(Note: I’ve updated this post in July, 2018, after climbing Mt Tom once again. I’ve recently completed ascending all 48 4000-footers, and am going up a few again, in different seasons…)
A few days ago I began a new journey here: writing about climbing each of the 48 mountains in New Hampshire that are at least 4000 feet tall and, each time, reflecting a bit on the journey since I joined Peace Corps, 30 years ago: on development, social justice, conflict, experiences along the way, etc.
This series is tracing two long arcs:
- Climbing all 48 4000-foot mountains in New Hampshire, what is called “peak-bagging” by local climbers. I’m describing, in words and images, the ascent of each of these peaks – mostly done solo, but sometimes with a friend or two;
- Working in international development during the MDG era: what was it like in the sector as it boomed, and evolved, from the response to the Ethiopian crisis in the mid-1980’s through to the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.
Over the next months, 46 more posts.
To skip the description of my ascent of Mt Field, and go directly to a description of a couple of the water projects we built during my two years in the Peace Corps in Ecuador, click here.
The Climb – Mount Field
The second of the 48 peaks that I summited was Mt Field, which is just south of Mt Tom. (My hike up Mt Tom was described in the first post of this series.) I went up both Tom and Field on 10 May 2016, leaving from Crawford Depot, as you can see on the map:
As I described it last time, the hike over from Mt Tom was pleasant and not too steep. But I got very nervous as I went, because of the increasing amounts of snow and packed ice on the path. Unexpected for mid-May!
I had planned to continue on to Mt Willey, another 1.4 mi from Field, but once I was on top of Field, it felt more prudent to give myself as much time as possible to get back down to Crawford Notch; walking along the ice was bad enough, but descending steeply was going to be a challenge.
So I will get up Mt Willey on another day! (As I did, in July of 2017, as described here!)
Neither of these photos show the ice, sadly, but the descent turned out to be every bit as challenging as feared. However, as I had neared the top of Mt Tom, I found myself on snow and then ice that had been packed by climbers over the winter. They call these “monorails” – areas of the trail that have been packed down so hard that they don’t melt until late in the season.
Worse: after summiting Mt Field, dropping steeply down the Avalon Trail, I was forced to walk on a long monorail without any way to avoid it – the surrounding forest was too dense. My feet came out from under me, broke my walking pole, and wrenched my shoulder hanging on to a tree when my feet came out from underneath me. It’s still sore as I write this.
I made sure to prepare better for the next few climbs, until I was 100% sure that the snow and ice was gone.
Potable Water in Ecuador
In my last post, I mentioned that I joined the Peace Corps on Valentine’s Day, 1984, when I flew from Boston to Miami to begin two years of service in Ecuador. I described Peace Corps training briefly in the last post…
Once I arrived at my posting, in Azogues, capital of Cañar province, I began to oversee the construction of two water projects – in Cochancay (in the lowland area of Cañar province, near La Troncal), and El Tambo, in the highlands. I was very lucky that I was the only gringo in the province (at least for my first year), and the only Project Engineer other than the provincial head. So I had a lot to do, lots of responsibility.
I loved it.
Long-time readers of this blog may remember that I wrote about El Tambo two years ago – the tragic story of Noemi Ávarez Quillay, who had died in 2014 while trying to reach the United States. She had lived near El Tambo. I was very disturbed to read that,“…in Noemi’s hometown there are clues about the forces at work in her story. In the district of El Tambo in Cañar province, her maternal grandparents, Mr. Quillay, 57, and María Jesús Guamán, 59, live in an adobe home with no running water…” Either the water system we built hadn’t lasted, or Noemi lived “in the district” but outside the area served by the system…
But back in 1984, one of the most interesting parts of this project, for me, was that the water source was far away from town (8.8km): a spectacular lake (Culebrillas) with a remote Incan ruin on its banks. The work crew started by building the captation weir near the lake; they had diverted the Culebrillas river while they built the weir. From there they worked back down towards town, digging a 1m trench, laying and gluing the PVC pipes, and then covering it all up again.
For many weeks I visited the work site by driving up near the lake and walking several kilometers; later, as they approached El Tambo, it was easier to walk up from town. I vividly recall wondering at the spectacular beauty of the Andes mountains, that I was hiking in such amazing landscape, and “working”!
We built a simple treatment plant, with a chlorination hut, two slow sand filters, a 100m3 (26,000 gal) water storage tank, over 8km of tubing in the town itself, and 356 household connections.
