season, you would do well to book ahead.

Finally, stay in a group. Be especially careful at night. Ecuador is not as safe as it used to be.
As a mountain more fully reveals itself to a man, so the true nature of the man will be more fully revealed

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Re: Ecuador Peaks

Postby d_baker » Fri Mar 20, 2009 8:31 pm

susanjoypaul wrote:Technical training: We’ve both been through HAMS (high altitude mountaineering school) twice, so we’ll just be running through indoor z- and c-pulley set ups (crevasse rescue practice) one evening a week for the six weeks leading up to the trip, and probably spend a couple of days on some snow doing the same, along with self-arrest practice, prior to the trip.

Altitude acclimatization: Get over 13,000’ every other week now – and over 13,000’ every week for the six weeks leading up to departure.

Hopefully on steep snow.
Don't you have Castle left? That N couloir looks sweet!

Good luck on your trip!

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Re: Ecuador Peaks

Postby susanjoypaul » Fri Mar 20, 2009 9:32 pm

Bullwinkle – thanks for all the very helpful advice. I remember your pictures now... what a great experience for your son. Quito looks like a beautiful city! Not sure about the bike path, though – I have a strong suspicion that I’ll be saving my legs for the peaks. I’m not religious but I truly enjoy exploring old churches. They were the highlight of my trip to Rome a few years ago – the architecture in some of those places is just incredible. So thanks for the names – I’ll look those up, and the equator monument also.

We’re staying at Cuello de Luna after Cotopaxi, but that hacienda looks worthy of a side-trip. Will have to see how much downtime I have, I guess. We will, however, be at the Ruales-Oleas-Berge hut for Cayambe. And I never balk at well-intentioned words of caution – so I do appreciate the advice in regard to the technical difficulty and potential danger on Cayambe – I will definitely be erring on the side of safety on this trip. The guide we’re using is ASEGUIM-certified – I know when I’m pushing the limits of my abilities and need to add a third (and more experienced) person to the climb, to supplement my own expertise. So, thank you – point taken – will keep my eyes wide open, on the peak, and in the city too.

Darin – Yup, Castle is on the list and a distinct spring possibility. Thanks for the well wishes!

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Re: Ecuador Peaks

Postby Haliku » Sun Mar 22, 2009 5:50 am

Sounds like you have a solid run on the trip already. You might not need to practice your z and c skills so much but I understand you have to do something to keep you away from the frozen dinners! :D

Seriously you are on the mark. Banos is well worth a visit on the way to Chimbo after Coto. The thick air at 6k and the hotsprings really help recovery. In Quito check out the natural history museum. Amazing timeline of Ecuador history, art and culture.

Food in Ecuador was really tasty if you are open to trying dishes you can't find in the US. The beef is excellent as it is grass fed in South America. My TR over on SP should give you a good flow of a trip there. I found the people to be very friendly--rivals to Kiwi's even.

If you have any specific questions feel free to PM etc. Cheers!
"You step onto the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to."

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Re: Ecuador Peaks

Postby susanjoypaul » Mon Mar 23, 2009 11:17 am

Haliku wrote:Sounds like you have a solid run on the trip already. You might not need to practice your z and c skills so much but I understand you have to do something to keep you away from the frozen dinners! :D

It always looks so easy (z-pulley set-up) till I actually have to do it – to pass HAMs we had to pull someone out of a “virtual crevasse” (basically, over the edge of a snow bank at the bottom of a slope) within 15 minutes of a fall, and we got it down to 5, so that’s my goal. It seems that something almost always inevitably goes wrong, adding minutes to rescue – either the anchor isn’t properly seated, it pops and somebody has to stand on it, or a prusik gets jammed into the pulley system – so the more automatic this is for me, the better. That way I can follow the proper steps quickly and without thinking – and focus on correcting the unexpected f***-ups that are sure to occur.

The poundage is melting quickly! One of those Banquet meals has 906 calories and 52.39 grams of fat, versus 250 calories and 11 grams of fat in a Tortilla Crusted Tilapia fillet, plus another 50 calories and no fat in a package of steamed baby Brussels sprouts, which is a typical meal right now. That change alone has shaved nearly 5,000 calories and 300 grams of fat a week off my diet – enough to drop a pound a week. And yes – the pulley practice does help curb the frozen dinner addiction, as my climbing partner won’t let me touch his rope with chicken grease on my fingers.

