Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cotopaxi the hard way - Sea to Sky

Trip report at the bottom.

Pedernales: closest beach to Quito. About 280km in two days, over a 3000m pass. L to R Marco (el lobo) Steve, Pablo (Compadre), Javier (Jefe) Robert joined us for the 2nd and 3rd cycling days as he had just returned from Holland and didn't think he could acclimatize properly.

The peleton just flying along.

Forgot the name of this monster fruit.

Day 3 (after a day off)....on the road from Quito up to Tambopaxi 17km of the 53km that day was cobblestone. Cotopaxi in the distance.

Javier, Marco and Robert from L to R

Sincholagua, just north east of Cotopaxi

Carla hugging some alpine flowers. Javier, Robert and Steve had their families meet us at Tambopaxi. We spent the afternoon and following morning together, before starting the hike to the refuge.

Ramon going for it, with Robert spotting him.

Marti and Elisa (Javier and Robert's daughters) with Cotopaxi in the background. These two lovely girls will be in my class this year!

Javier jumping a canal on the way up to the Refuge. The hike was roughly 1000m vertical metres, followed by 1100m the next day to the summit.

Marquito our expert guide, with whom I have previously climbed Cayambe and Ruminhaui.

Pablo downclimbing a section.

Wasted and coated in rime.

Summit. Steve and Pablo. Spent all of 9 minutes there. Sign reads "Sea to Sky, 5897m 4.5 days.

Trip report:
The idea for this trip had been fomenting in the back of Javier's brain for a number of years. Before he became a mountain guide, he was an Ecuadorian cycling champion and had dreamed of combining his two passions in a challenging way. The four of us started at the closest beach to Quito in Pedernales on Monday, with Robert joining us for 2 out of 3 cycling days. Instead of 3 days, we made it to Quito in 2 very long days, and decided to take a rest day in Quito. On Thursday we biked up to Tambopaxi Lodge....from 2300m in the valley to around 3800m at the lodge. Both Pablo and Marco had never ridden these kinds of distances before and were really happy to have pushed their limits to new extremes. After spending the afternoon and following morning with some of our families, we left after lunch for the 4.5 hour/1000m hike up to the Refuge. Had dinner around 6, hit the sack around 8, got up at midnight and left the refuge at 1am. Marquito the meticulous guide and good friend of Javier's joined us as Javier haden't been up the volcano much recently and the route always changes and to have someone else to turn back with in the event of problems, rather than the whole team turning back. Everyone else had summited Cotopaxi before, except for myself with 2 previous attempts.

So up we went for about 1.5 hours of zigzaging scree to the glacier. At this point, Marco had had enough of the extreme wind (around 80kph higher up) and Javier had a headache in spite of having taken Diamox; so they turned back. Pablo, Marquito and I geared up and started the climb. Many hours of staring at the light from our headlamps as there was no moon. With about 600m vertical remaining, the wind began to blow even harder, knocking us down a number of times, and the snow began. At this point my energy started to wane and I began to consider turning back. The 5 hour toe warmer had expired and my left foot was beginning to freeze. Pablo decided he was OK to continue, so with my total trust in Marquito, having climbed with him twice before, we carried on. At this point, fighting the wind, altitude and extreme fatigue, Marquito practically pulled me along to get me moving (I was in the middle of the rope, being the weakest link) as we had to get down before the ice bridges began to soften. 6.5 hours (at 7:40) later we summited, took a few pics and headed back down after only 9 minutes. It was a total white out and no views whatsoever. A 100m or so below the summit there were one of very few places that were somewhat sheltered from the wind and I managed to get the boot off and get two more foot warmer pads in there. The wind pushed us over a few more times and we got covered in rime, barely able to see where we were going, as we staggered our way back down to the refuge, sometime around 10:30. It was after about 5 minutes in the Refuge that it suddenly hit me, what I had done and rather unexpectedly, a few tears flowed.

Upon reflection, I have NEVER pushed myself to such an extreme climbing. I used my precious remaining energy to gain the summit, thus endangering my ablity to decend, which also put our guide and my partner at risk. That really hit me when I got to the safety of the refugio. Why? 3rd attempt; to go from Sea to Sky; having someone from our team, make it to the summit (if I would have turned back, Pablo would have had to as well). Of course it all turned out well in the end, but overextending myself like that at high altitude, is not something I wish to repeat.

Why so drained?
-Fatigue of cycling from the coast
-Improper acclimatization (although I had no ill effects from the altitude)
-Extreme winds
-hiking 1000m up the previous afternoon.
-no sleep
-Worrying about frozen feet (ended up with minor frostbite on the 2nd toe, enuf to loose the toenail...what irony here on the equator!)

If it wasn't for Marquito, I would have turned back long before, but in retrospect, thinking a guide will be there to get you out of trouble, just doesn't sit well with me afterwards, as I put myself and others in danger.

In the was a great team effort and everyone learned that they were capable of something more than expected!

In an email later from Javier:
"It's not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves"-Sir Edmund Hillary
You did not conquer Coto profe just got to know your self better

Thursday, August 18, 2011

To market to buy a fat pig

Hiking...papa stay here

Little miss independent!

Our new home

View out one of the many windows. This is to the west....Quito is up there behind the ridge and volcan Pichincha is the peak in the distance. Looking from 2300m at home to 4700m. There is snow on it about 20 times or so during the year.

