email sent today:
Day 8 update
First of all I'm still alive and things are going pretty well. Let me try to recap the last 7 days:
Day 2 - Hiked to the top of a "small" mountain (13,200 ft) near Quito called Pasochoa. Nice hike and good views of the city from the top. The mountain is an extinct volcano and you could look into the crater from the top.
Day 3 - Took a tram/gondola ride about halfway up another mountain near Quito called Ruco Pinchincha, then hiked to the top from there (15,300 ft). Great, challenging hike that involved some scrambling over rocks and boulders. Again, great views from the top.
Day 4 - Traveled to the first of the "big" mountains, Cayambe, to begin acclimatization. The plan was to drive to within a 1 hour hike from the hut then hike the rest of the way. The road leading to the hut was dirt and it happened to be raining/sleeting/snowing so much that the road had turned to mud and was impassable by our full size bus. We attempted for about 20 min to get the bus through before the guides told us that we could not make it through with the bus and we would have to walk the rest of the way (remember the rain/sleet/snow). The walk ended up taking about 2 1/2 hrs and we stumbled into the hut about 2pm for a late lunch.
Days 5&6 - Returned to the hut on Cayambe to stay for the next 2 nights and spent day 5 on the glacier practicing mountaineering skills. Used the morning of day 6 to also practice then returned to the hut for lunch and rest before summit day.
Day 7 - Summit Day for Cayambe. Actually awoke at 11pm on day 6 to be ready to begin the climb by a little after midnight on day 7. Starting climbing about 12:15am in the dark, cold, and wind (just a guess but probably gusts to 40+ mph). I managed to climb for a little over 5 hrs before running out of gas at around 17,600ft (summit was 18,900 ft so I didn't quite make it) and returned safely to the hut just before 7am. It turned out that only 2 of the 9 group members reached the summit (actually the two oldest guys, one 58 and one 68). We packed up and returned to civilization and a hot shower in the afternoon.
Day 8 - Rest and travel day to the next mountain, Cotopaxi. Nice and relaxing day and now we are settled in at the lodge we are staying at until hiking to the mountain hut tomorrow. We will begin the next summit attempt tomorrow night around midnight again. That's all for now.
I'll send another update if there is time and internet at the next lodge.