Shane Hutton, one of the masterminds behind The Ultra Life, is certainly a man on one big mission. He’s spent the past 11 months riding the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route from Canada to Mexico with the ultimate goal being to reach Patagonia. Having just had eight weeks off in the states to rest, recover and put on some much needed weight, Shane’s now back on the road and heading towards the big mountains in South America – staying comfortable in his awesome ioMerino clothing, of course! He’s certainly hit the ground running (well, riding!) and is enjoying being back on the road in Ecuador. In fact, he rode up to Cotopaxi National Park on his second day back where he camped in the ever looming shadow of Volcano Cotopaxi. But it’s the recent climb up Volcano Chimborazo that’s really got us excited here at ioHQ…
At more than 20,000 feet, Chimborazo is the highest peak in Ecuador and because of its location on the equator, is the furthest point from the Earth’s center. So it’s safe to say it’s no walk in the park and climbing it requires guides, proper equipment and a few days of acclimatization. With not a lot of mountain experience, Shane was glad to have guidance from John at Andean Adventures, and he also met up with Dave and James who he played leapfrog with along the Great Divide, so he was glad to share the Chimborazo experience with them also.
After arriving in the capital of the Chimborazo province, Riobamba, the team made their way up to the first Refugio where they were fed and hydrated, and did a few treks to try acclimatize before the big day. According to Shane, it was all pretty ‘boring stuff’ until they started the climb.
“We were woken at 10pm, got our gear ready and left the Refugio slightly after 11pm on a perfect night”, Shane recalls. “The sky was clear, the moon shone so bright you could make out the glacier on the volcano and most importantly, there was no wind!”.
“We had all the gear – jackets, pants, harnesses, ice axes, crampons, helmets and I had my ioMerino thermals! We left the comfort of our warm Refugio sitting quite contently at 4800m. After 1km we reached the second Refugio and stopped to take a drink. I actually took my under jacket off here as I was warm enough with my ioMerino thermals.
“We hiked somewhat clumsily through the rocks and up a 30-40 degree slope until we hit the ice and frozen ground. We put our crampons on and were told we needed to move fast through the next section as it was the ‘rockfall section’. This was sort of funny as James and I had never used crampons before and knew there was nothing fast about the way we were moving.
“My climb was hindered by the fact my ice axe had no loop in it, meaning if I let it go, I’d drop all the way back down to the bottom. It was pretty scary at this point because I knew if I fell it was going to be a long way down. I was a little unsure of how much I could trust my crampons and it took a lot of will power to stop the wheels from spinning in my head and keep control. It’s what I love about this kind of challenge. Overcoming your mind.
“I got through that section and began to feel sick with a terrible headache. I stood up and nearly fell over but managed to keep on hiking. We finally hit the glacier where I had to sit down again. I was feeling really bad and all I could think of was ‘how the hell do I get back down’ so told my guide I wasn’t doing great and he gave me some time. I tried to walk two more times, the words I had learnt earlier ‘poco mas’ meaning ‘a little more’ came in handy.
“Unfortunately I was tripping on my own feet and trying not to vomit, so after some deliberation and being told it was another three hours to the summit, I decided it was over for me. All the way down I was having to stop and cradle my head and try not to vomit so I knew I had made the right decision. I was back at the Refugio at 5am feeling absolutely horrible.
“After some water and powerade, I laid down with a head I was sure was going to explode and got an hours sleep before getting up at 7am still feeling rubbish but determined to not miss the boys coming down. They rolled in around 10am totally exhausted but also elated to have reached the summit.
“I’m incredibly proud of making it to where I did and in no way regret my decision to come down. It was a serious baptism into the world of mountaineering and I feel I’ve gained some great knowledge. And I’m super excited to have a crack at another mountain soon!”.