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Ecuador Climbing School underway

MM guide Tino Vil­lanue­va checked in with an update of the team. After a bit of accli­ma­tiz­ing and shop­ping, the team has moved up on Cayambe for some schooling.

If this looks like the way to start off your New Year, join us on one of six trips in Ecuador start­ing in Jan­u­ary and going through Feb. 

A belat­ed Mer­ry Christ­mas from the South Amer­i­can Ring of Fire!

Moun­tain Mad­ness has begun its hol­i­day expe­di­tion and climb­ing school on Ecuador’s vol­ca­noes: Cayambe, Cotopaxi and Chimb­o­ra­zo. Our team has assem­bled and we have been spend­ing the past cou­ple of days accli­ma­tiz­ing while explor­ing Quito, the world’s sec­ond high­est capi­tol city at 9500 feet above sea level.

Quito with Cayambe in the back­ground. Tino Vil­lanue­va photo

Vir­gin Mary Stat­ue. Tino Vil­lanue­va photo

Our first day in Quito start­ed with a vis­it to El Panecil­lo, a park on a hill that ris­es above the city. This hill has been the site of the orig­i­nal cen­ter of the city on a defen­si­ble high ground. It has also been the site of an ancient water reser­voir. Now it stands as the land­mark park with a stun­ning view of Quito. From the view­ing deck on the 41 meter tall stat­ue of the Vir­gin Mary watch­ing over Quito, a sym­bol of the sigi­f­i­cance of reli­gion in the coun­try, one can eas­i­ly see the nar­row strip that is home to the city’s two mil­lion res­i­dents. The city is over 60 miles long and only 3 miles wide in it’s nar­row­est sliver.

Next, we made our way down into the Old Town. The his­toric cen­ter of Quito is a UNESCO world her­itage site, con­sid­ered one of the most impor­tant in Latin Amer­i­ca, with about 130 mon­u­men­tal build­ings. First we vis­it­ed Euge­nio Espe­jo, the site of a colo­nial era hos­pi­tal that has been covert­ed into a muse­um. Housed in the muse­um are exhibits of mod­ern art, those ded­i­cat­ed to the his­to­ry of the city and trib­utes to the his­to­ry of the build­ing itself. The build­ing was con­struct­ed using a com­bi­na­tion of new, for the peri­od, Span­ish archi­tec­ture com­bined with native tech­niques. In fact, even today the floors and roofs of Euge­nio Espe­jo stand with lit­tle more that bam­boo and mud hold­ing every­thing together.

Euge­nio Espe­jo. Tino Vil­lanue­va photo

We then walked over to the Church of La Com­pa­nia de Jesus. Con­struc­tion of La Com­pa­nia took 160 years. One of the rea­sons the church took so long to com­plete is because of the com­plex stone carved exte­ri­or. Most rock in Ecuador is vol­canic and very soft, there­fore very dif­fi­cult to carve with­out crum­bling. Anoth­er rea­son the con­truc­tion took over 100 years is that every­thing inside the church is cov­ered in gold. It is a mon­u­ment of what the Span­ish expect­ed to find in El Dora­do. The Incan peo­ple, how­ev­er, had no cur­ren­cy val­ue in gold and, because they had an abun­dance, they used gold as a pro­tec­tive coat over their wood­en struc­tures. This is true in La Com­pa­nia, as the natives were made to carve intri­cate art­work out of wood and then painstak­ing­ly apply gold leaf over near­ly every­thing. Walk­ing into the church over­whelms the eyes with gold shim­mer­ing on pul­pits and altars. I almost thought to put on my sunglasses!

Eat­ing in Otava­lo Market

Pig at Otava­lo. Tino Vil­lanue­va photo

Otava­lo tex­tiles. Tino Vil­lanue­va photo

We capped off the day with a vis­it to fel­low Moun­tain Mad­ness guide Ossy’s beau­ti­ful hacien­da, RumiLo­ma. Sit­u­at­ed on the side of a dor­mant vol­cano, Pich­in­cha, and over­look­ing Quito 1500 feet below, it is a mes­mer­iz­ing place to have a meal or spend the night. We sat down with Ossy’s fam­i­ly to a gourmet meal that delight­ed the taste buds and a view that I could not turn away from. While the busy city lights twin­kled below, we enjoyed our amaz­ing set­ting far above the hus­tle and bus­tle of the city. Equa­to­r­i­al con­stel­la­tions shone bright­ly above, com­pet­ing against the city below. The set­ting was out­ra­geous and, of course, our host was extreme­ly gracious.”

~ MM Guide Tino Villanueva

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