ECUADOR - Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sure enough, I tossed and turned half the night, and at 2AM I was so stiff and sore I could hardly move - what a tough day yesterday was. I went to the hut and got some hot chocolate (Swiss Miss) and drank some, then decided to give it a shot. Chuck decided to bail, so it was two teams of two and one team of three.

I had my stuff pretty much ready, so it didn't take long, and I had some corn flakes and yogurt and then headed up with my rope-mates Mike and Sebastion. We hiked up the same beginning as for Norte, then angled off toward the glacier, at the foot of which we cramponed up. Amazingly, the very first thing we had to do was climb a narrow chute at about AI3, single-tool French style. It was a lot of fun, even at 16,000'. Overall it was steep, but the snow was fantastic. Near the top was another section of lower angled AI3, maybe 3- if there is such a thing. In the guidebooks it's rated AD (French for "a bit difficult") and I'd say that's about right. We made the summit under goal, hung around for a bit enjoying our speed and success.

Fantastically, it turned out that Mike had lost a crampon somewhere along the way, so it was a good thing I'd been kicking good steps (I was in the middle of our rope, so he followed me). We swapped out ropes so I was in the middle with Javier and Daniel. We had to immediately downclimb the steep section, again, French Style, and it was great fun. I kicked solid steps so Mike could come down with Sebastion, and they hand-over-hand went down our rope like a fixed rope, then after they passed us Javier, Daniel and I simulclimbed the rest of it to the flats where we rested, drank, and stripped down some.

We had good, but steep, walking down, and got to the top of the chute in good time. Mike found his crampon there (Pepe had found it and placed it at the top of the chute). Mike and Daniel got lowered, and I got to climb down, which again, was great fun. I got to pull a few downclimbing mixed moves, using my axe in a narrow band of rock, and taking some rock hand and crampon holds. I can hardly wait for Liberty Ridge now.

We walked down the rest of the way to the hut and variously napped or ate and packed up our stuff. The horses were there waiting for us, so we got our bags in a pile for them, and I changed to my running shoes. We headed all the way down to the trucks at 13,000'. We got in one and left the other for Pepe to pack when the horses got down.

We drove to "La Estacion" where we ate, and picked up our baggage from storage. Pepe caught up to us quickly (everything he did was quickly btw). We continued on to "La Carrion" our hacienda for that night. I ended up with the single room, which was cool, since I got to lay all my stuff out and plan for two bags for Antisana - one I could just leave in the SUV and the other I could bring into my tent.

We ate in a much fancier environment there. Really nice, then went to bed early. I had nightmares about disaster on Antisana and was pretty freaked for the first part of the night.