American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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South America, Ecuador, Cambridge Ecuador Expedition

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1961

Cambridge Ecuador Expedition. The Cambridge Ecuador Expedition spent eight weeks in Ecuador between June and August. The geographers, John Russell, John Stone and Peter Hopley, carried out a land-use survey in the vicinity of Baños, a small town situated at 5800 feet on the Pastaza River where it cuts a deep gorge through the eastern Andes, in its course to the Amazon. The zoologists, Tony Wright and Bill Erasmus, were collecting Chiroptera and small rodents for the British Museum; they brought back eight different species of bat and a variety of small rodents as well as the parasites associated with them. They did some of their collecting at Banos but also ventured into the interior Oriente to Puyo. From there they canoed down a tributary of the Amazon to Canelos. Another part of the geographers’ programme was the ascent of Tungurahua (16,693 feet), an active volcano, though at present quiescent, rising to the south of Banos, which it has devastated on several occasions. The recognized route is up the north face which is relatively straightforward. The final 1500 feet are snow-capped and very steep. Climbing conditions are at their best from October to May during the dry season. Our stay, however, coincided with the wet season, but luckily a week of fine weather came to our rescue. As we had had little mountaineering experience, we were fortunate in having as our guide Jorge Montalvo, who has ascended Tungurahua no less than 20 times and so probably knows it better than anyone else in the world. At five A.M. on July 21 we set off from Baños to climb the 7000 feet to the camp. There we met Jorge, who with two Yugoslav students had that day been foiled in their summit assault by high winds. As the mist cleared, spectacular views over the Andes were unveiled. To the east, the distant Oriente jungles and to the west, Chimborazo were a magnificent sight at sunset. After a 4:30 start we shortly reached the upper vegetation limit, and then began the tiring climb on cinders and ashes—up two steps, slip back one. Since I was finding breathing the rarefied air particularly difficult, regretfully I returned to camp for they wanted to reach the summit by 10:30 and start down before the noonday sun started melting the snow. On crampons and roped, they gradually made their way to the summit. Unfortunately soon after dawn a thick mist came down and their view from the summit was completely masked. They could not even see across the larger of the two craters, but they were warmed by the heat and smoke rising from the bubbling fumeroles, which melt most of the snow around the crater.

John F. A. Russell, Christ’s College, Cambridge University

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