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Trip Report (continued):
The beginning of this trip report is here.
Day 2: Ascent of Guagua Pichincha.
Diego picked us up at Casa Helbling at 0630. We drove across the first ridge and descended to the village of Lloa before starting the long climb up towards Guagua Pichincha. The road gets fairly rough in places and a 4WD is needed. We parked at the level area well above 4100 meter, thus we would start today's hike almost as high as our highest point yesterday. We agreed to meet Diego again around 1300 and started our climb by 0800.
We reached the hut at 4550 meter after one hour, at 0900, and rested about 15 minutes there. As we continued up the broad trail towards the ridge, the wind picked up in strength and by the time we reached the rim, it was strong enough to require full wind protection and focus on not being pushed around. We scrambled easily around the false summit and proceeded to climb the main summit directly, arriving there at 1000. Clouds were drifting around and the visibility was quite variable. We first went across to the northernmost summit, but realized that the first summit was likely a bit higher. Returning there, we measured the highest rock rather carefully before seeking shelter for the wind and having lunch on a sizeable chocolate cake that I had carried up. We spent a full hour near the very summit, just short of the elevation of Mont Blanc, we figured this was good for our acclimatization efforts. During this time, the wind subsided and the views gradually improved. We could see more of the ridge that we had come along.
By 1100, it was time to start descending. We downclimbed the same route as we had come up, a few variations were possible and I got busy taking pictures of Rob and Adam as they came down in good style. We returned to the hut were we met three Americans that were staying at Casa Helbling. Continuing downhill, we reached the parking at 1240 and Diego was already there waiting.
The day was still young and our plan now called for driving north towards the base of Imbabura. In this way, we should be able to climb it on our third consecutive day of climbing. We started driving north, the distances seem small, however driving takes considerable time. We made a stop at a nice viewpoint, location S00:01.276 W078:16.020, elevation approximately 2800 meter. Panorama pictures were taken, see below this section.
We drove across the saddle and made a brief stop at a small store were we could purchase water. This place had a nice view across the valley with the lake Laguna San Pablo. Imbabura came into view, its summit partly covered by clouds.
We knew that the precise prominence of Imbabura was uncertain. Being the lowest potential ultra (ie. prominence exceeding 1500 meter), we wanted to make accurate GPS measurements of this peak. In order to obtain a good, local reference measurement, we made a stop by the lake Laguna San Pablo and took pretty long GPS measurements series. As long as the local ducks did not eat our instruments, we got pretty good agreements on a lake elevation of 2676 meter. This is 14 meter above the SRTM data, thus we were now in a position to measure the summit and adjust for a systematic difference related to the (SRTM based) measurement of the defining saddle. As we continued driving west of Imbabura, the clouds cleared. We needed to get around (north) to the town of Ibarra, from there we would look for accommodation. The huge mountain Cayambe came into view, this would be our last objective if the trip proceeded without any delays.
Diego knew about and recommended that we should stay at a very nice homestead high on the Imbabura slopes. This was an excellent suggestion, a place like this is indeed very difficult to find without expert local knowledge. This place, called San Clemente, had a single room with 4 beds upstairs reserved for guests. Later, a delicious family style dinner based on local food was served downstairs.
Quite happy with a very successful day, we went to bed right after dinner. The plan called for an early breakfast and departure the following morning, this should improve our chances of good weather for our planned climb of Imbabura. (The trip report continues there.)