7 Dec 2001 - by Wolfgang Stiller
My wife Dianne and I just got back (December 7th) from a three week trip
climbing in Ecuador. I wanted to post a quick status of the peaks we
climbed. (I'll be shortly transcribing my journal and providing more
details on each of the climbs) (We summitted all six of the peaks below)
- Peaks: El Corazon, Iliniza Norte, Iliniza Sur, Cayambe, Cotopaxi, Chimborazo
(sorted/filed as Corazon, Iliniza, Iliniza, Cayambe, Cotopaxi, Chimborazo)
- Place: South America
El Corazon (15,700 ft)
Dry route with well marked trail once you are above 14,000 ft. No clear
trail from the road to 14,000 feet. There is one section of class three
climbing with some significant exposure but there are plenty of good holds.
Iliniza Norte (16,800 ft)
Dry route with well marked trail from the hut to the summit. Returning
from the summit to the hut it's possible to lose the trail if you are not
careful. (A Czech climber disappeared after reaching the summit of Norte
two months ago. There is a $10,000 reward.) The climbing is claimed to be
class three, four, or 5.3 but we saw nothing we'd rate beyond 2 or (maybe) 2+.
Iliniza Sur (17,200 ft)
Technical ice and snow. Route finding was difficult when we climbed this.
Since this requires a 3 AM or earlier start and since the weather was foggy
when we climbed it (the fog was very common during our Alpine starts). We'd
strongly suggest getting a local guide for this mountain. (We used "Safari
Tours" for our guides and had *much* better experiences with our guides than
some of the other climbers we encountered. (I'll provide more details about
this in my detailed narrative.)
Cayambe (18,996 ft)
The guidebooks say this mountain has bad weather and we had terrible
weather on this mountain. Route finding was very challenging with no clear
trail once above 17,000 feet. Again I'd strongly suggest climbing in good
weather and/or using a local guide. The angle of the climb of Cayambe was
the mildest of the glaciated peaks we climbed so it was less of an exertion
but the weather and the crevasses on this mountain make the climb
challenging. Just below the summit there is a bergschrund that requires a
long circumnavigation to the right in order to reach the top.
Cotopaxi (19,300 ft)
This was the most heavily climbed mountain that we did. The hut (15,750
ft) was crowded and quite noisy. Cotopaxi had a well-established trail.
Close to the summit there is large crevasse that is now spanned with a very
sturdy (and well anchored steel ladder).
Chimborazo (20,700 ft)
When we first arrived and asked about Chimborazo, our guides told us this
mountain was "out of condition" and unclimbable. This is not quite true but
it's now somewhat technical and has some steep icy sections. The upper 2,000
feet of the mountain (including summit) are covered by thick forest of
penitentes. The start of the glacier requires a three meter slightly
overhanging vertical ice climb. Route finding becomes tricky just above the
first glacier. (At least one ice tool is needed here in addition to an
alpine ice axe.) The Veintimilla summit is reachable but due to the
Penitentes, the Whymper summit would require several hours extra to reach.
An 11:30 or midnight departure seems standard for Chimborazo. The icy
sections were turning many climbers away from Chimborazo. Our team was the
first to reach the summit in a week and a half.
I hope this information is useful to others planning to climb in Ecuador.
Overall, I felt VERY privileged to climb these mountains. There were all
very different and beautiful mountains. Just being on the mountain is a huge
treat (even if you don't reach the summit). These mountains are further
special in that they all have easy access (in the case of Cayambe you can
drive directly to the hut in a 4WD) and comfortable huts (no need to lug a
heavy pack for days to climb these mountains).
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