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Antisana with Mountain Madness

The Bishop and the Man of Wind and Snow — Part Two

Team mem­ber Alex Beat­tie shares his expe­ri­ences from our Anti­sana Expe­di­tion.

It was a pret­ty relax­ing day as we all met for the first time over break­fast. There are four clients (myself, Mike, Urszu­la, and Liliya), three of whom are from Cana­da! I am the youngest, but every­one seems to come with good cre­den­tials (and good per­son­al­i­ty!). I think it will be a good team.

City view with Ossy. Alex Beat­tie photo

Most of the day was spent on a city tour host­ed by our very enthu­si­as­tic and knowl­edge­able local guide Oswald (aka Ossy). We start­ed out at the look­out under­neath the Vir­gin of Quito, on a hill­top at the south end of Old Quito, with a great view of the sur­round­ing city. Prepa­ra­tions at the site were in full swing for the annu­al nativ­i­ty pro­duc­tion that is put on short­ly before Christ­mas and a huge event, draw­ing thou­sands to the hill. We then wan­dered around Old Quito, includ­ing a stop at the Igle­sia de la Com­pañía. This is some­times called the Gold­en Church” because most of the inte­ri­or is over­laid with gold leaf. The detail is incred­i­ble, espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing the only rock avail­able local­ly is vol­canic and very dif­fi­cult to work pre­cise­ly. No won­der it took 160 years to fin­ish. Final­ly, we made the oblig­a­tory vis­it to the Equa­tor line, at a dif­fer­ent spot than I vis­it­ed last time. I have my doubts. But, we did get to see some real shrunk­en human heads (and not the kind you get after a vis­it to the psychiatrist)!

At the equa­tor! Alex Beat­tie photo

Before the nev­er-dis­ap­point­ing din­ner at the Hacien­da Rumilo­ma, Ossy peered into our souls and checked out our gear in prepa­ra­tion for the days ahead. Luck­i­ly, it seems noth­ing was miss­ing, and some gear ques­tions I had about El Altar were answered the way I had hoped — hur­ray, more gear I can use! The next day, the pro­gram real­ly got start­ed. We went on an acclima­ti­za­tion hike to Rucu (old) Pich­in­cha. This is the old­er of the two Pich­in­cha peaks that form the west­ern edge of Quito (the Hacien­da is locat­ed above the city in a small val­ley on its flanks). Rucu is inac­tive, but its west­ern neigh­bour, Guagua Pich­in­cha, is still active and last erupt­ed in 1999, cov­er­ing Quito in ash.

View across Quito. Alex Beat­tie photo

We drove to the bot­tom of the tele­ferique and rode it up to the top of the hill­side at around 4000m. After hik­ing for a few min­utes we stopped at a bet­ter spot to get a good view of the sprawl­ing city Quito fill­ing the val­ley below (it is very nar­row, but very long). It was rel­a­tive­ly clear (for Ecuador), and most of the big peaks were vis­i­ble — Cotopaxi, stand­ing tall near­by, Cayambe, the Ilin­izas, and Anti­sana and Chimb­o­ra­zo peek­ing out of the clouds in the dis­tance. A mag­nif­i­cent sight!

Hik­ing above Quito. Alex Beat­tie photo

Easy hik­ing (and some req­ui­site scree) brought us to the base of the sum­mit block. A short sec­tion of fun scram­bling and we were on top of the 4700m sum­mit! We got about 30 sec­onds of view before the top cloud­ed over. After lunch, we beat a hasty retreat. As we descend­ed, we heard thun­der in the dis­tance. Not want­i­ng to get rained on, we made it to the tele­ferique in record time, and good plan­ning” gave us about 10 min­utes of mar­gin before the rain came.

Our group on the sum­mit. Alex Beat­tie photo

In the evening, we had din­ner with anoth­er large group just arriv­ing for the start of their 15-day moun­taineer­ing school (the same one I did three years ago). So excit­ed for them! I end­ed up stay­ing up late over drinks chat­ting with Ossy and his fam­i­ly. Today we final­ly head out to the Illiniza hut. Tomor­row we will go for Illiniza Norte. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Illiniza Sur is very dry this year, and is like­ly not safe to climb due to rock­fall haz­ard. We are con­sid­er­ing some oth­er alter­na­tives. Word is that con­di­tions on Anti­sana and El Altar are good this year. Cross your fin­gers that every­thing holds out and we get good weather!

~MM Expe­di­tion Team Mem­ber Alex Beattie