Saturday, January 15, 2011

FTA Ecuador Jan 2011 - Our final day in Ecuador! Well, for most of us...

From Brad

In Quito, Ecuador

Ecuador Volcano followers!

This will likely be the last dispatch as our time here is quickly coming to end, hope you have enjoyed following along!

After a sleepy morning yesterday, Friday, post Cotopaxi we all wandered aimlessly around the hostel and the Mariscal wondering what to pack where, whether or not to do laundry, and what our final tic list of things to do encompassed before leaving this beautiful place.

As a group we decided to catch a few cabs back down to the old town and do the obligatory tour of the Basilica. While officially consecrated by the Pope in 1988 the building is technically still unfinished as is evident by the multitude of construction workers on the roofs and catwalks. The amazing part is that the construction of this church began in the late 1800's! The historical pictures contained within are truly amazing! It is one of the most majestic things that I've ever seen. South American culture allows for visitors to climb numerous ladders and catwalks into the highest reaches of the towers. You could easily slip off one of the ladders or out one of the windows a few hundred feet to the ground...amazing, simply amazing.

From there we walked through the old city visiting a local market of goods, a local fruit, vegetable and food market (we were a bit more liberal in our sampling of local foods today!) and ultimately finished back at the Plaza de San Francisco for a late afternoon coffee and appetizers. The weather was stellar with bright sun, clear skies and even better people watching.

The large pack of wandering gringos dissolved in the afternoon to do some final shopping and reflecting on the last 10 days but reconvened back at the hostel for some guacamole, cheese and cervezas before heading out on the town one last time to get some local Ecuadorian dance culture at one of the nearby clubs.

It ended up being an extremely late night and even earlier morning as our first member, Kerr, caught a cab to the airport at 530 am. Next to leave was Kellie S. at 730am and she was followed by the Pedersen boys and Katie at 1030. All seem to be having flawless travels thus far though they surely have visions of empanadas in their heads.
Kellie D, Sarah and I head off to the coast on an overnight bus tonight to enjoy the beach and some much deserved R and R.

Signing off from this years Ecuadorian volcano expedition...and hoping for a small in stature bus mate for the journey west tonight at 11pm.

FTA Ecuador 2011 Jan - Rehash of the Cotopaxi climb

From Brad

Hostal Alcala, Quito Ecuador

Good morning Ecuadorian volcano blog followers!

So finally I've had sufficient time to recover with sleep, food and general hydration so I thought I review our last few days!
Where did we leave off?

Wednesday morning we left Tambopaxi Lodge and drove to the parking area just below the Jose Ribas Hut. Surprisingly the snow line this year nearly reached the parking area which has been highly uncommon in the last decade as the Cotopaxi glacier has aggressively receded. Our team slowly trekked the hour from the parking area up to the hut and settled in for the rest of the day. Lunch was soup, sandwiches, dried meat products and lots of fluids!

After lunch we decided for a siesta and as we napped a thunder storm of about an hour rolled through and doused us with about 1/2 cm of snowy hail-like balls (hail, not hair). It was wild to hear all of this going on outside as we tried desperately to sleep for a few minutes. When the storm finally passed we were able to sneak out to the snow fields outside the hut and get some self arrest and crampon practice. The sky cleared up to give us magnificent views of the surrounding peaks including the Illiniza's (see photo of crew).

Post practice (6pm) it was back to the hut for a dinner of BBQ chicken wings, mashed potatoes and more soup and tea. Does it seem like all we do is eat and sleep? That is the way it goes in preparation for long nights ahead like we were expecting. Then it was back to bed for a few hours of "sleep". Jose Ribas can accommodate well over 100 people though that night there were less than 30. It still seems cramped in there however as bunks stack as tall as 4 high in some spots...NOT OSHA approved.

It was up at 11pm, another light meal of yogurt, crackers and cookies and than onward and upward. As mentioned the snow line reached past the hut so we geared up fully right outside of the hut and started the slog upward. About an hour or two into our headlamp lit walkabout we reached the seracs at the glacier's tongue and roped up into three teams to move onto the glacier proper. The terrain got steeper and wound about crevasses and layered cake-like features in the ancient ice. The sky was crystal clear with little wind and when Eric wasn't singing fraternity songs all that could be heard was the clank of hardware off our harnesses and heavy breathing. Neither of which relented.

