Monthly Archives: June 2013

So . . . did I summit Chimborazo?

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chimborazo.pictureAnd the answer is . . . no.  But . . .  I am completely at peace with the outcome because it was an amazingly beautiful (and challenging!) weekend.  Here’s a play by play for you.  Also, after you read the chain of events from the weekend, check out the pictures at the end of the post that show you more details about the journey.  (By the way, if you have no idea what I am talking about so far, read this post first.)

Friday, June 21

  • 2:30pm: I was driven to Casa Condor (about 30 minutes away) by a friendly taxi driver named Roberto.  Ironically, he ended up being the father of one of my previous students here in Riobamba.  I stayed at Casa Condor because it is at a higher altitude (3800 meters/12,400 feet) than Riobamba and it’s wise to slowly acclimate to the higher altitude of Chimborazo.
  • 4:00pm: I went on an incredibly challenging “walk” to acclimate to the higher altitude (this was suggested by my taxi driver).  The place I walked was so steep, it was quite a challenge!  Here’s a video of me while I was resting on my walk.  As you can tell, it was a bit windy!
  • 6:00pm: I went to scope out the kitchen in the hostel so I knew where I’d be cooking my dinner.  That’s where I met two other guys that that I learned would be hiking with me the following evening.  They are both from Australia and their names are Garrick and Ron.  They are nice guys and as it ended up, I was really glad that we all took this journey together.  That evening, we made a pasta dinner and talked a bit to get to know one another, since we’d be spending plenty of time together over the next 36 hours.
  • 8:00pm: I went back to my room and was asleep by 9:00pm. 🙂

Saturday, June 22

  • 8:00am: I got out of bed after reading for awhile, took some pictures of the beautiful countryside, and made breakfast.
  • 10:45am: Garrick, Ron and I went on a walk around the community where we were staying.
  • 12:30pm: We were picked up by our guides and drove to the first refuge (4800 meters/15,700 feet) of Chimborazo.
  • 2:30pm: We drank Coca tea (apparently helps with altitude sickness) and soup at the refuge.
  • 3:00pm: We went to rest/sleep to let our bodies get ready for the upcoming demands of the evening.
  • 4:30pm: We woke-up and ate “dinner” and then hiked to the second refuge (5000 meters/16,400 feet).
  • 6:30pm: We arrived at the second refuge and got ready for bed.  We were supposed to sleep from 7:00pm until 10:00pm to rest for the hike.
  • 6:45pm: I walked outside to see an amazing sunset and filmed a short video before going to sleep.  Watch it here.
  • 10:00pm: We were woken up and to eat “breakfast” and then got dressed and ready to leave for the hike.
  • 11:30pm: 3 hikers (me, Ron, and Garrick) and 3 guides (Fabian, Raul, and Alberto) left to begin the journey up Chimborazo.

Sunday, June 23

  • 12:15am: After hiking for about 45 minutes, we stopped to put crampons (equipment you put on your shoes in order to hike in snow and ice) on our boots for the rest of the journey.
  • 12:20am: I had no idea how to walk with crampons.
  • 1:00am: I started to partly understand how to walk with crampons.
  • 2:00am: Our group of 6 discussed our progress at that point.  We were pretty exhausted already.  Our guides decided that at our current pace (apparently rather tortoise-like), it would take about 6 more hours to summit Chimborazo.
  • 2:15am: Two of us decided to go on and continue to hike onto the glacier.
  • 3:30am: My guide, Fabian, told me that we still had about 5 hours until the top.  At that point, I needed to stop about every 30 seconds to rest and I didn’t foresee that getting better as the altitude increased.  After hiking through a lot of ice and snow, I decided to call it quits (5700 meters18.700 feet) and surrender.
  • 4:00am: We started to descend and head back to the refuge with another hiker and his guide.
  • 6:30am: We arrived at the second refuge and tried to get a couple of hours of sleep.  (This was very difficult because it was freezing!)
  • 9:000am: We walked down to the first refuge, were picked up and driven back to Riobamba to end our adventurous journey.
This is where I stayed on Friday evening . . . obviously an amazing view.

This is where I stayed on Friday evening . . . obviously an amazing view.

After going on my "walk," I relaxed by listening to some music at the top of the hill and looking at Chimborazo.

After going on my “walk,” I relaxed by listening to some music at the top of the hill and looking at gorgeous Chimborazo.

Several cute sheep hanging around the hostel.