5 trips in 2 hours to move 500m across the street. That's brother in law, Carlos in the back...he was a huge help moving and 3 days getting the house set up the way we like it. Gracias Charlis :)

The boyz

Wowee...a bathtub even!

Living room


Gotta have the hammock up 1st!

It's a one bedroom joint....wish dad luck. Loft up the stairs to the right.

This is the guest house....50m from the house. It's a raised, bamboo shack, tin roof, typical of the coast. 3 rooms...electricity, but no water. So there is an guest toilet and sink attached to our house with an outside door...but no you have to ask Carla and Ramon if you can use their bath tub.
We thought we would stay in the same place but the owner reneged on a 2 year renewal that we had signed. All for the better though, as this is $225 cheaper, cleaner and brighter...even if it is smaller and a 5 minute walk to work, rather than 3 mins :) The owners plan on building a bigger house on the lot next year...we'll see how that goes! I expect that Ramon will love to watch the construction.

TZ Family bike trip along the Ecuadorian coast

Well...the much anticipated family holiday started off with a long bus ride to Bahia de Caraquez. We were dropped off at the end of this new 2km bridge and made use of the bike lane to get to our hotel on the other side. 330km in 9 cycling days for a 37km average. We had two weeks in total and spent 2 days in a few places. The longest day was 60km, only because there was no hotel in town and we had to carry on another 12km or so. But otherwise anywhere between 2.5 to 4 hours of riding time, with stops in school parks and beaches. Carla would usually sleep about an hour of that riding time.

Bahia de Caraquez. Great little peninsula town with open beach to the west and calm river/ocean beach to the north, which is great for kids.

View of Bahia from a hike up to the cross.

Calm beach and the new bridge over the Rio Chone.

The 1st 21k we rode on the beach at low tide.

If we get tired of cycling holidays, we can always check in here for something different.

Carla's little house on wheels.


San Clemente

Carla loves coconut water....she's got a big pile to work on!

Ecuador even has proper bike the city of Manta anyways. Manta is where the prez refused to renew the American's airbase lease, because they wouldn't let him open and Ecuadorian airbase in Florida.

Found this little doggie hanging around his dead mom, who's leg was sticking out of the gunny sack that someone had thrown over the edge of the road. Maybe he was in it too. Gave him some food and water and told the people at the hotel about him. Not sure if they took him in.

Good thing he's not steering.

Nice shoulder!

Too much attention for Carlita.

The only rain on the trip...a 6km downhill into San Lorenzo. Thanx for the light Studley!

A cloud of Frigates.

A bit like the Oregon coast!

...and a bit of the Italian med....

Puerto Cayo.

only 60 bucks a night for one of these cabins on the beach. Kitchenette too. We stayed in a smaller unit in the back for $20. The place is American owned and for sale.

Baby Bagre

Thanx to our Swiss friends, Puis and Margret for the Swiss knife! It sure slices pineapple nicely!

Don't throw garbage on the beach....courtesy of Bart Simpson.

Fishing town before Puerto Lopez...can't remember the name and too lazy to dig out the map.

Gorgeous 5km section of road before Puerto Lopez.

Aw shucks...ain't he cute. Here they call it a tells me it's a Coati.

More wildlife

Rule number 2 sounds like fun.

Ramon taking in a little early morning surf action in Montanita.

Carla poking around in the tide pools. I used to love doing that when I was a kid....on the west coast out of Vancouver.

Montanita is a stop on the gringo trail...which means banana pancakes....this one came with chocolate inside.

All on his own....Ramon, papa, mama, Carla.....I think he's ready for kindergarten.

Just a beach cruising holiday....had a slight headwind most of the way, but it wasn't too big of an issue.

One very skinny fish.

Guitar fish.

3km of soon to be paved road into Ayangue. Carla had a bit of a bumpy ride.


Fresh Calamari?

This place has just been purchased by a retired couple from Calgary! We were the first Calgarians to rock up. Denise is a retired med library tech from the U of C and Paul is a retired HD mechanic. Their pensions were not enuf to live on in Calgary, so they sold their Bowness condo and paid 80 grand for this house one block back from the beach and converted it into a B and B. The locals direct the gringo traffic to them. We had a great dinner and came back for breaky (the rooms weren't quite ready yet, so we stayed elsewhere). Give them a try if you're down this way. They don't yet speak Spanish and had never been to Latin America. I admire the courage they have to just sell everything, pack up and take on such a challenge in their golden years.

The posh hotel in Ayangue....Las Cumbres. It was off season and we had the pool and resturant to ourselves. Temps in the low to mid 20's this time of the year, which is great for the kids and cycling. Too hot and sunny in Feb.

Pedestal for a glass top table.

Humpback whale watching at Las Cumbres. Saw them blow and surface about 10 times!

Dr. Ramon!

Ok...guess we won't go swimming at this beach kiddies!

Salinas is where we finished. No direct day bus, so we left at 8:30pm and got home at 6am. Kids slept well...Maria did OK....I read.

Salinas is a soul-less character...just a strip of big hotels/condos on an average that we couldn't even enjoy, as the authorities were telling people to get off the beach as they were expecting some kind of super high tide....which never materialized. It's also Ecuador's biggest resort...and only 2 hours from the biggest city of Guayaquil.