Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jan 19, 2008
Activities Activities: Mountaineering

A thwarted dream (a new beginning).

I had guided non stopping for the last 3 weeks.. always thinking about saving enough money for my trip to Aconcagua in the next weeks. I was getting so close to that dream and I couldn't stop imagining myself up there, besides that cross, standing on the highest point of the American Continent.

A quick stop in my guiding activities and I felt like I needed to relax. Nothing better than spending a couple hours at the climbing gym (rockodromo). It was a bright sunny day, grabbed my climbing gear... rope, climbing shoes, harness, carabiners and more small stuff... stowed it in my backpack and headed out the apartment.

I don't think that we spent more than two hours at the walls. My friend Heloise (FRA) and I took turns climbing one of the steepest walls in the rockodromo and then started heading back to the apartment.

We could sense something happening.. something wasn't right. We climbed the stairways up to the 3rd floor and got shocked to find out the apartment's doorway broken in pieces. We got in and found our belongings scattered all around the floor.
On the way to the refuge.Illiniza Sur glacier.

The bedroom was totally a helter-skelter. Robbers got in while we were climbing and stole more than USD. 7,000 in gear, clothes and computers. We felt like the world fell over us. All the plans, goals and dreams vanished... Aconcagua seemed like a distant dream to me in that moment.

Even though it hit us pretty hard, we never gave up. As soon as we had the chance to guide, we did it. Our next goal was to buy new climbing gear and to keep climbing. Personally, I tried to take advantage of every opportunity I had to guide. I guided once and twice in order to keep my dreams alive. Finally, I was able to buy new climbing gear.. my working tools.

A Tough Climb.

I got a phone call in the middle of a climbing trip to Cotopaxi. I was feeling pretty exhausted and the only thing I had in mind was to go back home and relax. It was my friend Bladimir, he asked me to help him guiding three members of K'Ashem, a Mountaineering Club from Guatemala. I took the job and two days later Heloise and I were in our way to “Hosteria Llovizna” (Bladimir's Hostal) near Reserva Ecologica Illinizas.
Self Arresting.Heloise and Christian arresting Xiomara's fall.

I had guided other K'Ashem members in 2007, Edgar was one of them. He came back to Ecuador again along with two other strong climbers: Christian and Xiomara. All of them with a goal in their mind, to reach the summits of Illiniza Norte, Illiniza Sur, Cotopaxi and Chimborazo.

They had climbed Illiniza Norte before we arrived. I met them all in the Illinizas refuge. They were feeling pretty good at that altitude (4,700 m / 15,416 ft). Now our next goal was Illiniza Sur.

The Climb

Illiniza Sur.K'Ashem at the summit.
We started heading up to Illiniza Sur from the refuge at 4:00 am. It was a windless and foggy morning, we couldn't see a thing around us, but we all kept moving up towards the glacier. As soon as we reached the snowfield at the base of Illiniza Sur, Edgar started feeling AMS symptoms and had to return to the refuge. So, it was just the four of us now. I continued heading up to the glacier followed by Xiomara, Christian and Heloise.

The visibility got better by dawn and we could see the mountain, totally covered by new fresh snow. I knew all the crevasses would be covered. Our progress was extremelly slow, but constant. The first snow ramp looked steep and it took us about two and a half hours to get over the first resting spot.

Once there we took a well deserved break. I couldn't believe it took us more than two hours to get up there, an arduous job. We started moving up again, crossed the first uncovered crevasse and continued up to the next steep ramp.

There was a huge crevasse open right below the saddle between Cumbre Ambato and Cumbre Maxima. I searched for a way to cross it up and down. I found an overhanging ice/rock bridge at the upper side of it. I fell in a couple times while I tried to cross it, but my two technical piolets didn't allowed me to take a look at the crevasse's bottom.

After sorting out the difficulties with the crevasse, we kept climbing up on the second ramp. It took us right up to the saddle between the two summits. We didn't stop this time, we continued up, traversed below the main summit and climbed it straight up to the top. Xiomara, Christian, Heloise and I got to the summit (5,305 m / 17,405 ft) at 12:15 pm, exactly 8 hours 15 minutes after leaving the refuge.

The clouds drifted away for a few seconds and we could see Cotopaxi in the distance.. that was all we could see besides ourselves and the summit. We all hung out up there for five minutes, hugged and congratulated each other and started heading down back to the refuge.

Heloise was the first in our rope team heading down, followed by Xiomara, Christian and then me. Xiomara kept falling down constantly, probably because of tiredness and bad balance, but Heloise's quick self arrest reaction stopped her for slipping down to the mountain's base. We managed to get back down to the moraines and then to the refuge safely.
Illiniza Sur and Cotopaxi.Illiniza Sur Summit (5,266 m/17,277 ft)

At the end, we all started heading back down to the town of El Chaupi, where I was supposed to get a ride to Cotopaxi National Park in order to guide another group that very same evening. It took us more than six hours to get down to the lodge with our four exhausted friends. I couldn't make it to Cotopaxi Nat'l Park that same day.. and I lost a job opportunity but gained a unvaluable friendship with my K'Ashem friends.

It's a small world!

It's a small world, I met with Xiomara, Edgar and Douglas again February 2009. This time in Argentina, while climbing up to Aconcagua. We had a great time there!


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