The Victorian mountaineer Edward Whymper is best-known for making the very first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865, a notorious climb which ended in tragedy when four of his companions fell to their deaths after a rope snapped on the descent.
Less well known is that in 1879 he set sail across the Atlantic bound for the high Andes of Ecuador, where he made first ascents of nearly all of the country's highest mountains, most of which are volcanoes far higher than anything he climbed in Europe.
Yet he was a hard man to impress. He described the peaks he climbed as hilly rather than mountainous, citing the fact that it's possible to get a donkey up one or two of them as evidence of their inferiority over the mountains of the Alps.
But this didn't bother Mark Horrell, who describes himself as more of a hill walker than a climber. Whether heaving himself up with an ice axe or straddling a donkey, to him the views are just as good, and he resolved to follow in Whymper's footsteps and climb some of the same mountains.
In particular, he was intrigued by Antisana, an intricate crevasse-riddled mountain for which Whymper gave the following route description:
"The snow still rose on our left, and we bent round to the north, and after a few hundred yards it fell away on that side. Then we bore north-west, west, south-west, south, south-east and round to the north again, always keeping the rising snow against the left shoulder. At last we could perceive no tendency to rise and fall in any direction, and came upon a nearly level plain of snow, lost in mist on all sides. This was the summit."
If this is true, then surely Whymper was walking round and round in circles, and had made the world's first corkscrew ascent of any mountain? Could it really be true? Mark was determined to find out more by climbing it himself.
This is his diary from the adventure, and will be of interest to anyone thinking of climbing Ecuador's volcanoes, or anyone with a love of the Andes and its varied geography. This ebook is illustrated with many of the author's photographs.