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Ecuador Trip Report:
A brief description of Ecuador Ecuador (which means equator) is a small country in the north-west of South America. With Colombia to the north and Peru to the south, this nation has the same area as the United Kingdom. The country includes the famous islands of Galapagos in the Pacific. The country is one of only 17 countries that are defined as "megadiverse", ie. harboring a majority of the earth's species, in this capacity Ecuador is among the very smallest having a radius of about 300 kilometer.
Ecuador was part of the Inca Empire from 1463. It was ruled by Spain from 1561 until its liberation in 1822. The country has had a long lasting border dispute with Peru, with war between the two countries as recent as in 1995. This issue was finally settled in 1998. The republic had military rule from 1972 to 1979, but is now again a democracy.
The language is Spanish, some knowledge is essential. There are two big cities, Guayaquil near the coast in the south, with almost 4 million people and the capital Quito inland at 2800 meter of elevation farther north. Ecuador has a significant petroleum industry, fishing, timber and gold are other important industries. The country has a great potential for tourist industry, unfortunately, public safety has not improved in recent years due to considerable poverty and unequal distribution of national income.
Background, trip organization This trip was initiated by Adam Helman, I became aware of it as Adam and Rob (Woodall) posted a request to the prominence group asking for one additional participant in February. (Wed, 13 Feb 2008 16:31:24 -0800) I replied positively on February 14th. and the team was then fixed. Airline tickets were purchased already in the spring, I would fly from Bergen via Amsterdam to Quito and arrive there on December 7th.
Later, I met Rob in Tirol where we climbed Ortler together at the very end of August. We had a really nice weekend and it made me look even more forward to the upcoming trip to Ecuador. Adam initiated a contact with Compania de Guias de Montana, they turned out to be very competent and able to accommodate our self designed plan for the trip. Although none of these mountains had a character or level of difficulty that would require a local guide, we still decided to locate a very capable local person that could serve a guide and as our driver. Considerable time would be wasted if we should have to locate places to stay, the location of the best trailheads, etc. See the very end of this report for more contact information. This company can be highly recommended.
Adam has written a very entertaining and personal trip report, it can be regarded as quite complementary to the information provided in this report.
We travel to Quito, Ecuador
Rob flew from London and Adam travelled from Los Angeles. They met at our hotel Casa Helbling in the evening on December 6th.
I left Bergen around 1700 on December 6th. and travelled to Amsterdam. My flight to Quito left pretty late, around 2330, from Amsterdam. KLM is a pretty bad airline for tourists in general and for mountain climbers in particular. While most airlines allow at least two pieces of baggage (each more than 20 kilograms), KLM insists on a maximum allowance of only 20 kg. Since I had agreed to bring a complete tent as well as a stove plus freeze dried dinners serving Rob and me, I travelled with my plastic boots, goretex pants and jacket.
It turned out that this flight first stopped in the Dutch Antilles, off the coast of Venezuela, then overflew Quito on its way to Guayaquil on the coast of Southern Ecuador. The entire trip with this aircraft lasted 18 hours. Finally, on my way north toward Quito, I felt that the flight was nearing its end. Out on my right side, a very large mountain rose high above the cloud cover. Chimborazo no question about it, the principal goal of this trip was greeting me as I flew north towards Quito. Farther north, another principal objective, Cotopaxi, showed its top above the clouds, very impressive, if this trip evolved according to plan, I would soon stand on its summit. The airplane flew quite close to another well known peak, Illiniza, with its impressive South Peak and somewhat inferior North Peak. This peak was not part of our plan, we had decided to try two peaks in the north, Imbabura and Cotacachi instead. Finally, I got a close view of Corazon (4788 m), followed by Ruminahui (4721 m), just about overflowed by the rising clouds, with Cotopaxi standing guard behind.
The airport is in the middle of Quito, so no long transfer in order to get to the hotel. (They are making a new airport outside of Quito.)
The pre-arranged airport transportation worked very smoothly and soon I dropped my luggage in the Casa Helbling and was warmly greeted by Adam and Rob. I had never met Adam before, however, based on all his emails as well as personal accounts by "Esquared" (Edward Earl), Bob Packard and Rob, he seemed immediately familiar and matched my expectations fairly accurately.
We set out by taxi to visit the official site of the Equator, about 15 kilometer north of Quito. A pretty nice park with a large marker, unfortunately, the entire park is not on the equator, but slightly on the south side. Local folk dances were performed on the square just in front.
We left the park and walked along the highway a short stretch north in order to locate the true equator with our GPS units.
Day 1, Acclimatization climb of Pasochoa
Diego picked us up at 0730 and we drove south towards our first goal. As the road started climbing it got appreciably worse. We followed a bus that made surprisingly good progress up the steep and rough road. However, it suddenly stopped and for good reason. Part of the road had vanished down the steep slope on our right, quite a little landslide. We were able to sneak by and continue our drive to a small parking area that served as a trailhead.
We started hiking at 0850. Just near the small house, we met a young fellow on a horse. He advised that we should head more left and gain access to what looked like a farmers working road on the far end of the field. Following his advice led us to two other farmers that asked ten dollars in order to let us walk "on their land". Ignoring this request, we continued along the dirt road as it climbed gently leftwards. Before soon, the guy on the horse showed up and now told us that we could not reach Pasochoa by following this road. A simple scam altogether, we ignored the man, took a right turn higher up and regained the proper route near the distinct ridge. We made the north summit at 1105 and quickly realized that the south summit was higher. Following the high ridge, (the picture is looking back) we measured the prominence of the north summit to about 54 meter. The last part of this route was a somewhat steep scramble among rocks and trees. There were several alternatives. We arrived at the main summit of Pasochoa around 1140. A nice, rocky summit and time for a well deserved rest.
We left the summit after 30 minutes and followed the proper trail back to the house and the 4WD drive leading back down to our trailhead. We had agreed that Diego should be back waiting for us by 1400. However, as we reached the trailhead by 1345, he was then just turning his car around - close to perfect timing. Our first acclimatization hike had come to an end, 5 hours of easy hiking mostly along trails in a grassy landscape.
As we drove back to Quito, we could see our goal for the next day, the 600 meter higher Guagua Pichincha. (The trip report continues there.)