The teams moved up at separate speeds each pushing as hard as possible. The altitude was obvious as we all breached 17,000 feet - forcing two of the teams to ultimately turn around as it was getting late and the terrain became more and more technical. At one point teams reached an overhanging snow wall with a 6 inch foot bed at the base. Snow on one side, long way down on the other. This was protected in various ways including placing a hand-line or tying in closely to one another (short-roping). The skyline was beginning to lighten and it was about this time and place that two teams made the call to turn around for the glacier softens during the day as the sun bakes the frozen snow. The team of Nacho, Sarah and Jeff moved passed this and were near the summit as the sun rose. (Each feeling the affects of the high altitude and the 8 hour night that preceded the final meters to the summit!)

The walk down was thankfully uneventful though it is about this time that one wishes for a parachute or hang-glider. In the words of Nacho, "We must move quickly or we will roast like chickens on the glacier". "Quickly" is relative.

We all reconvened back at the hut, packed and ambled back to Victor and the van....exhausted.
I think we all passed out on the way back to Quito and while there were great plans for dancing that night I believe post naps and massages we were all in bed by 9pm.

A safe, beautiful and tiring day behind us...we welcomed the hostel beds.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Back in Quito safe and sound...and shwarmas in our bellies!

From Brad in Quito, Ecuador

I know many of you are likely checking the blog hourly for updates on our day...or really our night up on Cotopaxi.

The short of it was that after a long night we have all safely made it back into the city of Quito and most of us have passed out for a few hour siesta. It was like working third shift for our 11pm awakening last night for the climb.

The route turned out to be a formidable beast this year and while we only placed a few members on top each member pushed themselves, and one another, to the limit and climbed as high as possible. I think everyone set new personal altitude records and each one of us watched a majestic sunrise from the Cotopaxi glacier. The high volumes of snow this year changed the route immensely from last year and made it more technical in parts. Sarah and Jeff were the only members to make it the summit and they both agree that it was likely one of the hardest things they have ever done. I'm thinking everyone else feels the same way but I can't ask because they are all asleep!

A well earned rest after returning from the summit of Cotopaxi for Sarah!

More pictures and stories to follow once I shower and nap myself!

Regards, with a full belly of shwarmas, from Quito!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

FTA Ecuador Jan 2011 - Headed to Jose Rivas!

From Brad
Tambopaxi Lodge, fully caffeinated

It has been a wonderful morning here at Tambopaxi Lodge. In fact the internet is running at early 90's speeds which is better than last night! Many of us woke up with (or before) the sun to watch the teams heading up Cotopaxi by headlamp.

As the sun rose the mountain was completely clear and our sleeping bags became infernos so there was little sleep thereafter. We had a slow morning of coffee, fresh juice, fruit, yogurt with muesli, fried eggs and toast with butter and jam. We were once again breathing heavy as we repacked our bags in preparation for the ~ 1 hour ride to the parking area just below the stone hut, Jose Rivas.

It will be a short walk today to the hut, perhaps an hour or less. We will spend the afternoon here eating, resting, drinking (water), and perhaps doing a bit more practice with crampons and self arrest. It will be an early dinner and after we will quickly retire to bed as we will be awakening at about 11pm to eat once again and prepare for our summit bid! Wish us luck, safety, warmth, easy breathing and of course good fashion.

More to follow from Quito tomorrow afternoon. I'm sure we will be exhausted but I will attempt to get a dispatch out!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

FTA Ecuador Volcanes Jan 2011: A rest day at Tambopaxi Lodge...we need it!

From Brad, Field Touring Alpine

Tambopaxi Lodge, Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador

Good day FTA Jan 2011 Ecuador Volcanoes blog followers!

I sit in the Tambopaxi Lodge following a lunch of creamed lentil soup, vegetables, mashed potatoes, chicken and blackberry seems very different today that it did at this time yesterday.

I'm gazing out of the window of this wood heated, straw bale constructed structure at the perfect cone of Cotopaxi as it fades in and out of the clouds. The sun is pocked with intermittent rain showers. The terrain surrounding this beautiful place is old volcanic moraine peppered with rocks ranging in size from a football to that of a VW bus. These were blown out of the volcano during its last major eruption in 1877 according to our geologist in situ Jeff. There are other looming peaks that are more jagged than Cotopaxi but it is hard to divert the eyes from our next target! If it isn't apparent by now today is a rest day.

