Ecuador Trip:  Pasochoa

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Climb Planning

Next we turned to the task of arranging our climbing expeditions. Ecuador has several very high volcanoes (~ 19,000 feet) that are fairly accessible. The main tricks are lucking into good weather and getting adjusted to the high altitude. To deal with the weather one ought to come to Ecuador in the other half of the year when it's a bit less snowy and avalanche risk is lower. To deal with the altitude we started out with climbs of two less intimidating mountains: Pasochoa and Guagua Pichincha. After debating which tour agency to hire, we settled on Safari Tours and soon set off.

Pasochoa Our guide for this trip was named, I think, Daniel. He was a veteran of Ecuador's army and had participated in skirmishes against Peruvian forces. Because of that, and his slightly official-looking jacket and his very odd-looking hat, I came to think of him as our "guerilla guide". He told us stories about his work as a bodyguard for foreign executives, and about eating grass and leaves while in the field as a soldier

Pasochoa, like every mountain in Ecuador, is a former volcano. Like Pululahua its top section is a massive crater. The summit is at 13,800 feet (4,200 meters). The Andean cordillera in Ecuador is quite narrow. A matter of ten miles wide, if that. The western side is coastal and the eastern side abuts the jungle. Pasochoa lies on the east, and the lower portions of the mountain are humid and lush. Oh, and muddy as well. This is the place where I really learned the word resbaloso, which means "slippery".

Also joining David and me on this trip were Chris, the crazy guy from Seattle, and Cari, the U-Mich law grad traveling on her own through Latin America. Chris was just a random; he happened to book in on the same trip through Safari Tours. Cari sort of attached herself to David and me because she was alone and wanting some people to go trekking with because otherwise the tour place charges you more. David and I had an amusing time with Cari because of her naively idealistic perspective on politics and economics.

Here's the view from the parking lot, looking away from Pasochoa across the cordillera:
View From The Pasochoa Parking Lot

And me, Cari and David as we set off:
Matt, David And Cari Setting Off To Pasochoa

David and Cari posed as we hiked along the rim of the crater. We were using an alternate route because recent rains had damaged the regular path, which follow another route along the rim towards the summit. You can see from this picture that as we climbed we left the jungle-y terrain and entered a far drier microclimate of scrub trees and grasses. The sharp transitions from wet to dry terrain were a recurring feature of our Ecuadorian travels.
David And Cari On The Pasochoa Rim

As we approached the summit clouds started to gather, meaning I was stuck with this shady shot towards the peak:
Pasochoa Summit

Because we were on the alternate route, our only path to the summit involved scaling a 15-foot rock face, which we were not prepared to do. When we discovered this our Seattle traveling companion revealed himself as totally nuts. He was a crunchy, grungy type, so I was surprised when he started to behave like the stereotype of the big, dumb American. He got made at our guide and harangued him for about 15 minutes. When that went nowhere, in part because the other three of us jumped in and firmly took the guide's side, Chris decided he could just go up by himself. (Nutball!) Don't mind the rest of us, of course. Sure, go ahead and spend an hour tilting at this windmill. That's great. Anyway, as we were climbing down from our high point at the base of the rock wall, Chris was trying to convince these four other hikers to "lend" him their rope so he could climb on his own. Oy vey.

In the few peaceful minutes we had to enjoy our lunch, David snapped this shot for me:
Me As Close As I Got To Pasochoa's Peak

As seems so common on this kind of climb (at least for me -- off the top of my head I remember it happening on Mt. Humboldt, Gothic Mountain and in Montana's Absarokee Wilderness), our descent was hastened by the start of a small electrical storm that chased us toward less exposed terrain. About halfway down Crazy Chris caught up to us, having (finally) taken the hint and reconciled himself to not reaching the absolute tippy-top. When we got back I took this timer shot of all five of us:
The Band Of Five

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