There were several cute sheep that lived next to the hostel.

The incredible view from my room . . . for only $12/night.

The incredible view from my room for only $12/night.  Amazing.

These are the two guys from Australia that I met.  We all hiked together with our guides.

These are the two guys from Australia that I met, Garrick and Ron. We all hiked together with our guides.

Here is the food I bought for dinner, breakfast and hiking.  Note the Hershey bar that cost $1.50!  That was quite a splurge!

Here is the food I bought for dinner, breakfast and hiking.

This is the first refuge.  We ate downstairs and rested here for awhile before walking up to the second refuge.

This is the first refuge. We ate downstairs and rested here for awhile before walking up to the second refuge.

This was the sunset from the second refuge.  Look at how cool it was that we were above the clouds!

This was the sunset from the second refuge.

Ron, Garrick and I getting ready to embark on the journey up (part of) Chimborazo.

Ron, Garrick and I getting ready to embark on the journey up (part of) Chimborazo.

My wonderful guide, Fabian, who hikes Chimborazo 2 or 3 times each week!

Here I am with my wonderful guide, Fabian.  He hikes Chimborazo 2 or 3 times each week!  Holy cow!

You wondered what crampons are?  They're the spiky things that are on my boots here.

You wondered what crampons look like?  They’re the spiky things that are on my boots.  Interesting, huh?

Here I am - looking a little chilly.  But, I want you to notice that I was expected to walk through those rocks behind me - with the crampons on.  Yeesh!

Here I am – looking a little chilly.  I want you to notice that I was expected to walk through those rocks behind me – with the crampons. Yeesh!

Here is the picture of me after I surrendered to the mountain and decided not to hike anymore.  At least I was still happy!

Here is the picture of me after I surrendered to the mountain and decided not to hike anymore.  At least I was still happy!

We had a perfectly full moon during the hike.  This picture is at about 6:30am, when the sun was coming up.  The moon is amazing and you can see how high we were since the clouds are all below us.

We had a perfectly full moon during the hike. It was so bright, we didn’t have to use our headlamps.  This picture was taken at 6:30am.  The moon was still amazing and you can see how high we were since the clouds are all below us.

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Yikes!!!

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Well . . . here I go!  Apparently, with only two weeks left in Ecuador, I felt the need to take on a challenge that is very likely I may not complete.  Ready to hear about it?  Let’s do it!

This weekend, I am attempting to summit Mount Chimborazo.  What is Chimborazo?  Well, actually, it’s the furthest point on earth from the center of the earth – higher than Mount Everest – and the closest point on earth to the sun.  If you don’t believe me, check this out.

So, here are the details:

  • Friday, June 21: I travel about 45 minutes to stay and sleep at a hostel, Casa Condor, for the afternoon and evening.  This hostel is about 1000 meters higher than Riobamba, at 2700 meters.  This will allow my body to begin to acclimate to a higher altitude in preparation for the hike.
  • Saturday, June 22: In the afternoon, I am picked up by my guide and we make our way toward Chimborazo. Around 5:00pm or so, we eat dinner and then head to the second refuge on Chimborazo, which is at 5000 meters.  We sleep there for about 5 hours (again, so our bodies can acclimate to the altitude) and begin our hike at 11:00pm.  (Yes, you read that correctly – at night.)  The reason we hike at night is because as the snow is warmed by the sun, avalanches are far more likely.  On top of this, any rock held in place by ice will start its gravity-induced downward journey once the sun has melted the cementing ice.  Nights and early mornings are generally clear, and clouds normally come in by midday, which is another reason to climb at night.  Also, the weather tends to be better during full moon . . .  and guess what?  Sunday is a full moon. 🙂
  • Sunday, June 23: We will be hiking from Saturday evening until early Sunday morning – hopefully.  The plan is to summit, but if I have to stop earlier because of altitude sickness, we will do so.  Optimistically, I will be back down from the summit by 10:00am on Sunday morning.  At that time, I get picked up by the guide company and driven back to Riobamba.

So, what can you do for me?  PRAY, PRAY . . . AND PRAY.  I am looking forward to the challenge – because I do like a challenge – and am excited about the possibility of making it all the way to the top.  Yay!  But also, I pray to have peace if I do not make it to the top.  I pray that I do not feel like a failure and can be happy with myself that I at least attempted the journey.  So . . . please pray for our safety, to enjoy both journeys – up and down, to feel peaceful regardless of the outcome, and to revel in the beauty of this majestic mountain.  I will be in touch next week and let you know the outcome.  Thank you in advance for your prayers. 🙂

Some other volunteers and I "visited" Chimborazo last December.  Little did I know that I'd be attempting to make it to the top several months later.