We awoke this morning at the base of the Illinizas in the village of El Chaupi at a quintessential climbers hostel that is run by a veteran Ecuadorian climber, Vladamir. Over the years this place has grown from a one room hostel to one that includes numerous fireplaces, a pingpong table, satellite TV, hot showers and amazing food! The community bull ring is just across the street. Unfortunately we were unable to enjoy any festivities there.

Moving backwards...yesterday was a long, classic, alpine mountaineering day. The route that usually goes up Illiniza Norte at this time of year is dry with perhaps one small traverse that is eye opening that ultimately culminates with a rock scramble to the summit. This was not the case this year. Due to the massive amounts of snow in the last few months the route was completely changed and at altitudes above the refugio (15,250 ft) it was completely covered in snow! This added a new element that although was a bit surprising, didn't disappoint us. We had heard that this was the case and so had planned accordingly with proper technical gear.

Knowing the snow covered route would likely take longer than the usual ~7 hours we awoke at 430 am and were walking by 600 am. We gained the refugio at about 10am, had lunch and hot drinks, dawned technical gear (harnesses, helmets) and started to move up the ridge. Initially the wind was biting. It blew small bits of ice off surrounding rock into us and caused our backpack straps to whip us in the face. Thankfully we quickly ducked behind the ridge and moved into the lea. It wasn't long before we found ourselves on knifelike rock spines traversing soft snow. We even had the benefit of some sun at these middle altitudes. In fact, the goggle/helmet strap tan has become our new fashion statement.

The final hours towards the summit were marked with snowy traverses, lowers down couloirs (snow filled gullies), and steeper climbs up snowy slopes. We ended up with most members on the top though we didn't stay long as the views were shrouded in clouds, the wind blowing and our watches telling us that we needed to move down toward the base.

The descent is always the most exhausting and potentially dangerous part of the day so we took great care as we eased into more moderate terrain where we were able to glissade (slid on our bums using our ice axes as breaks) to the moraine below. The walk out seemed to take forever and for many of us put our arrival at the truck well past dark. It was all we could do to eat dinner, shower and head off to bed!

Today proves that you must always expect the unexpected in the mountains! There was some nausea at higher elevations and general fatigue from the long day but all in all members are doing well! We are grateful for the rest day today...naps, reading, and pushing water is the name of the game as we laze in the sun under the looming cone of Cotopaxi!

This takes us back to Sunday, another rest day prior to the Illinizas. We had the luxury of sleeping in and having a lazy morning post our summit of Rucu Pichincha (though Sarah and Kellie decided for a morning run...really??? Crazies.) We lazed around till noon when we were met by Victor (driver) and Nacho (local guide) and transported to the small, classic Ecuadorian village of Machachi which is actually where Victor resides with his family. We ate a huge, European length lunch (2.5 hours) at a local restaurant that included chicken rolled in bacon, filet mignon, and a platter of cow kidneys, liver, stomach, heart and intestines. When in Rome they say, when in Rome. The restaurant was packed with locals. In fact, there were no gringos to be found in the entirety of the small town!

After lunch we walked around the two grand markets that exist there. One is food based and the other is durable goods based. Anything you could possible want existed here. In fact you can get your clothes hemmed while you shop for your weekly rice, fresh chevre de chivo (goat cheese), spices, fruit, vegetables and just about anything else one could desire. Members carefully sampled various juices and foods right off the fire as we wandered the narrow passes in between tables and tarps. Trucks full of bananas backed right up to the market and you could purchase entire bunches of bananas. This was an amazing place but extremely hard to blend! We left the market wander and moved to the small village of El Chaupi and our hostal for the following few nights. Yet another amazing, three course dinner and afterward we spent some time prepping gear and practicing knots before retiring for the night.

That pretty much sums up the last 3 days here in Ecuador! As I wrap up the summit of Cotopaxi has decided to fully show itself...the snow line extends past the refuge on its flanks which will hopefully make the first portion of the accent a bit easier. Tonight, steak is on the menu.

From Cotopaxi National Park,

Monday, January 10, 2011

FTA Ecuador Volcanoes January 2011: Illinizas Norte Summits!

From stu in the usa office
Jan 10, 2011

We have just had an update from our team from the top of Illinzas Norte! All is well and they are headed back down. We'll have more from them shortly when they are back in El Chaupi and share the latest.

They will be no doubt arriving near sunset in time for a great supper at the Lloviznas Hostal and looking out at the evening views of Cotopaxi and Illinizas. I have included two shots form last year to tide you over until we get their latest shots!

