VIDEO: Lead Now Episode #8 - Ecuador
I had no idea what to expect as Jon and I flew into Quito, Ecuador for a month of climbing. Two words came to mind when I pictured Ecuador: hot and volcanos. Volcanos don't always produce the best rock (although they have produced one of my favorite crags, Smith Rock...which isn't exactly the best quality rock in the world). Fair or not, I expected short crags with sharp loose rock. Instead, Ecuador blew my mind, as did a volcano that literally exploded while we were in Ecuador.Ecuador is one of the most bio diverse countries in the world. An 8 hour drive through a nation the size of Colorado will wind you through the Amazon jungle, pristine beaches, alpine tundra, and 20,000 foot snow covered peaks. The amount of rock here will leave you speechless. Miles of tall cliffs cover the hills, line the highways, and sprawl as far as the eye can see.While in Ecuador, I had the chance to make the first ascent of an existing project, bolted by Mickey Verduga in 2013. The line cut through a thin slab of orange lichen before jutting out a long overhung headwall. Imagine every type of hold you've ever grabbed. On one route. Amidst what appears to be the set of Lord of the Rings. This is Middle Earth, somewhere in the upper 5.13 range at 13,000. Thanks for sharing the line Mickey, a memorable route no doubt!Christian Medina, a local Ecuadorian climber, guided us on a road trip south through Ecuador in which I cooed over lambs along the dirt roads, learned how to eat mangos without making a mess (sort of), and digested bits and pieces of Ecuador's history. Daniel Duran helped us with endless amounts of beta to see the country's best culture and climbing. Margarita Cardoso, a strong and motivated climber and developer in Ecuador, showed us her favorite climbing areas around Cuenca and also joined us on a visit with Heifer International, our Lead Now non profit partner. Thanks to all our new friends who opened our eyes to the beauty of a country I knew nothing about, but now love!Heifer International applies the “teach a man to fish” philosophy by helping bring sustainable agriculture to impoverished communities. We visited two rural villages in Ecuador where Heifer supports local projects – one involving llamas and alpacas and the other regarding soil enrichment. We even cooked guinea pig with the indigenous farmers, an unforgettable roasting experience!To join Lead Now in supporting Heifer, donate online at www.crowdrise.com/leadnowtourecuador. Donate $27 or more and you’ll be entered into a monthly raffle to win a Marmot tent!