Ups and Downs on Mount Chimborazo

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February 20th 2020
Published: February 25th 2020
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Today was a first for me (Jan) when I was heard to pronounce that going up was easier than going down…...sounds a bit unlikely? Unlikely but true!

Today was funny old day…..We left our hostel at 0630hrs in a cross country vehicle with 9 bikes on its roof and 8 people in the car- 2 Brazilian geologists (very useful when on a volcano), 2 Dutch youngsters, us, a driver and a guide. Our goal was Mount Chimborazo, which is the point on the earth that is nearest to the sun. It's not as tall as Everest at 6263m but because of the Equatorial bulge, it's actually furthest away from the centre of the earth and therefore nearest to the sun! Well we weren't trying to climb to the top (thank goodness) but we were dropped at the first refuge at 4850m and our first task of the day was to walk the pathetically short distance of around 1km to the second refuge, a mere 150m climb in altitude. It took an hour to get there and you simply wouldn't believe how hard it was to climb at that altitude even though we had been at or over 4000m for a little while. We concluded that mountaineering was not going to be part of our life-plan so it didn't really matter. Anyhow, we then moved onto the real business of the day and that was to bike down Mount Chimborazo from an altitude of 4850m back to Riobamba.

Of course the description of the activity was for “intermediate” crosscountry bikers but how unhelpful is that? What would constitute a “beginner”? Oh, wait a minute, maybe people who have never done any crosscountry biking before? Oh that would be us then…... but for some inexplicable reason Pete believes we both have an innate “intermediate” ability in everything and we should never admit to being a beginner. And so the intermediate, cross country biking day began.

The first part was literally down an almost vertical shale slope interspersed with boulders. OK, I tried to remember the instructions given to me before we started….”Don't use your front brake unless you are going in a straight line, only use your back brake and don't worry about the back wheel skidding sideways”. Oh right, I see. Of course the very next second I am lying on the ground tangled up in my bike, draped across several boulders. The trouble was, everyone agreed, was that I had touched my front brake while I was NOT going in a straight line. Schoolboy error, not to be expected from an intermediate biker. I apologised to the group for delaying them and off we went again. As it became clearer to everyone that I was deffo NOT an intermediate biker I received some remedial training from our guide…..”you will feel more stable if you sit on the saddle and don't try and take the vibrations on your legs”. Ok well I tried that for a few minutes until my coccyx shattered into a thousand pieces and then decided to draw on my vast knowledge of forces, vibrations and centres of gravity and ended up clamping my thighs around the saddle and sticking my bottom off the backwards to try and be more stable. Worked a treat and the day began to improve slightly. Pete of course did not have any trouble with centres of gravity or falling off or remedial training, thus strengthening his belief that he is at least intermediate level at everything. Blooming man.

The views of Chimborazu through clouds were majestic, the photo gives a flavour but fails miserably to depict the scale of the place.

Thankfully it turned out that I was not the only member of the group who was not intermediate and we ended up with a very supportive and hilarious group cycling throughout the day. The Brits won the “first falling off” (of course) but also the “keeping on your bike for the whole way up every hill” (guess who?); the Dutch won the “fastest downhill” but also the “putting your bike in the truck for the last long uphill”; (imagine doing that, neither of the Brit or Brazilian teams threw in the towel in such a Dutch way); and the Brazilians won the “no fallings off all day”. The British team also were the first to finish, beating allcomers on the long uphill stretch to the finishing line. Deffo a British triumph overall apart from my shatttered coccyx which the other member of the British team deems to be “bruised” (and what does he know?).

By the time we returned to Ribamba, after a gruelling 11 hours in total, neither member of the British team could think straight and we ended up falling asleep over some sort of dinner and then retiring to bed. 12 hours later we woke up and realised we had missed the bus to Alausi. Pooh.


26th February 2020

Brilliant blog
Am amazed how patient you (Jan!) continue to be. Love the detail, feels like a ski holiday with Pete - on steroids. Suggest the Maldives for your next holiday.
26th February 2020

Good idea...
About the Maldives Nick! Please take him away on another ski trip soon so I can have a rest! Xxx
27th February 2020

What is the MATTER with you Lowes?
You two are climbing, inch by tortuous inch, a mountain that's the closest to the sun. Two of your children are running a half marathon this weekend, no doubt through snow and rain. One of your daughters (and her husband) insist on cycling to work through hail, wind and floods. Are we related? I'm just off to the Garden Centre for a nice cup of tea and a bun. So we can't POSSIBLY be. Maldives sound good though! x
4th March 2020

The Danish team following you
Hi Jan & Pete So good to be long distance followers of your journey. I enjoy your humorous style of writing! You are really challenging yourself and seem to succeed after all. It doesn't really matter to fall asleep over dinner considering the menu. Also funny to go back and read about the Bariloche days. Looking forward to hear more in May! Enjoy your trip! Ellen and Jens
9th March 2020

Welcome back!
I’m so happy about the return of this blog, which I’ve only just been made aware of! Always an utter hoot to read xx

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