Spot note...
Kerr Adams is carrying a SPOT GPS Messenger and has been sending updates from a variety of places along the way including summits! For those of you who may have missed it you can still enjoy the action ahead on Cotopaxi!

You can join twitter and follow Kerr at

we'll be retweeting them to the FTA twitter account as well at

You can see all the summits so far by clicking the links below!

KerrAdams: On our first summit, 13,700ft!
-0.46024 latitude, -78.47995 longitude

Rucu Pichincha
"Record for all members! 15,540ft!"
-0.16269 latitude, -78.5668 longitud

Illinizas Norte
"A top Illiniza Norte at 5126 m (16818 ft). Everyone is feeling great. Looking forward to great food in town!"
-0.64923 latitude, -78.72037 longitude

Saturday, January 8, 2011

FTA Ecuador Volcanoes Jan 2011: Rucu Pichincha summited!

From Eric
In Quito, Ecuador

We had another early rise this morning for our second acclimitization hike, this time it was up Rucu Pichincha. Rucu is one of three peaks making up the Pichincha massif that lies to the west of Quito and is the most prominent ridge seen from city. In 1999, Gugua Pichincha to the south, erupted and covered Quito in a layer of ash causing chaos until the massive plume cleared. Guagua is still active and last year on another FTA trip to the Ecuador Volcanoes, we got to look into the crater from it´s ridge to see smoking fumaroles spewing sulfur gas into the air.

Our driver Victor, gave us a quick ride to the west end of the relatively narrow city that fills the valley floor 20 miles north/south and only a few miles east/west. We arrived at the Telefurico gondola which is inside a small amusement park filled with go carts, carnival rides and a discoteque that was in it´s prime at least 20 years ago. We took the 6 passenger gondola to the top and stepped out at an elevation of 13,451´, close to the elevation of Pasachoa which we hiked the day before. The wheather was mostly cloudy with a slight breeze and cool temps, which equals perfect conditions for a hike.

The group started up the trail following a broad ridge through rolling green hills that got steeper towards the base of the large rock pyramid which makes up the summit. As we climbed, we were all feeling good and were very chatty which has become the norm for this group. The first ones to reach a small cave on the side of the mountain found some snow from a recent storm and were able to pleasantly surprise the rest of the group who had no idea they were walking into a hellstorm of snowballs given we were only 30 miles from the equator.

As we skirted north around the base of the peak, the dirt trail turned to crumbly rock and got steeper quickly. We were completely in the clouds from this point on but could occasionally see the looming peak above us. Because it was a Saturday, there were many locals and hikers from Michigan, Germany and Australia who were making a dash for the summit as well. Happily, we were all able to join them at the summit and for many members of this FTA trip, Rucu Pichincha was a personal record for elevation coming in at 15,459´.

After snacks of chocolate, juice, oreos and a bite of a sandwich, we checked our oxygen saturations (perecentage of oxygen in blood) using a simple finger device most people have seen at the hospital. This is fairly common practice for high altitude climbing because as you gain elevation, the air pressure decreases and therefore there is a smaller percent of oxygen in every breath taken. For most healthy people, 02 saturations are in the high 90´s or 100%. At 15,459´ most of us were in the mid to upper 80´s! Starting at low elevations and slowly getting higher over many days will help in the acclimatization process and by checking our 02 saturations, we can measure the progress being made

After a quick hike down and a stop at the super marcado, we made a delicous dinner back at the hostel consisting of fried empanadas, a salad (arugala, tomato, onion, mozzarella cheese, cilantro), mango salsa, fried fish and pastries for dessert. It was a welcome break from the craziness of the city and eating out! Tomorrow, a 1/2 day in the city and than moving towards the base of the Illinizas, our next Ecuadorian volcano!

Everyone will be sleeping well fact, some already are!


Friday, January 7, 2011

FTA Ecuador Volcanoes Jan 2011: Pasachoa Summits!

From Brad in Quito

Twas an early morning...well, earlier than the last few. After a typical breakfast of eggs, fresh fruit juice, toast and stand-your-spoon-in it coffee at 730 we were out the door at 8am to meet Victor and Nacho for our hour drive through the rush hour traffic of Quito. Driving is never really a comfortable thing here but is surprisingly safe. There are remarkable few accidents and even fewer lambasted scooters and motorcycles...which honestly amazes me. We often pass a bus on a sharp turn in our 15 passenger van. These folks put drivers around the world to shame.

