January 20, 2005 – February 02, 2005
Team Members: Eiji Sugi (esugi)
Thomas Slease (Thomas1984)
Courtney Purcell (cp0915)
OK, this trip report comes couple months late. Better late then never.
After 3 plane rides, Courtney, Brett, and I landed in Quito Mariscal Sucre Airport at 8:30 pm. It has been a whirlwind day for me. Leaving Seattle the night before, catching a red-eye out of Portland, changing planes in Dallas, 6 hour lay over in Miami, I was exhausted. Let’s get our bags and head to the hostel, so I thought when I realized that all the bags have come through (including Brett and Courtney’s) but mine!
What a way to start out our trip. American Airlines lost my baggage! The gal behind the American Airlines bag desk assured me that my bags would come on the next flight, which happens to be 10:30pm. No problem then, I’ll just come back in couple of hours and pick them up myself instead of waiting for them to deliver it. It also happens that Thomas’s flight on Santa Barbara Airlines was delayed until 10:00 pm.
Doing the research in the states, I found this place called Villa Nancy on the internet. It was family owned hostel and looked like it provided a “family” atmosphere. The price was $25 per night for double room. Not bad for Quito. The owner, Victor greeted us at the waiting area and we promptly jumped into his 4x4 Mitsubishi Montero for the 10 minute ride to Villa Nancy (located near the Mariscal district in the “new town” of Quito). The only drawback to this place was its thin walls and the shared bathroom. Otherwise, the people are nice and they have a cool shag dog named Ilsa.
Victor was kind enough to take me back to the airport to check on my bags and to pick up the late arriving Thomas. Sure enough, my bags did come through on the next AA flight. Thomas’s plane did eventually land and we all headed back to the hostel for a good nights rest.
This was our free day in Quito. After complimentary breakfast, we headed by foot to Old Town. This was our first trip to Quito so I didn’t mind playing tourist for one day. We visited the La Basilica, Panecillo, and hopped on the bus for the one hour ride to Mitad del Mundo. For those of you who don’t know, Mitad del Mundo is a monument where the equator passes through. You can straddle the equator line 0°-0’-0” that divides the northern and southern hemispheres. Pretty cool I guess. At least the lunch was good.
The most exciting part of the day happened after getting back to Quito. Apparently, some students at the Universidad Centro del Quito was pissed off about something so they decided to protest. And protest they did! It was a full riot with riot police shooting tear gas over the fence into the crowd. The students were fighting back with their own makeshift firebombs. We even saw a police tank on fire. At one point, the smell of tear gas was too much for me to handle. My nose and throat started to irritate and I had to run away down the street. Phew, that was exciting!
We finally calmed down and headed towards La Mariscal district. We were to meet with Glenn (big_g), who Courtney and I met on summitpost.com several months back. He had been feeding us with lots of information about Ecuador Mountains so we wanted to meet him and buy him beer! We met Glenn at the Moggely Climbing and Trekking (he works as a guide there). After introductions, (and more route beta of the Illinizas), we headed for dinner where good food and alcohol flowed freely.
Finally, we get to go into the mountains. From the states, I had arranged Victor of Villa Nancy to take us up to the Civil Defense Hut of Guagua Pichincha. Leaving the hostel at 6am, we jumped into his Montero for the 2 hour drive. At times, I had doubts whether the truck can make it up all the way to the hut. Nevertheless, we made it. On the way up, Thomas hit his personal high altitude while still riding in the truck!!
What a breathtaking view. The weather was picture perfect. We could make out almost all of the volcanoes near Quito, including Antisana, Cotopaxi, Illinizas, Rumiñahui, Corazón, Sincholagua, and Cayambe.
We started off and immediately felt the altitude. Climbing at 15,000 ft is no easy task on Day 3. I was out of breath but felt soooo good that I pushed on, almost running at times. A short hike to the saddle and after few false summits, we were standing on the summit of Guagua Pichincha.
Back in Quito, we had couple of hours of R & R before we all piled into Victor’s Montero for a short drive to the bus station (Terminal Terrestre) to catch a bus to Machachi. We were a sight to see. Bunch of “Gringos” piling into the bus with our big backpacks and suite cases. We actually had to take up 2 extra seats just to fit all of our stuff.
Machachi is a short hour south of Quito and a jump off point to the town of El Chaupi, gateway to the Illinizas. Getting off at the town square, we had to take all of our stuff up couple blocks and catch the Transportes El Chaupi bus. Thomas and I only had our backpacks and small bags so this was very easy for us. Conversely, Brett and Courtney had their backpacks and big duffel bags/suite cases. This short walk must have taken them 15 minutes!
El Chaupi is about 35 minute bus ride due west. The bus goes along Pan-American Highway for short while and then turns off onto a local road. It’s a very small town and there’s not much to do in El Chaupi. Couple of shops, a phone booth, couple of hostels, and a veterinarian clinic is about it.
We had decided to stay at Llovizna Hostal, owned by Bladimir Gallo. It’s a short 3 minute walk from the town center. Bladimir also runs Refugio Nuevos Horizontes so we figured he would be a great source of current beta. Turns out he was very nice guy. US $10 per person/night (one bunk bed per room) and it came with complimentary breakfast. His hostel had couple of fireplaces, a pool table, kitchen, and some rooms with private baths. Very adequate except the shared bathroom shower (we got the bunk bed rooms without private bath) did not have hot water! Well, let me correct that. Courtney, who jumped in first and had plenty of hot water. The rest of the time we were there, nada. No hot water at all. That’s my only complaint about Llovizna. At least, the dinner was excellent. Bladimir personally served us tasty Ecuadorian soup, bread, and a pork dish. After dinner, we huddled around the fireplace sharing climbing stories and greatly anticipating what next day would bring.
The plan was to get up early the next day and have Bladimir take us up to La Virgen, where we would start our hike up to the refugio.