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.

No comments: