November 13, 2007 – Haciendas, Two-hour Lunches, and High Glaciers

BAI team high on Cotopaxi 

It is early on the afternoon of 13 November, and the Berg Adventures team is hanging out at another lovely Ecuadorian hacienda. This time we are just outside the city of Riobamba. At around 3:00 p.m. we will load into the van for a relatively short drive to the Chimborazo Hut at 4800 meters (15,700 feet). Tomorrow we will climb to the Whymper Hut at 5000 meters (16,400 feet) where we will be in position to stage an attempt on our final summit of the trip—Chimborazo, a lofty 6,310 meters (20,700 feet) above sea level.

Glacier high on CotopaxiChimborazo is a unique and special goal for any mountaineer. It is located on the Equator. Since the globe is not perfectly round (it bulges out at the Equator), and because the Ecuadorian volcanoes add a great deal of height on top of that bulge, the summit of Chimborazo is, in fact, the furthest point from the center of the Earth. Looking at it that way, Chimborazo is technically the highest point on the planet—some 7,000 feet (2,100 meters) further from the center of the Earth than is the summit of Mount Everest. When we stand on top of Chimbrazo, we will be almost a mile and a half closer to the sun than if we were on the summit of Everest!

Something tells me that when we begin climbing in the early morning hours Friday, our exact location in the universe will be less important to us than our focus on the steep terrain, the condition of the glaciers, and making sure we have plenty of fresh batteries for our headlamps. Climbing Chimborazo will be challenging, but this team has prepared well during the 11 days of terrific adventure we’ve already enjoyed in Ecuador.

Our farewell view of Cotopaxi

For the moment we are still in the land of haciendas and wonderfully relaxing two-hour lunches. Yesterday we were reluctant to leave the beautifully-situated guest house at Tambopaxi where we had spent the night after our attempt on Cotopaxi. The beauty of that high open setting with the symmetrical volcanic cone of Cotopaxi rising above was awesome. On the drive out we enjoyed being tourists in Cotopaxi national park, including a stop a the small hut near the park entrance that served as the National Park Book Store.

At the National Park bookstore

The BAI team on the road

Wally Berg leads the way on Cotopaxi

Yesterday’s two-hour lunch was at a hacienda that had been the home of Alexander Humbolt during his geological survey work in the 19th century. With full stomachs we loaded back into the van for more driving along Ecuadorian highways. The scenery was magnificent, and the villages and rural areas through which we drove were colorful and lively. Volcanoes, both active and inactive, rose all around us. We stopped just outside the town of Riobamba for a pleasant overnight stay in a hacienda with large rooms and the hottest showers of the trip so far.

Enjoying the climbing photos from Cotopaxi

One of our activities today is allowing our climbing gear to dry a bit more before we set out for Chimborazo. We’re also enjoying reviewing the photographs taken during our Cotopaxi summit attempt. The images of those high, spectacular glaciers in the early morning light are bringing smiles to us all as we remember those challenging yet magic hours.

Well, it is nearly 1:00 p.m. If we are to have our two-hour lunch before we begin the 3:00 p.m. drive to Chimbrozo, it is time for us to get started. I see the others gathering in the dining room now, so I’m going to sign off and join them.

Another 2-hour lunch

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