Updates from Ecuador


View along the way

 

As noted in a previous post “A Note from the President’s Desk” our CEO Michael Oros will be climbing Mt. Cotopaxi in Ecuador this coming weekend. The following are his anecdotes and commentary of this week’s prep and practice.

 

Day 1:

Updates from Ecuador: July 19th, Day 1

After spending the night in the Miami airport–not something I would recommend as part of get the trip off on the right foot–, it was great to spend some time with my Ecuadorian family, the Duran’s, eating, drinking wine and enjoying homemade limoncello while the rest of the group was doing a training climb. Possibly not the smartest of choices but it seemed like the right thing at the time.

CAMPING at Miami airport

Miami Airport Camping

 

Day 2:

Training climb on RUCU PICHINCHA. Elevation starts at 13,000′ which for the this flatlander wasn’t exactly the “warm-up” I was looking for. Some of the Type-A show offs made it to the Summit of 15,413 in our prescribed 2 hour accent time trial. I on the other hand, didn’t feel the need to show off the 1st day and believe in pacing myself.

A little bouldering

Pacing myself- in action.

We followed the climb up with a meeting and Press Conference with the US Ambassador to Ecuador~ straight from the climb~ 13 news outlets were represented! Thankfully, I was in the background as my Spanish is no better than my climbing at this point. Just another routine day.

Johnathon- being type A.

   Returned to based camp in Quito having spent the last 2 days doing altitude acclimatization on Illininza Norte which is about 35 miles outside of Quito. It is the 8th highest mountain in Ecuador at 16817′.
Day 3:
We drove to the takeoff point at La Virgen 12900′ and climbed for a 2.5 hours to the mountain refuge @ just over 15,000. The refuge is a bit “rustic” in pretty much every sense of the word. Despite the accommodations the time spent there was memorable ~ have 18 people living in 600 sq feet and you get to know folks pretty well.  You’d be surprised at how good fresh popped popcorn with sauteed onions( it’s how they roll in Ecuador) can taste. Later in the evening we were served by candlelight a delicious Quinoa soup and chicken a rice dish that really satisfied our appetites.  Pretty quickly thereafter began a sleepless nite wrestling with  altitude issues for yours truly  that had me a bit concerned about the next days climb.  Just picked up mountaineering boots, crampons and an ice ax. Things are gonna get serious over the weekend!
Dinner prep

Dinner prep

A mountain lagoon

A mountain lagoon

 

Sleeping quarters

Sleeping quarters

Need to double check the star rating

Need to double check the star rating

Day 4
4:30 AM wake up to be on the mountain around 5:30 to push for the Summit. Today’s climb really started to challenge the amputee’s in the group as you start out winding your way up steep, uneven, soft sandy surfaces. Even with the best prosthetic technology staying upright was really difficult and falls were common place. Yet there was never a question that they would pick themselves up and continue to move forward. After about 90 minutes, the face turns a bit more technical, forcing you to do a bit of bouldering around narrow snow and ice capped passages.  And  while the day started with high expectations, we were thwarted in our efforts to reach the Summit as a snow and ice storm came upon us making the last few hundred meters unsafe. We made it to 16338′. We all understood that to be the right decision and for most of us that was  higher than we had ever climbed so we happy.
The easy part