Here are a few photos of the El Tambo project:
While technically similar (gravity-flow), the Cochancay project was quite different, mainly because it was on the coast while El Tambo was in the highlands. Cañar was an unusual province, with extensive mountain and coastal zones.
In those days at least, the culture of coastal Ecuador was very Caribbean, exuberant and loud, extroverted and busy. El Tambo was primarily indigenous, introverted and sombre. Stereotypes, of course, but that’s how it felt.
The captation for the Cochancay system was in the jungle, a few kilometers the road from town. No scenic hiking in the Andes for me on this project! Driving to Cochancay was always a bit scary, as we dropped down from Azogues, at 2500m above sea level, almost to sea level, and there was almost always heavy, dense fog on the way down. I saw more than one terrible accident on that road (which was the main highway between Cuenca and Guayaquil).
Here again we built a simple treatment plant, with a chlorination hut, two slow sand filters, a 100m3 water storage tank, over 7km of tubing in the town itself, and 361 household connections. These two projects were of very similar sizes; one difference was that here in Cochancay, with a much warmer climate, the system was designed to provide 50% more water per person than in El Tambo, up high in the cooler mountains.
Here are a few photos of the Cochancay project:
Here I’ve written about helping to bring potable water to two rural communities – and, in fact, in 1990 only 62% of rural Ecuadoreans had access to improved water sources. So the work we were doing in El Tambo and Cochancay was urgent and important.
But one common thread of these posts will be how much things have changed – mostly for the better – since I began this journey. In this sense, then, the world has changed: by 2010, nearly 90% of Ecuadoreans living in rural areas had access to improved water sources.
More on that theme – how much the world has changed – in a future post!
But first, what did I learn from El Tambo and Cochancay? So many things! About the importance of community organization. About how important it was to charge a nominal fee for water, and increasing marginal costs for more use, to encourage conservation. And I learned a lot of Cañari Spanish!
But from an engineering point of view, I was also learning. As a “mechanical” engineer, this was really the first time I had built such large concrete structures, and the two 100m3 tanks we built in El Tambo and Cochancay seemed way over-designed.
In my next post, covering my hike up Mooselauke, I will begin to tell the story of the water system we built in San Rafael – a village across the valley from El Tambo, affected by water-born typhoid, where we built Ecuador’s first ferrocement water tank. A 70% reduction in cost when compared with the reinforced concrete tanks we built in El Tambo and Conchancay. And we designed and built a Cretan Sail windmill to pump water for the system.
Postscript: I climbed Mt Field again on 19 July, 2018, after having completed all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4000-footers earlier that month; Mt Jefferson was my final climb – stay tuned for my blog about that!
I wondered how it would feel to start the cycle anew – it felt good! It had been a bit over 2 years since I had climbed Tom and Field, and some things had changed… This time it was mid-summer instead of late spring, so no snow or ice on the ground. And, this time, I climbed Mt Field first, going around Avalon and A-Z trails clockwise instead of counter-clockwise as I had done in 2016.
It was a spectacular day, clear skies and cool temperatures. I drove up from Durham, leaving at 7am, arriving at the trail-head in Crawford Notch about 2 1/2 hours later. Since I had climbed Tom and Field last time, I had established a tradition of stopping for coffee and a Subway sandwich on the way north – which I did this time, too.
It was a beautiful summer day, warm and clear, with great views from the tops. As I hiked up, I did notice many more tree-falls than I had remembered, perhaps due to the severe storms we had here in March 2018.
In my original article, above, I briefly mentioned having fallen on ice and wrenching my shoulder. That was descending from Mt Field; this time, going up Mt Field, I came across that area and took a moment to reflect on having learned my lesson!
I left Crawford Station at 10am, and headed up the Avalon Trail:
Evidence of high winds, that I don’t remember having seen two years earlier:
After 40 minutes, I came to the junction with the A-Z Trail. Here I would continue on the Avalon Trail, left, to reach Mt Avalon and then Mt Field. In 2016 I had gone right here, up to Mt Tom first:
The trail became very steep. I took one wrong turn near here, in the middle of a big and recent tree blow-down, and had to double back. Lost 15 minutes or so, and some sweat!
At 11:15am I reached the top of Mt Avalon, with fantastic views towards the Presidential Range:
And down Crawford Notch:
And over to Mt Tom, which I would reach after first getting to the top of Mt Field:
Down off of Mt Avalon, I rejoined the Avalon Trail and continued another mile to Mt Field:
The top of Mt Field was crowded, and unremarkable. There were a couple of groups of parents and young hikers – good to see them up here, but I decided to have half of my lunch nearby rather than at the summit cairn. Which is surrounded by trees, anyway!
