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In November/December 2011 we have a small team of American friends climbing the Ecuador Volcanoes - Cayambe, Cotopaxi and Chimborazo. Guided by Rene Flores from Ecuador.

November 27

 Local fabrics available at the Otavalo markets  © Mark Sedon The team arrived on Saturday night and next morning we picked everyone up at 930am to go in the cable car up to Rucu Pichincha where they could take in the views of Quito and its surroundings as well as getting used to the altitude. All felt good and we had dinner last night at a nice Ecuadorean restaurant in Quito.Today, 29 November, the team are hiking Guagua Pichincha for acclimatisation and we will then be transfered to Hacienda Guachala to stay the night.

Tomorrow we plan to go to Otavalo as it is less driving distance and we can visit the Otavalo market as a rest day, which will help us to be ready for the three days on our first mountain - Cayambe. All are excited and Paul says he wants to try guinea pig at some point in the journey!!

November 28 - two summits so far!

 Here we are hiking on Pichincha! 
Scott, Becky, Dan, Paul and John  Day 1 - Rucu Pichincha Summit (15,413 ft/4,685 m).

Day 2 - Monday 28th Nov Guagua Pichincha Summit (15,728 ft/4,794 m)

Good day everyone!! We hit the road in our 4-wheel drive vehicle, which  took us to the base of the mountain as well as  to the parking area located at about 13,200 ft from where we started our first acclimatization ascent. Our steady pace helped us to reach the summit of this active volcano in three hours. During the ascent, our guide Rene showed us some of the plants of the Andean grasslands. Among them the Chuquiragua, whith orange flowers, this flower has been an emblem adopted by Ecuadorian mountaineers as their official symbol.

The name of the mountain comes from two indigenous languages: Guagua is a Quichua word that means "baby" and Pichincha comes from Tsachila meaning "the good that cries". Still an active volcano.

Yesteday we were on Rucu  "Old" Pichincha, where we started our acclimatization. A good acclimatization climb.
Here we are hiking on Pichincha!

Scott, Becky, Dan, Paul and John

Day 3 - Tuesday November 29th Nov - Otavalo market

Today we visited the Otavalo market - colourful and a really great, sunny day. Becky loved the market !! This was our first contact with the culture of the Northern part of Ecuador.  We drove to San Pablo located at the base of the Imbabura mountain and we are spending the night at  Hacienda Guachala. A nice relaxing evening before our Glacier School on Cayambe for 3 days. We are ready to go up Cayambe !! More to come, soon...
Scott, Becky, Dan, Paul and John.

Wednesday 30th Nov, Thursday 1st , Friday 2nd - Cayambe Glacier school was great!  

We hiked on Cayambe up to an elevation of about 16,000 feet where we reviewed cramponing skills, self rescue and then we roped up and marched up the glacier and capped the day with some ice climbing.
Now we are resting up for our summit climb at midnight, unfortunately the day of our summit it snowed and rained, after seeing the weather conditions and deciding there was no way we could climb today, we returned to bed and next morning more glacier school.  This was not expected as the weather was pretty nice the previous days. Thanks Rene we learned a lot!! We returned to Hacienda Guachala for a good night rest.

Saturday 3rd December - Hacienda La Cienega
 The beautiful hacienda where we stay before attempting Cotopaxi  

Today we will head to Hacienda La Cienega near Cotopaxi National Park.  Hopefully the weather improves for our attempt on Cotopaxi.  La Cienega`s first guest was Sir Alexander von Humboldt, who stayed there whilst carrying out a series of investigations in 1802.

Scott, Becky, Dan, Paul and John.

Sunday 4th December

Today we had to change the itinerary due to bad weather conditions. We went to Iliniza North 5120m/ 16,700 ft. The hike took us around 4 hours to the summit with loose rock and snow / icy conditions.  Rene and Gustavo roped us together so that we could descend quickly as the clouds were coming in and we ended up hiking out in the dark using head lamps. Usually this hike and climb is quite visible and not too technical in normal conditions but the rain and snow made it a more technical climb.  Finally we got back to Hacienda La Cienega where were welcomed with wine and thick steaks! 

Monday 5th December
 View of Cotopaxi from the Tambopaxi Hacienda.  © Becky Driscoll

We went from Hacienda La Cienega to Tambopaxi which is a great hostel located in the Cotopaxi National Park, we had a great rest day and can’t wait to summit Cotopaxi! We are staying here tomorrow night as well, our guides will drive us to the car park at the base of Cotopaxi and we will go for the summit from there. By the way Cotopaxi`s altitude is  5,897 m / 19,400 ft and  in Quichua means “the moon`s neck”!!

Scott, Becky, Dan, Paul and John.

Tuesday 6th December & Wednesday 7th December

Today the group left around 9pm driving to the Cotopaxi hut parking lot at 4,800m. From there they started the hike up to the hut and continued to the summit.  Dan and Peter got to the summit of Cotopaxi (5897m / 19400ft), and the rest of the group went up to 18,000ft.  The conditions on the mountain with lots of snow made it more technical and more physically demanding. A great climb and all are now back at Hacienda La Cienega for a great night's sleep!

Thursday 8th Dec

Today we traveled to Baños for a relaxing afternoon! Baños is the gateway to the jungle with spectacular steep road drop offs and it's also famous for its hot springs, which come from the base of the active volcano of Tungurahua. Tomorrow we will hike around the Chimborazo area but we will unfortunately not be able to climb it due to ash from Tungurahua. Oh well!
Scott, Becky, Dan, Paul and John.

Friday 9th December

Today we hiked on Chimborazo, unfortunately it was cloudy and we couldn´t  see the mountain but we hiked around there for an enjoyable day. We arrived in Quito and finally tried our roasted guinea pig!! Good flavor!

Saturday 10th December

Our guide took us this morning to the Mitad del Mundo Monument in Quito and  we also visited the Inti Nan Museum where we saw all different effects of being on the Equator, then we walked through the old Colonial part of Quito.
Paul and John have spent a few hours relaxing beside the pool at the hotel and then we are all off to dinner for our last night in Quito.

Thank you all for a good time!
Scott, Becky, Dan, Paul and John.