About 2/3 of the way to the base of Pasachoa we turned off the paved road and entered the cobblestone-lined, washed out path that passes as a road. It is bone jarring and there are constant obstacles that today included small children and dogs, a man milking a cow, chickens and the occasional horse. A few smacks of the head against the ceiling and nearly bursting bladders and we were finally at our destination. Some farmers gate in the middle of what felt like nowhere. The van rapidly emptied and everyone found a place to release the morning coffee thanks in part to our sponsor, the manufacturers of Diamox.

A note on Diamox
Diamox is a commonly used, prophylactic medicine that climbers use to assist in acclimatization to higher than usual altitudes. The short explanation is that it helps to make your blood more acidic which in turn causes you to breath faster and oxygenate better allowing for better sleep and a more comfortable acclimatization. The key to moving upwards on this earth is to always take your time, not gain excessive altitude too fast, eat a lot, drink a lot, and sleep at lower elevations. While one can acclimatize without the assist of medicine it takes longer and you must move upward even slower. Most of our climbers on this expedition have decided to take Diamox and have "enjoyed" the side effects to varying degrees. These include increased urination and random tingling of the the extremities to name a few of the most common.

Like many place in Latin American and around the globe a few greenbacks (adopted in 2000, the US dollar is the official currency though they use old coins yet. I've discovered where all of our Sacagawea coins have gone though) allowed the farmers gates to creak open and our van passed a bit further upward. We unloaded, packed lunches (this included deli meat and cheese sandwiches, a snack bag of chips, chocolate and other Ecuadorian specialities and my favorite the Ecuadorian power bar...a banana) and steadily moved upward.
For the first bit we moved on and off a pretty well built cobblestone road-bed, similar to that of the ancient Incan Trail in S.A. but not nearly as old, that eventually deteriorated to a muddy cattle trail pocked with huecos of water and manure. The herds of cattle, bulls included, stood-by and watched us with the bored gazes of a 12 year-old in math class. We climbed further up the grazing fields until we could barely find a path and instead hopped from and in between large tufts of prairie-like grasses. As we came closer to the rim of this ancient crater the trail got steeper and more muddy.

Cresting the rim we realized that on the north aspect of the horseshoe formation the ridge-line fell away a few thousand feet and the clouds clung to the forest below unable to escape the steep walls that loomed above them. The forest was richly colored in shades of green. It is said that pumas live in that oasis and the trees are as old as 1000 years.

see a map of Pasachoa with the team's location!

The views were breathtaking as we could see Quito city to the north and our ultimate challenge, Cotopaxi, to the south. It appears that the snow-line of Cotopaxi is even lower this year which might make gaining the glacier easier in the coming days...we'll see though. Things change daily around here. The trip down was uneventful as was the drive back into the city. The cohesiveness and comfort of the team is quickly becoming apparent which is brilliant as we will all need each other at some point in the coming days.

Tonight, typical Ecuadorian food nearby just off the plaza in the Mariscal. Plates included pork with corn and cheese, steak, empenadas, ceviche and llapingachos (fried potato patties with cheese and meat). We end our evening with some gear prep and high altitude talks. The energy level is a bit lower tonight but everyone is still healthy and happy.

From room 12 at Hostal Alcala...

Sueno con los angelitos.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

City Tour, Day 2

We put the new official team mantra of "Vicious and Delicious" (re: have fun, look good, go slow, and be safe --listed in order of importance) to the test on Thursday morning, our day for further altitude acclimatization and chance to see the sights of Quito.

After proper caffeination and calorie consumption at the Hostel Alcala provided by our hosts Jorge and Daniella, we set out with our local guide Nacho and trusty driver Victor- for a whirlwind historical tour of the old town.

After getting our heart rates and nerves on edge with both the erratic and fast paced flow of Quito traffic (though it might also be attributed to co-trip leader Eric's rendition of "Gloria" in the cab), we arrived at the destination and hit the presidential palace in the Plaza de Indepencia, the most quintessential example of Quitena Baroque style at the Iglesia La Compania de Jesus (Ʊ%C3%ADa), Plaza de San Francisco (, and Panecillo Hill ( topped by the Virgin of Ecuador.

