Saturday, February 27, 2010

Kids visit Grandma and Grandpa Zambrano

Maria took the kids to Pasto for a week to be spoiled by the grandparents. Ramon got his first motorcycle ride...3 up no less! Also some pics from the Japanese Gardens at the University in Cumbaya...20 mins from home. Also a blackberry berry picking outing and a Coral snake..yes it's venomnous...found in the yard!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Straight out the back door for a ride to the Amazon

Over 4700m vertical meters of climbing in the course of 500 kilometres....what an endorphin rush!

Danger...Death curve....reduce speed
Starting in the top left hand corner, going clockwise. Hope you can zoom in on the detail. 0 is start....1 is Tena....2 is Banos.....3 is Machachi.
This is the mighty Iguana, going on 15 years, in its current incarnation. Not much left that is original....Suprisingly the Grab On foam grips are the same! I finally put shocks on last year...a must for the amount of cobblestone and brick paving in Ecuador. The Canondale handlebar bag I bought inn 86...still going strong. The only other original part is the frame! I dream of a Rholhoff (sp?) hub and Ortlieb panniers...but alas, I'm just a poor teacher.

222km from the Colombian border.
Marty grabbed a handful of brake as my Canadian cycling jersey kind of stands out down here. He's from Edmonchuck and bought the KLR in Colombia....going to TDF and back up to Canada. Check out his website and scroll down to Feb 14 for a photo of yours truly and our brief meeting. Copy and paste this link into another page, as I can't seem to activate this link so that you can just click on it.
The Amazon road goes as far as Zamora and then climbs up out of the Andes at Loja. I did this stretch from the Colombian border back in 96...most of it was oil/dirt/gravel/cobblestone. Yeah that was one sticky, sweaty, bumpy ride....with no shocks.

Statue of some indigenous woman with bulging thighs.
It's not easy to get a good foto of the Amazon...when all is green.
As I headed out of Puyo, back up the Andes, a road race was coming into town. Now at 11:30 it's not exactly running weather...good thing the ambulance is behind him. But then cada loco con su tema...every crazy person with their own I'm about to climb UP at mid-day!.
Ice cold billboards in the jungle.
Cyclists get to go around the 6 or 7 tunnels, on the old road.
Volcan Tunguragua 5023m. Climbed this in xmas eve 95 and spent the night in the summit crater. Most vertical I've ever done in a day....3200m from Banos! That's smoke and ash spewing out now. If I could have managed to stay awake after dinner...I would have been able to see the lava glowing red. Don't think I'll be repeating this climb any time soon.

Maria took the kids to Pasto for a week so that grandma and grandpa could spoil them. With a 4 day weekend all to myself, I decided to blow out the cobwebs with a long anticipated, loop ride to the Amazon. Starting from where we live in Cununyacu at 2300m at 4:30 am, I snuck out before the kids woke up (street lights for one hour until sunrise) and climbed up to the pass at 4000m by 9:30. Six degrees sure felt cold! Then down to lush, green Baeza at 1800m, where I met Marty, a young guy from Edmonton, riding his KLR to Tierra del Fuego.....and back! Then up to a minor pass, enshrouded with cool, humid cloud forest fog at 2000m and then down to hot, steamy Tena at about 500m. Got drenched just before I hit town, which was a welcome relief; nothing beats riding in warm rain! 186km and just over 11 hours of saddle time.
Left Tena at 5am, breathing in the humid, relatively cool morning air. I’d biked this stretch back in 1996 when it was dirt/gravel/oil....what a pleasure it was to be on new pavement! This was followed by rolling lowland riding with a sweaty 5 km climb about half way to Puyo, where I met a retired Dutch couple on their state of the art touring bikes, doing a tour of Ecuador. Hit Puyo at 11am, 80km , bypassed the town and started heading back up hill through a spectacular gorge that Maria and I had ridden down in 98? when it too was gravel. This being carnival weekend, people were throwing water on anything that moved, which was a bonus on the extremely hot ride up to Banos at 1800m...a 143km, 10 hour day in the saddle.
Monday morning I left at 5am for the cool, 35km climb back up to about 3000m, by-passed the big city of Ambato, rolled through the Avenue of the Volcanoes and up to a pass at around 3300m or so, just to the west of Cotopaxi. Here it began to rain on the downhill and I decided to pull into the town of Machachi to spend the night....5pm, 139km. The plan was to continue home, but the busy holiday traffic on a 4 lane hi-way with no shoulders at times, darkness fast approaching, weary, cold and wet, would have made it a bit dangerous. Tuesday turned out to be a 2 hour, mostly downhill ride back home....47km....for a total of 515km. Such stunning geo/bio diversity for a little old, back door loop ride!

kid pics

Playing in the hotsprings just down the road at El Tingo. The kids love the canal part of it. Got a few chickens...but they didn't last long...a dog got one and a cat the other.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cotopaxi - Solo attempt

Story at the bottom of the photos. The first 4 photos are from the internet, as is the foto of a single climber.

