Monday, May 3, 2010

Acclimatization Begins

Today Pepe picked me up at my hostel at 8am. It was supposed to be 7:30 but he was stuck in traffic. Haven't seen him for two years, the guy looked the same. We left the city and into the suburb of Quito. The ride was not smooth, with lots bumps. The roads were not paved at all. In fact, they were all muddy after a few weeks of rain. I have been unlucky. Since I arrived, it rains everyday, down pouring. Pepe told me the are floods everywhere in low lands. I didn't know there is national emergency going on in Ecuador. Only if I speak Spanish to know this!

He drove me to the the trail of the mountain. It was so muddy that the car wouldn't move. We ended up walking twice the distance to the top. The hike was wet and obviously very dirty. We had to be super careful with each step as it was very slick. My pants were covered in mud and my shoes soaking. However, I didn't realize the wet socks until later. The wool socks are amazing. I felt warm in even they were completely dampened.

At the top, which is about 13000 ft (3900m), the view was okay, most covered in thick clouds and no sun. We chilled there for 20 minutes and took off.

Needless to say, the way down wasn't easier with slippery earth. Once we reach to the car which he parked in the middle of the road where we couldn't move further, Pepe took 0ut his soil digger and started to plant trees. We planted about 8 trees there. It was nice to be part of tree planting program that he's in for the Ecuadorian Red Cross.

He drove me back to his place in a very nice neighborhood of Cumbaya, outside of Quito. It's almost like Saratoga in the South Bay with lots of nice boutique shops and seclusive houses. He and his wife Monique and their children, 5 years old Jose and a girl (11) who I didn't get to meet, live in a beautiful house, very buddhistish with lots of Asian traces such as bamboo trees and paper lanterns. Apparently, Monique is a big fan of India. She's a great cook too, as she served us excellent lunch with pasta sopa and prime ribs.

It was a great first day although the weather sucked (and continue to).

Saturday, May 1, 2010

New Journeys

If you noticed, I have appended the word "peaks" to the tittle of the blog. You guessed it right, peaks are the new journeys I am going to take.

As recent as early last year, I did not even think about getting into mountaineering, let alone trying big mountains. Because South Pole is at high altitude, I needed to train for it. So my first climb was Mt Shasta. The trip went well, and all of the sudden I found myself falling in love with mountaineering. It almost like once you are in love, you never have enough.

I always love mountains and nature and did quite bit of hiking, but all of these are not serious climbing. So last year, I contacted a friend of mine who I met before and after my North Pole trip. His name is Pepe Jijon from Ecuador. He and I stayed in the same hostel in Longyearbyen. We talked a bit while waiting for our flight to Barneo basecamp for a few days. He was off to a last two degree expedition while mine is last degree. He said he had done 7 summits, all solo. This is one of the amazing feat that only a few have done so far. So I asked him if I got into mountaineering, I would like to work with him. We exchanged emails after our trips.

Fast forward to 2009. I decided to try out the big ones, even before my departure for the South Pole. I contacted him again and discussed the project. The first one I am aiming for is Mt McKinley. He did this back in 2006. It was a tough trip for him, but he made it. After Denali, he did Everest and the remaining of the 7 summits. So he's such an experienced mountaineer. In fact, he's quite famous in Ecuador. I asked a few people here in Quito, they knew about him, and talked about him with some respect. It's always nice to know your partner is a professional and well respect person, even in such a small country like Ecuador.

He has been super busy. Recently he was on a climbing tour around Ecuador with Red Cross to promote a youth program to inspire them to be more active and also planting trees in each province. At the end of the tour, he climbed a peak that was never been ascended before and baptized it as Mt Red Cross.

So with the depth of expertise on mountaineering, I am really happy and looking forward to partnering with him on mountaineering.

I am now in Quito (been here since Monday) to go on a training program before Denali. In this trip, he and I will be climbing a few volcano peaks near Quito, ranging from 16000 ft (5000 m) to 19000 ft (6000m). We have a list of peaks we wanted to attempt but the weather has been pretty wet (lots of rain) so the list we're going to climb will change a bit. I will update when I know exactly which one we climb. We will start on Monday and finish by Sunday or Monday the following week. Once that done, we have one week to rest before Denali.

This is going to be very intense climbing but Ecuador will definitely help me acclimatize. In fact. Quito is already at 9350 ft (2850m), quite high for those who live near sea level.

Lots of training, preparation and of course luck are needed in this new endeavor.