Ecuador: Climbing High Mountains

” Edging along a narrow ledge, the steepness of slope was terrifying; the ice just disappeared into blackness next to our feet. If one of us slipped we would drag the two others with us, only our ice axes would have a chance of stopping us.  It was scary but we were calm, probably because of the lack of oxygen making us a bit mentally slow….. ”  (NM)

At the end of January under the post   “An Invitiation” two intrepid women, Nicole Morse and Marelise Bardenhorst anticipated a journey climbing high mountains in Ecuador with the goal of raising funds for the “Homes to Grow” project in Masiphumelele, a township in the southern peninsula, Cape Town.

Lisa Brunetti, an expat living in Ecuador also kindly posted notice of the intended challenge on her webpage,  and now linking back to that post as well, here is the follow up on the gripping account of the duo’s achievement and their adventures in the high altitudes of that diverse country.

Before tackling Cotopaxi, rigorous preparation entailed climbing on lower mountain slopes, acclimatising to the altitude.  Both suffered from acute mountain sickness (ACM) in the lead up and intense sessions of ice training on the glacier were grueling.  This is how Nicole describes her elation on reaching Cotopaxi’s summit: “I was proud, I was exhausted and I wanted to cry from relief. The spectacular views I had hoped for were obscured by the whiteout conditions, we couldn’t see into the volcanic crater but we could smell the sulphur. The clouds had lightened so we knew it was now daylight but we didn’t get to see the sun rising from the curve of the earth.  We took a few photos and then turned around to escape the cold.”   Then, still facing the difficult descent over the glacier, the effects of altitude and the extreme cold struck in an unnerving and threatening way …….. 

Click on the link  – (written in three installments) –  “High Drama On High Mountains” an account of the team’s steely determination and courage in achieving personal goals and raising funds for the children’s education. **

Nicole has kindly supplied the photographs and the visual impact highlights the difficult terrain and conditions.  A pertinent observation is Nicole’s comment on global warming: “The glaciated ice cap of Cotopaxi used to reach all the way down to the refuge, it now takes us an hour to hike up to the glacier before we need to put on our crampons and take out our ice axes. Global warming has caused the ice cap to recede by 40% in the last 25 years, I find that terrifying.”   How long will it take before the ice completely disappears?

Nicole concludes with these words: “This adventure taught us that even if you take small steps you will eventually get to the top, as long as you keep going. Thank you to everyone who donated to the Homes to Grow fund, your efforts have given some very special children a chance to reach the top too. May we all keep building towards their futures, one step at a time.Vamos!”

** Feeling inspired by their efforts?  If you’d like to find out more or would like to support the ‘Homes to Grow’ fund follow the link to the GivenGain page.





10 thoughts on “Ecuador: Climbing High Mountains

  1. By chance, I’m online and will be online for the next few days – more than usual. What timing, to awaken this morning, and this is the ‘first post’ in queue. Just scanning it in the inbox, I have tears in my eyes. Thank you so much for keeping us informed…

    I’m about to write a post and will definitely include this update. Many are surely interested in this story.

    1. Thank you! Glad about the timing. I read your subsequent post, and take time to pause, reflect. The connections that link and bind humanity together are so powerful. Support, courage, endurance… so many face challenges. The Homes to Grow project started on a ‘wing and a prayer’ and it’s quite a marvel at how things have panned out. Now two extraordinary South African women ventured off to far flung Ecuador and here they are putting us on the map. We’re at opposite sides of the world writing about it, through common interest and touching others along the way. Blessings to you Lisa.

    1. When i interviewed Nicole before they left, she was confident they’d make it, they had trained hard and were in good physical shape. But for us South Africans extreme cold and those icy conditions are not a part of our weather experience, let alone unstable glaciers. I so admire them! I did ask how they had recuperated afterwards and am happy to report that they went off to the Galapagos to unwind. So thankful that they came down safely and Marelise is fully recovered.

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