Juan’s dream – 65 years later

On the first weekend of March 2018 we accompanied Juan Castillo Barona. Our mission: to make his lifelong dream come true. The 77-year-old Ecuadorian wanted to climb volcano Tungurahua again, 65 years after his last ascent to the summit. The reason therefore was, to renew the damaged memorial cross for friends high up on Tungurahua’s steep slopes. Back in 1951 two young climbers died up there in an accident on the glacier. The so called “Cruz del Aleman” – the German’s Cross – reminded of the young couple. Unfortunately the weather and eruptions of the volcano destroyed it. Based on that, it was Juan’s dream to install a new cross in everlasting memory of the deceased climbers.

The planning of the trip started in December 2017. The expedition finally took place at the beginning of March 2018. Meeting point for all attendees of the adventure was the Basilica in Baños de Agua Santa. Therefore, local media was present to take pictures and videos as well as interviews with the main actors. The newspaper ‘Semanario Enlace’ was live on air with interviews of Juan Castillo Barona, Esteban Melendez (Head of Baños’ police department) as well as Jaime Vargas, the mountain guide for this endeavor. Furthermore, the TV channel ‘Premier Television Baños’ and the newspaper ‘Mi Ciudad’ reported about the upcoming expedition.

Afterwards, the trip started with a short drive to the entrance of National Park Sangay. From there, the team continued with the hike on a muddy path to the mountain refuge, while mules accompanied the expedition, helping with the heavy stuff. After a couple of rainy hours, the 10 motivated mountaineers reached the cozy hut. With a delicious dinner they refreshed their energy and enjoyed breathtaking views of the surroundings at night.

With only little sleep and rest, the group started its final preparations. The team shared the weight of heavy tools, materials and the cross, fairly distributed amongst them for the final part. Well-equipped and full of motivation they started at 4 a.m. the ascent to the ‘Cruz del Aleman’. Also, this is the place, where the new memorial cross should be set up.

Weather conditions were unfavorable, humid and windy. Nevertheless, Juan reached his goal and proudly performed, together with the expedition team, the installation of the new cross. At an altitude of approx. 4.650 m / 15,250 ft, this symbol will remain as commemoration of the two fallen climbers. Further, it shall remind us of the dangers involved when climbing high mountains.

With the age of 77 years, Juan showed great enthusiasm and persistence to climb Tungurahua. His mountaineer spirit is admirable. On the mountain, out of his comfort zone he acted as role model for young climbers. Moreover, Juan teaches very important lessons:

  • Age is just a number.
  • Teamwork is key to success.
  • It is all about attitude.

Many thanks to the whole expedition team and especially to Jaime Vargas, a very experienced IVBV-IFMGA-UIAGM & ASEGUIM mountain guide. He took a key role in accompanying Juan to achieve this terrific success.

andean summit adventure – we share your passion and realize your dreams!


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