The easy part

On the way to the summit

On the way to the summit

Again some photos, Day 3 only as Day 4 more hands were busy focusing on the tasks at hand. However ROMP is filming the event with the expectation of making a documentary so there were multiple “go pro’s” capturing the days excitement.
Day 5 : Dave Krupa (ROMP visionary) decided a trip to Mindo was in order to escape the mountain climate and to show off Ecuadorian biodiversity. We stopped for breakfast (image 1 & 2)  along the way  and Dave informed us of Mindo’s international reputation for count of  bird species. If hummingbirds are an example, it’s a reputation well earned.
Once we reached Mindo there was no point in relaxing through the day so we hopped on a cable car suspended  a several hundred feet high above the forest and ravine to reach the other side where we could begin out hike through a rainforest. 4 hours later it was back to Quito for a good nights rest
Day 6: 8AM pickup for a 2 hour drive to the base of Cayambe. There was a fair amount of concern among our guides as there had been an unusual amount of snow and rainfall the past several days. We reached the base of the National Park and began our drive up a serpentine muddy road that challenged the capabilities of  our super heavy duty  all terrain vehicles. So much so that our drive up included a stop along the way to fill up plastic trash bags w/ thatch cut with your standard issue 24″ machete  kept for such routine occurrences in the back of the 4 wheelers.  Ultimately we couldn’t  make it final 3/4 mile  and had to hike the balance of the way(2 hours) to the refuge in 15″ of wet snow carrying all our supplies. No complaints from anyone as the single mindedness of doing what needed to be done took over.
Despite the crazy condition of the road coming up the Refuge, the building itself was really quite nice~ more like a Colorado lodge The food was freeze dried creme of asparagus soup and pasta with ketchup- barbecue sauce on top it didn’t matter because we were tired and excited for events to come.
The  plan after  dinner and an early bedtime of 6 PM  with wake up at 11PM to begin the accent.
Sandi D at 1st stop

Sandi D at 1st stop

Krupa Bros

Krupa Bros

tomorrow test

tomorrow test

                                                                      Today is a day of rest~ much needed for some of us

It’s great to be back in Quito sleeping in bed  with mostly all the Oxygen you could ever want (Quito is still over 9000 feet elevation). I apologize on the front end for the length of this entry  but I really want to share what has been a very meaningful trip to me personally. I hope you’ll get some sense of yesterday’s climbing event. More importantly the special group that came together to raise awareness about the potential of people with disabilities in the developing world and how access to prosthetic care can be life changing. Life changing   not just in terms of mobility but more importantly quality of life. Each your contributions to ROMP will make a difference in someone’s life ~ it’s unlikely they will ever meet you to thank you personally but you’ve truly made a difference. Thank you.

Day 6 – 7: We awoke at 11PM and started to prep for the accent, our guides having checked the weather said winds were between 45-60 KPH making it unsafe for us to start the accent and we would need to try later.. By itself not the worst news but it also meant a summit wouldn’t be possible for the group as it wouldn’t leave sufficient time to reach the top and be off the mountain before mid-day temperatures made the snowpack too dangerous to be on. Time to reset expectations.

Next alarm was 4AM , with a light breakfast we were told we would likely make it to a glacier about 1.5-2 hours above the refuge. At that time we would re access conditions.  The climb while open and very safe varied between 30 and 40 degrees incline. Thank goodness for crampons and an awe inspiring  sun rise  to make it possible. The the weather was brilliant  and the entire team made it to the glacier 3 of them above the knee amputees–again for the non clinicians in the group – it requires several times more energy for those folks to walk vs. able bodied individuals.

At this point we were divided into teams of 3 and roped together. One of the 3 being an experienced mountain guide. We knew the summit wasn’t possible today but the views were so spectacular we climbed on. 3 hours later most of the group made to a place called the “rock’ a natural stopping point of the way to the final accent it’s at an altitude of 17,322.  2 teams made it a few 1-200 hundred meters more but the snow was getting deep and soft making it impossible to reach the top.

While we didn’t reach the mountain summit today everyone was really satisfied with the collective effort and determination shown in reaching their personal summits. It was a great experience!

After loading up our gear at the refuge, we began our way back down to the car. I was a moving experience to see family members had made the trek up to greet  their husbands, sons and friends. Several members of the local media waited for hours as they had no idea when we would make it back.. They stayed and collected more than an hour of video and audio interviews~ can you begin to imagine anything like that happening in the US?

Anyway this concludes my travel journal. Many thanks on behalf of ROMP for supporting their mission.

For those on facebook there are additional photos and updates on the Project to date including a couple of team members had their camera’s out during yesterdays climb so I’ve attached  those photos. For those that don’t know, Dave Krupa (a former Scheck patient, and employee started ROMP w/ Eric Neufeld 10 years ago) Sandi D is a former Paralympic snow skier as an above the knee amputee.
Thanks again for you support of this project.
Meandering through the countryside

Meandering through the countryside

Our cabin mascot

Our cabin mascot