Warning: the following words and images will allow you to vicariously see the world with the eyes of Sultan. Read at your own risk. The name Sultan has many meanings, but derives from the peak Sultan Mountain in Silverton, CO!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Equatorial Adventures on Antisana, Cotopaxi, and Chimborazo's Whymper Summit.

Thank you Ecuador! I will miss you.....

Achachai, which literally means brrrr in Quetchua (indigenous language of the INCA and the Altiplano region of South America) , was our team name. We were ten climbers from Scotland, South Africa, Canada, and the US. Our goal was to climb to the top of three large mountains in Ecuador, Antisana, Cotopoaxi, and the highest one Chimborazo. Simple, right?

(Team Achachai: Top-Lance Horne, Russell Lamming, David Camp, David Gilliland, Gary Eckard aka Captain Crunch, James Gattoni, Sultan. Bottom-Vivien Blyth, Bob Horton, and Lauren Trescott)
We acclimated by eating steak, chicken, fish, plantains, potatoes, and ceviche in Quito & Papallacta, and eating more huevos, and spaghetti at base camps all over the Altiplano of the country. I ate all my food, usually doused in salsa picante, and some left overs thanks to David Camp, and Lauren Trescott. The food was delicious, perhaps too much. Some people climb to eat, some people eat to climb. We warmed up with a quick day climb up to the top of Rucu Pichincha (15,400 ft.) which had already broken records for many climbers that had only reached the top of Mt. Rainier (14,409 ft.).

Ecuador is very special. One immediately learns of the four regions of this tiny country: the Glapagos Islands, the Pacific coastal region, the Amazon, and the Altiplano (mountains). The Spanish word ecuador literally means equator, which runs right through these lands, making them even more spectacular. It is hard to imagine being on the equator, yet being in subreezing temperatures high up on a glacier. But that is what attracted us, at least me, to this part of the world.

After acclimating for another few days, we head out to Antisana Base Camp. The smallest of the three mountains we would climb, Antisana (18,714 ft.) was still a big challenge. It is littered in crevasses, more so than any other mountain we would set foot on in Ecuador. The weather was a challenge, windy, cold, and freezing rain. I could only think of the name chosen for our climbing team, Achachai, aptly named. Only a few made it to the summit. Being on the equator, I took with me a frozen pineapple to the top. Pina cumbre. Oh, and somehow I became a Seahawks fan whilst at the top?

Two days later, after much needed rest, we began our ascent up the perfectly coned shaped Cotopaxi (19,347 ft.). The mountain is impressive from afar. It's majestic beauty will hold you in awe if the clouds let you peek at her. The most violent historical eruptions of Cotopaxi were in 1744, 1768, 1877, and 1904. its eruptions often produced pyroclastic flows and destructive mud flows (lahars). Some lahars have traveled more than 100 km and reached the Pacific to the west and the Amazon Basin to the east. At the moment, it has been dormant for over 70 years, which is an unusual long interval in its recent history. It is bound to blow its head off soon.

We reached the summit again, in very cold, rain at first, hail, freezing rain, then ice and snow at the summit. At one point I felt like I needed to turn around, but my new friend Estalin said the following "Achachai Chucha Man!" and we kept moving up the mountain. Three of us reached the summit, including David Gilliland, Lauren Trescott. It was Achachai as hell up there. The mountains of Ecuador were patronizing us. We bombed it all the down the mountain. Running on ice and crampons requires new techniques.

After thawing out for a few days, we made our last and final climb, Chimborazo (20,564 ft.), the tallest in Ecuador, and the furthest point from the center of the earth. I wasn't sure I had it in me honestly. Despite being conservative on both previous climbs, I wasn't up for another soggy, cold, freezing cumbre. Where was the equatorial sun? In darkness we started, and again it was raining lightly. I wondered if it would get better or worse, but kept pushing up that hill. "Blaaame it on the night" my phone yelled at me, which was in between one of my three layers-thermal undies, soft shells, and gortex rain gear. I pushed up hill to the rythm of the night. It was a full moon, my inner-coyote growled, I was on the hunt for another summit. The stars began to sing to me, the sky cleared, the purple, then orange, then redness of the light beamed before the sun decided to finally show its face. It would be a good day after all. The same three of us made this summit as well. Oh glorious day. I took the additional two hour round trip journey over to the Whymper summit and stood on top of Ecuador. See science discussion below.

I ended my journey to the equator with a run from Metropolitan Park back to the city of Quito in the rain. Nothing like running in the rain. Reconnect with your ancestral past, go for a run, in the mountains. If you ever want a great meal in Quito, check out Zazu! Achachai Chucha....Glad to be back home!

The Science:
The summit of Mount Everest reaches a higher elevation above sea level, but the summit of Chimborazo is widely reported to be the farthest point on the surface from Earth's center. The summit of the Chimborazo is the fixed point on Earth which has the utmost distance from the center – because of the oblate spheroid shape of the planet Earth which is "thicker" around the Equator than measured around the poles. Chimborazo is one degree south of the Equator and the Earth's diameter at the Equator is greater than at the latitude of Everest 29,029 ft. above sea level, nearly 27.6° north, with sea level also elevated. Despite being 8,465 ft. lower in elevation above sea level, it is 3,967 miles from the Earth's center, 7,113 ft. farther than the summit of Everest (3,965.8 mi) from the Earth's center. However, by the criterion of elevation above sea level, Chimborazo is not even the highest peak of the Andes, that's a right earned to Aconcagua (22,841 ft.).

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