Near the summit there is one view north, towards the Mt Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods. It was just after noon, and there was another hiker enjoying her lunch:
I had half of my Subway sandwich here, and then got back onto the trail, now moving on the Willey Ridge Trail towards Mt Tom:
Climbing Mt Field again was great, especially because it was a glorious day. I was able to note where I had fallen last time, on the mid-May snow of 2016, wrenching my shoulder, but generally it was a very peaceful and happy day.
Here are links to all the blogs in this series. There are 48 articles, including this one, each one about climbing one of New Hampshire’s 4000-footers, and also reflecting on a career in international development:
- Mt Tom (1) – A New Journey;
- Mt Field (2) – Potable Water in Ecuador;
- Mt Moosilauke (3) – A Water System for San Rafael (part 1);
- Mt Flume (4) – A Windmill for San Rafael (part 2);
- Mt Liberty (5) – Onward to Colombia, Plan International in Tuluá;
- Mt Osceola (6) – Three Years in Tuluá;
- East Osceola (7) – Potable Water for Cienegueta;
- Mt Passaconaway (8) – The South America Regional Office;
- Mt Whiteface (9) – Empowerment!;
- North Tripyramid (10) – Total Quality Management for Plan International;
- Middle Tripyramid (11) – To International Headquarters!;
- North Kinsman (12) – Fighting Fragmentation and Building Unity: New Program Goals and Principles for Plan International;
- South Kinsman (13) – A Growth Plan for Plan International;
- Mt Carrigain (14) – Restructuring Plan International;
- Mt Eisenhower (15) – A Guest Blog: Max van der Schalk Reflects on 5 Years at Plan’s International Headquarters;
- Mt Pierce (16) – Four Years At Plan’s International Headquarters;
- Mt Hancock (17) – Hanoi, 1998;
- South Hancock (18) – Plan’s Team in Viet Nam (1998-2002);
- Wildcat “D” Peak (19) – Plan’s Work in Viet Nam;
- Wildcat Mountain (20) – The Large Grants Implementation Unit in Viet Nam;
- Middle Carter (21) – Things Had Changed;
- South Carter (22) – CCF’s Organizational Capacity Assessment and Child Poverty Study;
- Mt Tecumseh (23) – Researching CCF’s New Program Approach;
- Mt Jackson (24) – The Bright Futures Program Approach;
- Mt Isolation (25) – Pilot Testing Bright Futures;
- Mt Lincoln (26) – Change, Strategy and Culture: Bright Futures 101;
- Mt Lafayette (27) – Collective Action for Human Rights;
- Mt Willey (28) – Navigating Principle and Pragmatism, Working With UUSC’s Bargaining Unit;
- Cannon Mountain (29) – UUSC Just Democracy;
- Carter Dome (30) – A (Failed) Merger In the INGO Sector (1997);
- Galehead Mountain (31) – What We Think About When We Think About A Great INGO Program;
- Mt Garfield (32) – Building Strong INGO Teams: Clarity, Trust, Inspiration;
- Mt Moriah (33) – Putting It All Together (Part 1): the ChildFund Australia International Program Team;
- Owls’ Head (34) – Putting It All Together (Part 2): ChildFund Australia’s Theory of Change;
- Bondcliff (35) – ChildFund Australia’s Development Effectiveness System;
- West Bond (36) – “Case Studies” in ChildFund Australia’s Development Effectiveness System;
- Mt Bond (37) – Impact Assessment in ChildFund Australia’s Development Effectiveness System;
- Mt Waumbek (38) – “Building the Power of Poor People and Poor Children…”
- Mt Cabot (39) – ChildFund Australia’s Teams In Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, and Viet Nam;
- North Twin (40) – Value for Money;
- South Twin (41) – Disaster Risk Reduction;
- Mt Hale (42) – A “Golden Age” for INGOs Has Passed. What Next?;
- Zealand Mountain (43) – Conflict: Five Key Insights;
- Mt Washington (44) – Understanding Conflicts;
- Mt Monroe (45) – Culture, Conflict;
- Mt Madison (46) – A Case Study Of Culture And Conflict;
- Mt Adams (47) – As I Near the End of This Journey;
- Mt Jefferson (48) – A Journey Ends…