February 7, 2013
Check out the following write up from IMG Guide Luke Reilly. Here’s a guy who likes Ecuador almost as much as do I. He even spent most of December working on the farm of Romulo Cardenas, our Ecuadorian partner, while continuing to snag all the high peaks in the country. Now, that’s dedication.
Give some serious thought to joining Luke in June 2013 on our next departure to Ecuador. Between Luke and Romulo, there aren’t any mountains down there they haven’t climbed and the stories should be flowing non-stop. June’s typically a good weather window for Ecuador and you won’t find many guides, either Ecuadorian or American, who know the country better. Plus, you might talk Luke into showing you how to pick a few thousand lettuce in the course of a day.
The ten highest mountains in Ecuador are often referred to as the Big Ten. Although maybe not the tallest mountains in the world, topping out with Chimborazo at 20,561 feet, each one offers a unique experience. The climbs range from more or less a day hike, to multi-day/multi-pitch alpine routes; all guarantee some form of adventure. A friend of mine recently asked for the beta on Sangay. Not often can you reply with “…keep an eye out for tapir on the approach, you’ll need mud boots to get in there, crampons can be helpful for the frozen ash and take a good log of the frequency of the eruptions before the ascent…”
I had three goals for my latest trip to Ecuador in December. The first was to complete the Big Ten. The second was to improve my Spanish speaking skills and the third was to learn more about agriculture. I got linked up with IMG’s local Ecuadorian guide, Romulo Cardenas, who could help me accomplish all three goals. In between harvesting rows of lettuce I shot up to the mountains. The three on the list were Antisana, Sangay and Tungurahua. Antisana was at the top of the list. Jenni Fogle and I had attempted it in August only to be shut down by terrible weather and route conditions. This time around, straight to the summit, no problem.
Next was Sangay. After what I estimate to be a thirty mile approach, I made the 5,600 foot ascent from the jungle to the crater rim. The trickiest part of Sangay is choosing a time between eruptions to tag the top; Sangay is commonly referred to as the highest active volcano on the planet. The timing was right and I knocked another one off the Big Ten. Nine down, one to go. Tungurahua has been relatively quiet the last decade or so, with very few eruptions. While climbing Sangay, Tungurahua exploded experiencing one of the largest eruptions in the last decade. I can manage small eruptions, but I am not willing to take on the objective hazards of massive explosions with pyroclastic flows and ash. Until Tungurahua decides to calm down, back to the fields to pick lettuce. Nine out of ten isn’t bad either.