This picture from the camera of well know Ecuadorian ariel photographer, Jorge Anhalzer, shows the slopes of the north face of Cotopaxi, and the last third of the normal route, 2003. The route in red is the approximate route in January 2003. Yanasasha, the obvious rock band, is clearly visible below the summit. It got to a point just to the top right of the rock band.
A telephoto shot from nearby Tambopaxi lodge. The old route went up the RHS, rouphly along the shadow line, and met at the apex below and to the right of Yanasash, the rock wall.
This photo was taken in 2006...note in this and the last 2 photos the round summit cone.
This photo was taken by me 2 days ago....not the massive chunk of glacial ice that has broken away from the summit. No more perfect semetrical cone! Note how much the lower glacier has receded in just 5 years.
This is as far as I felt I could go safely. This party is decending a 45 degree slope...the steeper exposure below is out of the photo.
Another internet photo from This is just below the point I got to. It shows the steepness better than my photos. (Just to justify that I wasn't too much of a wimp to turn around :)
Shadow of Cotopaxi...Illiniza Sur and Norte to the left, with the full moon above; Corazon to the right.

The first party decending, I've brightened the photo as they still have their headlamps on.

At 5,897m, Cotopaxi is claimed by the Ecuadorians to be the highest active volcano in the world, although I believe there are higher, active volcanoes in Chile. I don’t know where the idea to solo it took root; perhaps because the mountain has been promoted to tourists as very accessible and therefore relatively easy ascent, that with so many people attempting it, the result is a trail to the top, (at least under good weather conditions). Of course a trail on a glacier does not make it safe, but it does reduce the risks….a risk that I am willing to take, as I have done on a few other glaciers in the past. Well, solo or not, it is a long, steep, glaciated climb and mountain that deserves more respect than it recieves.

From the parking lot at 4500m, it’s a ½ hour hike to the refuge, which was packed with over 60 people! Shortly before going to bed at 7pm, I watched a large group being shown what crampons are and how to put them on. The next morning, after zero sleep, I was the last one to leave the refuge at 1:30am and I passed about 30 people, most likely the ones with little or no experience. Gotta give them credit for trying, even though quite a few turned around without having reached the glacier.

After a one hour scramble up loose volcanic rubble, under a full moon and a howling easterly, I reached the foot of the glacier. A third of the way up it began to snow and at times, zigzaging past the crevasses, the wind blew it directly in my eyes. At first light, shortly before 6am, I reached an exposed traverse just above the huge rock band that one can see from Quito; the crux. It was a difficult place to be…only 150 vertical metres/45 minutes from the summit, ability and energy not being an issue and no ill effects from the altitude at about 5750m. It was just too steep and exposed and I’m not that comfortable on steep snow slopes, especially with that kind of exposure and gaping crevasses below. This particular stretch had such a steep drop, (steeper than I had anticipated) that one would not have much of a chance of surviving a fall. I’d already overcome a few steep bits, some with ice and some with loose snow, that I knew it would be tricky down climbing, so that also weighed on my mind. I had brought my harness with me to possibly hook up with a group, if the going became too risky to solo, but no one was behind me and the rest were on their way to the summit. Most importantly, this was also the moment when my 2 little bubbies, asleep at home, popped into mind. So, this left me with no choice but to turn around (Some would argue I should solo in the first place...cada loco con su tema)and carefully retrace my steps…down the beaten path.

The Cotopaxi glacier is possibly the most beautiful I’ve climbed and being the second highest peak in the country, the views, at least when it cleared on the west side, were astounding. If there was any consolation, the successful climbers I talked to later said that because of the wind driven snow, there was no view from the summit, or into the crater. Also the fact that the volcano is clearly visible from Quito, only a 3 hour drive, means that I’ll be back….only the next time with a rope and partner...can you hear me down under Studley?