Ecuador, Volcan Sangay

M. Rietze, Th. Boeckel ,  (4.-12. January 2006)

in deutsch


Starting point of this Sangay 'expedition' was the mountain village St. Eduardo apprx. 50 km south from Riobamba. For the whole route of 120 km we planned nine days. Because of the humid weather tendency around the Sangay which can change completely into continious rain, we decided to expand the trek for two days longer. For transporting all this proviant three horses were employed.


By trying to photograph the little Ecuadorians, the other kids and parents did not hesitate for a momet and without saying a word they lined up nearly according to their size. A really nice welcome and you'll get a positive feeling for this long, uncertain one and difficult trek.


Day 1: By traversing deep and green valleys the way directed us into the typical highland scene which was overgrown by the Paramon grass. Here you are moving steady between 3500 - 4000m. The first camp was embraced with an intensiv shower which formed nice little icicles from our tent roof during the frosty night. But at this place the weather cavorts are created in a way that the sun-greed-head is allowed to see the star one time per day. On the right picture you can see Alberto preparing the bridle for the horses, which he will search tomorrow for two hours in the great wideness.


Day 2: After crossing the first pass on 3960 m, we stood fascinated in opposite to the impressive cone of the the 5230m high volcano, the Sangay. Nearly 1500 m the summit is towering above the countless mountain ridges which appeared really undersized in comparision.


We are reaching the second camp 'Plaza Bamba' and admired the ecuadorian way how to build up the cabanas. Strong constructed the thatched roofs did show an excellent density against the heavy rain. This cabanas are mostly used by the local farmers. On the second image from the right you can see our mountain guide Fausto and Alberto the horseman, which are preparing a rich and fine dinner by using rustic facilities.


Day 3: On the last leg a lot of mud canyons and countless river traverses were promised to us. And so it happened. By passing this long mud canyons you learn to apprechiate the dry season, because in the rainy times it is nearly impossible to pass the slurry chutes and you'll get forced to take long detours. Right: A tapir skull is decorating the welcome plate at the base camp ' La Playa'.


Respecting the unique nature during the day time, we are waiting for the first activity signs in the twilight.


Impressive Sangay in the evening mood, but we are fearing the worst case...


The night is starting and we are watching out for a smoke signal or a red shine. Nothing to see. By using the digital camaras for amplifing the rest light, we tried to squeeze out the last possible 'red' from the ASA 1600 exposures.


The result was rather 100% 'rawboned', and we had to accept that there was no activity on this volcano. This activity behavior of the volcano was known and the locals told us the last eruption took place two month ago. O.K, if there is nothing red, we kept busy with the 'Large Magellanic Cloud'. Clearly visible with the naked eye the LMC appeared in the deep southern sky and without using an automatically telescope guide we made some passable images.


Day 4/5: After reaching the summit we spent one snowstormy night in the tent. In the early morning time about 6:00 o'clock we could enjoy the free and fantastic sight over Ecuador. In the North-West direction the summit of the volcano Chimborazo (6300m) was rising far over the dense cloud layer.


Amazing! The summit seen from the base camp was looking like a narrow peak. But if you stay on this top a wide ranging crater areal with fumarole activities will expect you. After ascending the last 30 meters to the east crater areal we looked anxios into the snow covered east crater. Now it was definitely obvious that the most active volcano of South America was sleeping!


There is also to note that the rock fall can be very dangerous in the afternoon during sunshine. If you are crossing the wide flanks of the volcano (there is no other choice), you can get striked deadly by rocks with can reach the size up to half a meter. Because of the froozen ash fields, this objects can get very speedy and appears nearly loudless. It was really important to watch out for them continiously. The best way is to release the rope party, than let one person observe the slope while the other(s) are climbing. The best time to get up is early in the morning, because the rock walls in the summit area have a solid conistence.


Day 6/7/8: The nature is overwhelming and as far you remove from the volcano you'll dive back into the Parmograss highland. By getting in touch with the first civilisation friendly farmers welcome you after an eight day walking time. What a feeling!


Back to the Comunidad Eduardo, the teacher wanted me to give a little report for the kids to tell them, how you feel climbing up such a volcano like the Sangay. Hereupon I babbled somthing with my underdeveloped Spanish know-how and I can bet that they did understand nothing. Anyhow, this remembers me to my old school time.......  

Volcan El Reventador


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 ©2006, photos  by Th. Boeckel (tb), Martin Rietze (mr) ,last modification 22.1.2006

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