Antisana

About a month ago (time flies!) two friends and I left the snowy hills of British Columbia and we ended up in the snowy hills of Ecuador.

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These hills are quite a bit bigger. Volcan Antisana, at 5740m, rises to the east of Quito and its eastern flanks break away into the Amazon. This leads to adverse weather and thick glaciers plastered with crevasses for which the mountain is notorious. It’s a long story, but we ended up going with a guide (new Ecuadorian regulations dictate a guide is needed for major peaks) and we found Ramiro from Ecuadorian Alpine Institute. He has a sweet set of old Dynastars hanging in his office and was happy enough to dust them off for the trip. It turns out if we didn’t employ Ramiro for this adventure we’d likely still be out there somewhere, lost on the mountain. First, we passed through three checkpoints on the way into the National Park- each checking for proper credentials. Ramiro knew the guys personally. Secondly, Ramiro’s suped-up, Scooby-Do-like 4wd van was likely the only vehicle in Ecuador that could handle the access road to the scenic camping area at 4700m. Lastly, Ramiro had climbed Antisana around 50 times (he’s climbed Chimborazo 150 times and Cotopaxi over 350 times!); this meant he knew the ever-changeable route to the summit. He’s also a really cool guy.

The story will come out in Powder Magazine next year so you can read some details there. I don’t usually like to say too much about assignments but I’m happy to report that we made it to the summit after one pre-scouting day, and a grueling summit day that involved stunning weather (a rarity), a labyrinth of crevasses and a comedy of performances that had our lowlander tongues licking the snow on the ascent. On the way down, Ramiro took up the caboose position but he doggedly skied all the way back to the base, stopping only to boot-pack the difficult sections. He was so happy to have helped a relatively savvy group to the summit and we were equally ecstatic to have laid down first tracks on the volcano, followed by our determined guide.

After the descent it began to snow at our basecamp. I’ll never forget the fat flakes landing on the tent, while we relaxed only a short distance away from the equator.

Thanks to Cam Shute and Andrew Findlay for joining me on this trip. It was a long approach guys, so-to-speak, but in the end it paid off. I think we’ve redefined “weather window.” Also, thanks to Mountain Equipment Co-op for the support on this trip, which nearly rivaled that provided by our loving families!

One final word: I highly recommend skiing the volcanoes of Ecuador! Stay tuned for more about this story.

 

 

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Posted on 12/31 at 07:17 PM | Comments