Along the way, we learned many useful Spanish terms for deeds that can land you in a hell with accompanied by the graphic depiction of the appropriate punishment, learned that the local dogs can be unfriendly to the paparazzi (fortunately, Kerr can run fast), and concluded our morning with a three course feast at a quaint restaurant on one of Quito's oldest roads, La Ronda ( After 2 hours of gorging ourselves on empanadas, seco de chivo (lamb with a sweet beer sauce), churrasco (thin-cut beef with rice and eggs), pristinos con miel (fried bread-like product with honey), higos con queso (figs with honey and cheese), and buneuellos de queso con miel (bread-like, cheesy biscuits with honey) we stumbled back to Victor´s van and proceeded back to the Hostel Alcala for naps and recovery from our food comas.

Post-siesta, we ventured out yet again to take on the marketplace and test our bartering skills. Success ranged from poor to stellar. I found myself still attempting to learn ´how much?´and hoping that my numerical comprehension was sufficient to not hand the vendor an unreasonably large bill, while Katie used a combination of feminine wiles and fluent Spanish to *own* the marketplace. Katie, if only Renaudo (the crazed taxi driver from NYC) could have seen you in action--I´m sure he´d be proud. Alpaca hoodies, pink Ray-Ban sunglasses, and an impulse buy of Ecuadorian passionfruit liquor which may prove to be a mistake by the trip´s end...

We finished out the day with pizza at Javier´s house, the owner of our local agent Andean Face, where he taught us a bit about Ecuadorian culture and showed us some pictures of the hikes and climbs we would be doing in the coming days. He also shared with us a bit about the charity, Danielle, that he and his wife run near the city of Banos about 5 hours south of Quito. While the charity is formerly based out of the Netherlands it provides homes and familial services for children in Ecuador and Nepal preventing them from living in the street. (

After a few hours of cards and picture editing the base rhythms of the Quitean night-life rocked us to sleep.

Sweet Dreams

Sarah Hunter

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

FTA Ecuador Volcanoes: The Gang is All Here!

8:15 pm and Kellie, our final member, has arrived! Kellie's mom is probably waiting for this dispatch ;) Love ya moms!

She looks no worse for the wear after a long day of transit to the expansive city of Quito. Now, a welcome bit of "happy hour" to celebrate the beginning of our our expedition! Eric (co-lead) and brother Jeff made the initial trip to the Supermaxi and have set us up with wine, baguettes, and cheese to initiate the union of the crew. I've been advised there is some chorizo as well because what is cheese and bread without some nitrate rich product.

Jeff, Eric, and Katie joined the existing group (Kerr, Kelly "with a y", Sarah, and Brad) at about 11:30 this morning after an epic trip from reaches as far north as central New Hampshire. I think the logistics were something along the lines of a car from NH to Boston, a bus from Boston to NYC, an insane cab ride to JFK complete with a crazy, zodiac sign reading cabbie, a flight to Guayaquil and then a short puddle jumper to Quito. The threesome started at 3pm...yesterday and were in much need of a nap so spent much of the afternoon today resting, unpacking, and drinking water at our home for the next 10 days, Hostal Alcala.

Kelly, Brad, and Sarah all reached Quito last night after respective trips from State College, Pennsylvania, Portland, Maine, and "the other Portland", Oregon. I think of that crew Sarah's logistics top them. A train from Portland to Seattle, a flight to Miami complete with an 8 hour layover (what a girl will do to save a buck) and then a flight into Quito. The three of us all arrived about the same time last night near 8pm and were met by our quintessential Ecuadorian climber/guide Nacho...the name, I'm not sure but I'm hungry just thinking about it.
That leaves us with guide in training Kerr, originally from England but now hailing and schooling in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Kerr arrived in country on the 2nd after a smooth flight in country and has had the benefit of living at over 9000 ft (~3000 m for you canadians et al).

The latter four members had the opportunity of taking the Telefurico ( just outside of town toward the ridge that begins with the relatively active volcano Rucu Pichincha (last active in 1999 and reportedly buried the city at that time in 20 cm of ash). We maxed out at about 14,300 feet today (4300m) with some easy walking and majestic views of the city and the ridge. There happens to be a small amusement park at the bottom of the Telefurico and we managed to embrace the "pista de kart" (path of the kart) at Mundo Kart (Kart World). Yes, we rode the go-karts. I hear that is one of the top attractions in Ecuador actually.

The plan for tomorrow: tour of the old city.

The new mantra: have fun, look good, go slow and be safe.

Good night from Quito.
Brad, FTA