Seriously you are on the mark. Banos is well worth a visit on the way to Chimbo after Coto. The thick air at 6k and the hotsprings really help recovery. In Quito check out the natural history museum. Amazing timeline of Ecuador history, art and culture.

Those sound like excellent choices. I’m collecting all the suggestions and doing some research on them – will ultimately present my recommendations to my climbing buddy and see what he thinks, before finalizing the itinerary. The natural history museum is very appealing.

Food in Ecuador was really tasty if you are open to trying dishes you can't find in the US. The beef is excellent as it is grass fed in South America. My TR over on SP should give you a good flow of a trip there. I found the people to be very friendly--rivals to Kiwi's even.

Well THAT’S good news. I always look forward to enjoying new food – and people – when I travel. Some of my favorite recipes are stolen from other places! Will have to pass on the beef, though – I quit eating red meat in 1978, and now it’s like poison in my system.

That’s a nice page on Summit Post. I’ve been referencing the peak-specific pages on that site, but I missed this trip report. Will add to my “required reading” list. I also just picked up a new book called “Ecuador: Climbing & Hiking Guide” by Rob Rachowiecki and Mark Thurber – I’ve been waiting for it to come out for a year, so I was happy to see that it was worth the wait. Chockfull of detailed information about various routes on those peaks, maps, photos, and more... trip reports like yours are invaluable, though, as a first-person guide to what it’s really like to spend some time in another country, so thank you for the link.

If you have any specific questions feel free to PM etc. Cheers!

Thanks Haliku – I will.

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Re: Ecuador Peaks

Postby cheeseburglar » Mon Mar 23, 2009 1:18 pm

I agree with the Banos suggestion. Neat place. Don't worry about the color of the water or the funny old men.
I don't know about trying to lose weight before you go. What if you end up doing the special Ecuadorian full system flush like I did right before Chimborazo? It's a little uncomfortable at the time but you should feel like a dollar fifty afterwards if you have some reserves in store!
Eat at Quito Tiempo in Quito. I had a three course lunch there for $1.75, even though I had no idea what I ordered.
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Re: Ecuador Peaks

Postby susanjoypaul » Tue Mar 24, 2009 12:00 pm

I may hit Banos, but not likely. Hot baths make me relax, and I hate to relax.

I’m also hoping to avoid the full flush – by staying out of questionable water, avoiding questionable old men, and not putting any questionable food in my mouth. I may actually pack myself in bubble wrap for this trip, just to be safe. If I were going on a week-long (or longer) expedition I would be more concerned with keeping the weight on – but this is basically a series of difficult day-hikes, with rest days in between, so I’ll have plenty of opportunities to eat something other than banana chips and Ramen.

I can’t find that particular restaurant on the Internet – but I did find a link to reviews of 213 other places to eat in Quito, so I’m sure I’ll be able to find something (that doesn’t come from a cow, or a pig, or a guinea pig). Lots of options: http://www.vivatravelguides.com/south-america/ecuador/quito/quito-restaurants/

So – thanks for all the great advice Cheesy :D Is your bar slipping? Or am I fanta – um, imagining things?

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Re: Ecuador Peaks

Postby MountainHiker » Tue Mar 24, 2009 12:14 pm

susanjoypaul wrote: so I’ll have plenty of opportunities to eat something other than banana chips and Ramen.

That reminds me, the fresh banana chips were good!

Remember to have Imodium with you!
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Re: Ecuador Peaks

Postby cheeseburglar » Tue Mar 24, 2009 1:00 pm

Freddy with Sierra Nevada recommended the Quito Tiempo restaurant to us, and it was a great recommendation for Ecuadorian cuisine.
It's not the restaurant that I acquired the system flush at...
It's on the main drag in Quito that goes from where all the guides and outdoor shops are to the big park where they sell cool tourist swag on weekends.
Here is a photo of the ramen our guide cooked for us at one of the huts. Yummy. Yummy. Yummy.
Image
susanjoypaul wrote: :D Is your bar slipping? Or am I fanta – um, imagining things?

I just got back from a trip of physical and spiritual healing. The bar may have needed to expand a little.
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