My partner and I selected Ecuador eco adventures for a Carihuairazo climb. We informed Wlady that we had no mountaineering experience but were assured that everything would be taken care of and that Carihuairazo is a reasonable climb for us (as active young people).
Everything went pretty well initially. We rented everything from eco adventures and while some of the equipment/clothing appeared a bit worn it appeared functional and we were assured everything was fine. We were picked up from our hotel in Riobamba by our guide Fausto - there was no seatbelt in the rear seat and it was poorly communicated whether we needed to purchase our own water but aside from this everything went well the first day.
The cabins at the base of the mountain were nice. We had our own room and were able to walk around the paramo. Dinner was surprisingly nice and plentiful. Overall very pleasant.
We went to bed early and got up at 2am, had a small but nice breakfast and drove to the start of the hike. The majority of the Carihuairazo climb is a mild to moderate intensity hike on dry ground. We went at a slow pace and this portion was not difficult - taking maybe 3 hours.
We arrived at the base of the glacier and the guide helped us put on crampons. This is where the problems started. We explained again to the guide that we didn’t have experience with crampons and requested a short lesson. This was denied and he simply said – ‘it’s ok, that’s why you have a guide, everything will be fine’. Ok… so, as I said, to this point we had a quite gradual pace but once we got the crampons on we immediately started a brisk pace up the glacier. I noted nearly immediately that I was getting significant snow build up on my crampons and started to stumble a bit. My partner was also new to crampons and so we both requested a brief stop to see what was going on and maybe get some pointers. We did not stop. I’m young and in good shape but started to get very winded and kept stumbling with the significant amount of snow building up on my crampons. Then, one popped off. I had to yell to get the guide to stop. He helped get the crampon back on and finally by this point told me that I should be clearing the snow from the crampons with my axe. I’ll mention at this point that it was not a language barrier, both my partner and I have significant experience speaking Spanish and had no problems in our month in Ecuador speaking and understanding. Now, I still wondered why I was getting SO much more snow buildup than others but continued on. After about 45mins we reached the summit. During this time Fausto continued at a brisk pace with the two of us in tow on the rope and barely slowed down or stopped despite our requests. My crampon popped off a second time. We did reach the summit, very winded and somewhat shaken by our guides seeming disregard for us. We later learned that guides typically like to get through the glacier fairly quickly due to risk of rock fall – which we could have understood if any attempt had been made to explain this to us – and which still does not explain his ignoring our requests.
At the top our guide and another guide had a nice sandwich and tea to themselves, while we were offered nothing except some cookies. Going down the glacier was similarly difficult and the snow buildup on my crampons had worsened. Our guide continued to prod us along like we were a couple of unruly children and was somewhat condescending when he did want us to do something (like have the rope on one side or walk a certain line). There were some very sketchy points getting down – steep with lots of loose rocks, this all made worse by my crampons with their constant snow buildup and our distrust in our guide, by this point. When we finally reached the bottom, I was fairly shaken and frustrated by my near inability to walk on my crampons with their buildup of snow after every couple of steps. A seasoned mountaineer was at the bottom and when I mentioned my crampon issues he informed me that the crampons I was given lacked an absolutely necessary component - anti-balling plates (or anti-snowball plates). This is a simple piece of plastic that goes on the underside of the crampon and prevents snow buildup. Not having used crampons before, I was not aware of this component or the necessity. The reason I paid to have a certified guide and mountaineering company was exactly for things like this!
On returning I reached out to Ecuador Eco adventures, Wlady, in a good-faith attempt to get an explanation for these issues (which I feel put us in danger). He did apologize for the mishaps and mentioned that the snow was unusually sticky given the record snow last month. I can’t say whether this is true or not but I did want to provide our experience for others to see.
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