Cotopaxi 2012 Expedition Archives

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Now that the 2012 Cotopaxi program is complete, we’ve collected all the action including videos and photos from the last year right here. Who are these people? Learn about the team. First time visitor? Learn about this program and what we’re all about. This program would not happen without the generous support of sponsors and individuals.

While in Ecuador our nimble media crew shot, edited, and published these videos on the fly.

Acclimatization climb on the East Lava Flow route of Guagua Pichincha

We had to get to the mountain somehow. Start trekking… across the Ecuadorian Andes

Nerves ans sleepless nights… Countdown to Cotopaxi Summit Attempt

Day 13 – Cotopaxi Summit Day

Prior to the team’s departure for Ecuador we met twice in Colorado to train.

S2S October Training – 2012 Cotopaxi Team

S2S July Training – 2012 Cotopaxi Team

Cotopaxi Expedition Route Map Across Ecuador

View Cotopaxi Expedition Trek and Climb (DJ) in a larger map

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Summit Perspectives From Luis

Posted in Guest Bloggers,News

The following is an open letter written December 14 to the team from Luis Benitez, S2S Guide:


I am so very happy and proud of each and every one of you.  I have been closely following your whole journey and it does my heart good to know BOTH that some of you made it, and some of you didn’t. Let me explain why. The guides have probably shared with you all the technical reasons for turning around. Not even being there I know I would agree. After a storm cycle like that, and winds like you had, followed by high temperatures, the avalanche potential is usually huge. You know the story, “ If I had a nickel for everytime I have had to turn around on that hill, I would have lots of nickels”.  Having grown up with Rene and other Ecuadorian guides on your trip, I trust their judgment was sound.

I would however like to offer a different approach, one that you can sadly find on the internet today.  Today a hero of mine died; Maurice Herzog.  Any of you that have researched the history of mountaineering know the name.  If you don’t, allow me to share.  Maurice along with two close friends climbed the first 8,000M (26,000ft) mountain ever climbed by humans, Annapurna in 1950. This was three years before Everest was first climbed. He lived a full life and died today at 93 years old.

He and his two summit partners had an epic descent, which ended in all of them losing most of their fingers and toes to frostbite. He, much like all of you at that point after returning from war, had a choice; lay down and take it, or find a way to move on.  Maurice wrote a book when he came back, telling large tales about the adventure just GETTING to the peak, the climb, and the aftermath as doctors slowly cut off much of his hands and feet.  He ended this book (Conquistadors of the Useless) and his story with a very simple sentence, which I think applies whether you are a man or woman; “There are other Annapurna’s in the lives of men”.

After writing the book he went on to become Minister of Youth and Sport in France, as well as the Mayor of Chamonix, France.  All this from a simple farmer.  When I reflect on how much of an influence he was on me growing up, the older I get, the more I understand that last sentence.  To me it means summit or not, there are other things, other things we can’t see yet, can’t understand; but the journey towards these things teaches us how to keep putting one foot in front of the other. When asked if the summit was worth his hands and feet, he always had the same answer; “No”.  He would then go on to explain that losing his hands and feet became important when he started educating youth in climbing, then educating politicians while he was Mayor.  He said, only then did the lessons apply because the “days in the valley doing these things were much harder and more complicated than the days on the high slopes”.

So I would offer in closing that thought.  Whatever you went thru on Cotopaxi will serve you well, summit or not.  Don’t let this one event define you. Let it offer a place to start from, which as always, is the greatest hope of Soldiers To Summits.

Come visit me anytime. My door is always open.



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Reflections on Pichincha

Posted in Dispatches from the Field,News,Photos

I’ll never forget how excited I was 10 months ago when I received the email from Charley Mace congratulating me for being accepted to be one of the members of the 2012 Cotopaxi Team.  The correspondent told me of their mission to help me reclaim my life.

It promised me new tools to innovate through barriers, build strong support systems and strengthen my approach to adversity.  It offered me the opportunity to serve and lead others.  The email informed me that by putting me through a rigorous transformational journey, they hoped I’d learn life skills to help achieve my dreams and become a “No Barriers” leader.  And while all that sounded wonderful, I doubt that I’m alone in saying what excited me most was the opportunity to travel to South America and experience the adrenaline rush that accompanies scaling a 19,000 foot mountain in Ecuador!

Over the course of the following  months myself and the other participants had multiple training sessions, where we built team cohesion and learned the basics of mountaineering.  While every one of these assemblies was an adventure and accomplishment in and of itself, my inner monologue still impatiently droned, “Can we please climb an Andean Peak already?!”  Well yesterday my voracious spirit was finally appeased.  After months of training, expectancy and excitement, The 2012 Soldiers to Summits Team at long last climbed our first mountain here in beautiful, sunny Ecuador!  The journey up Guagua Pichincha, a 15,500 ft active stratovolcano, was every bit as fulfilling as I could have hoped.  Gratifying is a gross understatement for the experience of finally banding together with this group to put all our training and preparation to use.

The feeling of adventure was undeniable as we trekked in the cool morning air through the foreign landscape to the Lloa Refuge at the base of the mountain, where we would begin our ascent up to the summit of this colossal peak.  While the ventures up James Peak and Mount Sherman in Colorado, during our training sessions were fun, they mainly consisted of… well.. basically just walking.  The appeal and allure of Soldiers to Summits was that they boasted “Mountain CLIMBING” not “Mountain WALKING,”  and that’s what made yesterday so exciting.  In addition to the hiking required to reach the top, it was also essential to perform more challenging actions, calling upon our athletic ability and technical knowledge to maintain safety.  We had to scale jagged rock faces.  We traversed ledges with hundreds of feet of exposure at our backs.  We were belayed over cliff ledges.  The whole day was one adventure after another culminating in a scramble up hardened lava to the crater rim of the active volcano.   Indiana Jones eat your heart out!  The experience was amazing, unforgettable and only the beginning.  As incredible as the climb was, it was merely a precursor of the challenges to come.  We still have over a week in this exotic land, miles and miles to hike, obstacles to confront and…  oh yeah…  one HUGE mountain to climb.