Some other volunteers and I “visited” Chimborazo last December. Little did I know that I’d be attempting to make it to the top several months later.

Top 10 Best Things about Ecuador

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Oh my goodness . . . how did it get to the point where I only had 32 days left in Ecuador?  The days seem to be going by rather quickly and it’s already June!  Eek!

While many of you have read about my roller coaster of emotions and the period of time when I did not enjoy Ecuador, now I am loving many things in this amazing country.  (See?  I am a roller coaster!)  So, I thought I’d make a list of the things that are special about Ecuador, so you can get a small taste of why I love living here these days.  Here we go!

Top 10 Best Things about Ecuadordollar coin

10: THE VALUE OF A DOLLAR  In Ecuador, it is amazing how far a dollar can go.  The other volunteers and I have discussed how valuable even 25 cents can be these days.  Here are some examples of what I can buy with a dollar: 1 taxi ride, a soda and a small snack, 4 quimbolitos (a tasty cake-like snack), 1 hamburger, 2 humitas, 5 bags of palomitas (my new, favorite sweet snack), 4 bus rides, 2 shoeshines, or a movie.  Now, do you see why a dollar is so valuable here?  I love it.

hammock9. “MAS O MENOS” Where do I begin with this phrase?  To translate this phrase into English, is means “more or less.”  This phrase is used so often and it displays the flexibility and relaxed atmosphere of the culture.  For example, I could say, “Let’s meet for dinner at 7:00pm – mas or menos.”  This would give us each about 15 minutes on either side of 7:00pm to meet.  It makes things much less rushed and feels so nice to have as a part of my life these days.almuerzo  Look!  You can even see how relaxed I am in the picture on the left!

8. ALMUERZO This word means “lunch” in English, but has a totally different significance in Ecuador.  While dinner is the biggest meal of the day in the U.S., it is lunch for Ecuadorians.  Lunch always consists of soup, rice and juice.  In addition to those staples, we usually have any combination of meat, chicken or fish, vegetables, plantains, and potatoes.  The Ecuadorian family unit is represented well during this time of day.  Many families leave work around 1:00pm and return to their house to have lunch together.  This also means that oftentimes extended family comes over too.  For example, in my house a typical lunch consists of the mom, dad, son, daughter-in-law, sister, empleada, and me.  That’s a lot of people, but it’s pretty neat to see how everyone comes together in the middle of the day and returns to work around 3:00pm.  I have often wondered what it would be like in the U.S. to leave work in the middle of the day to spend time with family and then return to work.  Would it be a good thing to have a break from work mid-day?  I think it might. 🙂

7. TAXIS Riding in a taxi is always an adventure – for many reasons.  First off, I might get a taxi driver that is very chatty, completely silent, or on occasion, drunk.  But, what I have loved most is when I have gotten into a cab and the driver has his wife and child in the passenger seat.  This might sound strange, but I think it is really sweet.  It is an opportunity for the family to spend time together, during work hours.  Also, you might find it interesting to know that 99% of taxis have a “carpet” on the dashboard and a small rug on the backseat.  It is fascinating to see the style of carpeting each driver chooses . . . it shows his/her personality a bit. 🙂  And finally, driving in Ecuador is completely different than in the United States.  There are dividing lines on some roads, but this is rare.  Therefore, the drivers are able to “work it out” and know where and when to drive.  This might seem unsafe at first, but I love it because everyone is aware of everything – so I think it’s safer overall.  Plus, it’s not uncommon for someone to stop in the middle of the street, make a u-turn or do something else completely erratic – but because the other drivers expect the unexpected – they are ready for it.  It’s pretty cool to see.

sidewalk6. EXTREME SPORTS – AND SIDEWALKS  What?!?  Well, look at this picture of a sidewalk and  you can understand why I categorize them with the extreme sports that are available in Ecuador. 🙂  Surprisingly, I have now found the challenge of walking to be charming.  I never know if I have to hop over a hole, sidestep some dog poop or walk off of the sidewalk to avoid trash.  Moving onto extreme sports . . . things such as bridge jumping, canyoning, and zip-lining are offered here.  These are all fun activities, but a little crazy, if you ask me!  Many of you saw this link on another post, but I figured I’d link it again just so show you all how lucky I am to still be alive here in Ecuador after trying an extreme sport.  This was probably one of the scariest things I have ever done!  This is called canyoning. Check this out!  choclo

