In this case, I was chasing an angel. While there's much to report these days, I thought I’d start with a fine little tale about a well-traveled ring and how it finally made it to the place it belonged.
Though Carihuairazo is a “beginner’s” peak, it still has its challenges. At 16,463 feet, climbers still have a solid, steep (but short) march to the top, and cold is always a concern. I knew my ganas (motivation) for getting up was the proposal, but what if Lynsey wasn’t feeling it that day? What if the sky spat rain and hail into a thick soup of fog and the guides were uncomfortable about the ascent? What if?
All of those questions floated around my mind during the weeks of training leading up to the climb. We met our faithful little group of “mountain people” in the park and ran the slopes and steeps of Cuenca - a truly great training ground at over 8,000 feet. She was strong, she was ready, and I'd just have to see what kind of hand we were dealt on the slopes of the giant.
We woke at 3 a.m., late for a summit bid, but the ascent wasn’t so long as some of the others. Lynsey seemed ready, strong, and excited for the outing, a great sign. I carefully checked my backpack for a small white box packed alongside my GPS, and we were off.
What appeared to be fog blurring the light from our headlamps was soon realized to be volcanic ash from the erupting Tungurahua (near Baños de Ambato). We moved through it and up a rocky section that has undoubtedly seen great changes in the recent past with the warming temperatures. People say the mountain was once covered with a great glacier, but the ice now had receded back to only make up a rocky glacial mix towards the top. We were almost there! One last chute to ascend and I’d have my chance. The first group began up and struggled through the nasty, loose rock. We watched nervously as they unintentionally kicked down rocks of all sizes, forcing us to hide behind small cliff faces to avoid the crashing from above. This was a sketchy spot, and waiting around at the bottom seemed to be the most dangerous option of all.
We carefully climbed the icy rocks until arriving at a small flat spot just below the spired summit of the mountain, our destination. Immediately the guides put together a group shot, which we did, and as I began to plan my next move I heard, “¡Bajense!” They wanted to go down! Wait! I grabbed Lynsey, gave a wink to my buddy Daniel, and sat her down on a rocky seat near a beautiful, chilly notch in the mountain. Daniel moved in with the camera a bit early, and in the urgency of the moment I wildly tried to remember the words I'd rehearsed before. It seemed they’d been whisked away with the howling wind, so instead, as nearly always ends up happening with me, I went with the words that found me. After some fumbling with huge gloves and a frozen pack, I managed to pull out the ring in time to ask Lynsey to be my wife, and she said yes. Through wide smiles, red cheeks, and snotty noses we laughed at the good fortune of finding each other, and the mountain disappeared for a moment. It was just her and me, and it’s going to stay that way for a long time, no matter where the winds of change whisk us off to next...
To mountains, to love, to life!