With everyday bring us closer to the 19,347 ft peak of Cotopaxi, the team’s excitement continues to rise, our friendships continue to solidify, and this journey continues to present personal accomplishments and rewards that will be remembered for the rest of our lives.  And oh yeah…  I’m learning life skills to help achieve my dreams and become a “No Barriers” leader.

John Masters

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First Impressions of Quito

Posted in Dispatches from the Field,News,Photos

We have arrived In Quito! What a journey. After about a year of curriculum development, participant selection, training sessions in breathtaking Colorado, WE HAVE ARRIVED! Travel to Quito was a bit of an adventure in and of itself. The airline was less than helpful with our numerous overweight bags as well as having a couple of hour delay in our travel. In No Barriers fashion we plowed through as a team and all of us along with our baggage arrived in Quito around 10pm Saturday night.

It did not take long for us to realize that we were no longer in the United States. We arrived during Fiestas de Quito (Founders Day, Quito). This festival features parades, street dancing, Chives (open air party buses), and bull fights. The streets of Quito were alive and bustling. As will celebrations like this we also witnessed our share of nefarious activities. The area we are staying in appears to have its fair share of crime. It is always striking to me as I have traveled to other countries the similarities and differences between the United States and the country I am visiting. People are people no matter where they live. (Isn’t there a song about that or something?) The good and bad parts of our humanity crosses boarders and cultures.

There are a lot of conveniences for a traveler from the United States here in Ecuador. First, they use the US dollar as currency. Paper money is exactly the same here, however, their coins can be confusing. They have an amalgamation of US and Ecuadorian coins. One might receive three nickels back in change that would all be struck differently even though they are minted in the US. It can be confusing. It also appears that unlike the US, Ecuador has the common sense to do away with the paper one dollar bill. Their coins are similar to ours. The one I currently have possession of looks like any Sacagawea dollar one could obtain in the US on the face of the coin. The back is very different. I am really interested to see if I can use one of these coins back in the US. I wonder if anyone will notice. They also use a .50 cent piece which I LOVE!

Electricity delivery is the same in Ecuador as it is in the US. No adapters or special plugs needed! For those of you who have traveled from the US you know that is HUGE!

The program is progressing well in our first few days here. We had a very successful classroom day yesterday.  One of the lessons was discussing our fears. I was truly surprised that most of the collective group fears landed in 5 or 6 categories. We all share the same fears. As that discussion fleshed itself out, I felt a common bond with the group. It is nice knowing that despite having different military experiences, different cultural experience, and living in very different parts of the United States we are really not that different from each other.

Transformative programs like Soldiers to Summits change lives. That is our mission to help veterans overcome barriers and reclaim their lives. Having said that, transformative programs like Soldiers to Summits cost a lot of money. I want to thank two of the MANY sponsors of this program: Kevin and Linda Noe and Polartec for your generous support of this program. This doesn’t happen without you and I can not say thanks enough for extending your resources to Soldiers to Summits.

Until next time, Peace and Love!

-Chad Stone.

Please help us raise $1 for every foot climbed on this expedition so that we can continue to transform lives with future S2S programs.  Every dollar helps the cause! Support the Dollar for Every Step Campaign here!

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Soldiers to the Summit Joins No Barriers USA

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October 6, COLORADO – The No Barriers team is proud to announce that Soldiers to the Summit (S2S) is now an integral part of our mission to promote cutting-edge ideas, approaches, and assistive technologies that help people with challenges push through personal barriers. Operating under the umbrella of No Barriers, S2S will reach out to our nation’s heroes who are facing significant injuries and arduous recoveries.

Soldiers to the Summit (S2S) is an ongoing program, ending with an exciting capstone expedition, to specifically assist veterans dealing with post-war challenges. The S2S program strengthens the rehabilitation process and helps veterans prepare for their future. A mentoring component of the S2S experience builds upon the camaraderie and support-systems which are often integral to a veteran’s military experience.

Soldiers to the Summit began last year when Erik Weihenmayer (our co-founder and Chairman of the Board) and his team celebrated the tenth anniversary of their historic Everest climb. Together they led eleven disabled soldiers, all injured in Iraq and Afghanistan, toward the summit of Lobuche, a 20,161-foot peak in Nepal. This expedition was a tremendous success and will soon become the subject of a major feature film that will highlight the challenges faced by our veterans as they work to return home after life-changing injuries.

Charley points out Everest from Lobuche Summit

Charley points out Everest from Lobuche Summit

No Barriers has played an increasingly important role in raising funds and creating awareness for Soldiers to the Summit.  We have extended that legacy forward with our successful fundraising climb of Quandary Peak in May and the inclusion of the Lobuche team members at our No Barriers Summit in July.

We are also pleased to announce that Charley Mace will serve as the Program Director for the S2S expeditions. Charley was with Erik on Everest and was an integral part of the first S2S expedition to Lobuche. He is one of Americas most highly regarded mountaineers with years of experience as a professional guide across the great ranges of the world. Charley has guided on every continent, climbed the seven continental high points, and summited four of the world’s fourteen 8000-meter peaks.

In addition to his climbing talents, Charley has a very strong business background. For six years, he was the Chief Operating Officer of Trango Equipment, a premier climbing equipment and apparel business, and he is a former Director of Operations of the American Alpine Club.

If you would like to help support or become more involved with the Soldiers to the Summit, you can contact Charley directly by email at or phone at 303-888-7247.

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