5. BUS TRIPS Oh the bus trips in Ecuador!  First off, check out this link to a bus schedule that has been very useful during my time in Ecuador.  I love the bus system here because without it, I would have had very few travel opportunities.  The buses are amazingly convenient and easy to navigate and are often an adventure.  And, as I have mentioned before, vendors get on and off of the buses selling a wide-variety of items.  From empanadas to ice cream . . . most everything can be purchased on a bus.  (However, I have yet to see pizza being sold on bus yet, which I think would be a very wise item to sell!) Here is a picture of some corn on the cob I bought on the bus one day. 🙂  On a more embarrassing note, I must admit that I often feel motion-sick on buses have become best friends with Dramamine on most of my trips.  However, the one time I chose not to use my best friend, I was the one on the bus that threw up.  Yep.  That was me . . . throwing up in a bag.  Disgusting, I know.

ceviche4: THE VARIETY OF FOOD AND DRINK SOLD ON THE STREET  Ecuadorians take pride in their diverse cuisine.  Therefore, most dishes are delicious and have been prepared with lots of love – and sometime with unclean hands – but . . . maybe that add to the occasional “uniqueness” of the cuisine.  In all seriousness though, I really enjoy most Ecuadorian food.  I can easily walk down the street and choose from a wide variety of foods and drinks such as: hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled plantains, pinchos (shish kebobs), candy apples, coconut juice, mangoes, tamales, ceviche (pictured to the left), salchipapas, humitas, quimbolitos, llapingachos, chocolate covered strawberries, juice, hornado, and candy.  Generally, the food and drinks cost anywhere from 25 cents to one dollar.  Can you see why this is one of my favorite things about Ecuador? cartoon

3. SPANISH As many of you know, I have been trying to learn Spanish for awhile now.  Trying.  While I have developed an amazing friendship with my Spanish teacher and his family, I have to admit that I am not a good student.  Learning a language is really hard for me!  Plus, I go through phases when I study outside of class and other times when I don’t.  But oftentimes, I just don’t make the time to learn Spanish other than during my class.  With that being said, I have not learned as much Spanish as I would have liked during my time here, but maybe I’ll find some opportunities to practice when I return to St. Louis.  Or,  since I still have a month to learn . . . maybe I will maximize that.  (The guy in the cartoon is exactly how I feel sometimes.)

tortise2. MOUNTAINS, VOLCANOES, WATERFALLS . . . AND MORE!  OH, AND THAT FAMOUS PLACE CALLED THE GALAPAGOS.  The flora and fauna in Ecuador is incredible.  Ecuador’s mainland is unique because it has three specific areas: the coast (beaches), the sierra (mountains and volcanoes) and the oriente (the jungle). Plus, Ecuador also has the incredible Galapagos islands, which I had the pleasure to visit with a friend at the beginning of May.  To the left is a picture of us with a tortoise.  There is also a city nearby, called Banos, that I have enjoyed visiting.  It is beautiful and there is always something different to experience in the city.  For example, here is a video of some waterfalls I recently saw in Banos.  Check out this and this.  Amazing, huh?students

1. ECUADORIAN PEOPLE . . . PARTICULARLY MY STUDENTS Ecuadorians are amazing and (most) have a wonderful heart!  The students I have had the pleasure of teaching these past 7 months have been wonderful.  Their hearts are simply an extension of the Ecuadorian culture.  For example, when you meet someone, say hello or goodbye, you always kiss the other person on the cheek.  This is just one example of what many of you have heard of as a “hot-climate” culture.  (By the way, if you want to learn a little more about that, click here.)  My students and I have been able to learn together and have fun – at the same time.  And, I don’t want you to think that all of the time has been rosy with my students, as there have definitely been some difficult moments.  However, overall, the students that I have met are one of my favorite things about Ecuador.  Oh, and it you’re bored today, here is a link to a video of me teaching my students.  It is LONG because it was a requirement for me to videotape myself teaching for WorldTeach.  Anyway . . . without a doubt – after the other 9 items on my top 10 list – Ecuadorians are by far the best thing about Ecuador. 🙂

 Please write me a comment and I will read it and reply to you.  Plus . . . I love hearing from you guys!

  • If you were to write a “Top 10 List,” what would it be about and what would be #1?