Arriving at Base Camp

Posted: June 12, 2012 by Ben Weber in English, Hiking, Mountaineering, Training
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Phew! Quite a tiring few days – a lot has happened, so to write about it in one post would be almost as exhausting as the trip itself. We are in La Paz at the moment with a day and a half of rest before we go to Huayna Potosi, and the rest is welcome. The six days we spent at the Condoriri base camp were mixed with some sort of food poisoning; heavy snow affecting one of our climbing days; mountaineering skills training; and finally a successful attempt at climbing Pequeño Alpamayo, a 5,400+/- metre mountain in the Cordillera Real, a couple of hours away from La Paz.

So I guess, I will start at the beginning (makes sense, I suppose!). We got up at around 7am to leave the hotel before breakfast (the hotel breakfast only starts at 8am so we had to eat dry bagels with a bit of salami in the car with the guide). The drive to base camp was half spent going through the markets, traffic and smoke of El Alto above La Paz city – always interesting to go through – before taking the main road towards Lake Titicaca. Somewhere around half way along the highway, we turned right on to the rough and bumpy track towards the camp and towards the mountains which started to loom before us. And they did loom – they looked massive!

Passing herds of llamas, alpacas, sheep and a few cows here and there, and a few isolated mud-brick houses here and there, we gradually increased altitude to about 4,700metres (almost the same height as the camp which is at 4,800m). We got out of the car once or twice to take pictures and I started to feel a bit light headed. I just thought that it was the altitude. Eventually the road came to an end and we unloaded our equipment for the 3-4km trek to camp, with donkeys carrying the tents, though we still carried our large rucksacks. It was easy enough at first, gradual climbs along the well-used track. Then, about half way along I started feeling quite nauseous and my pace slowed dramatically. One of our fellow climber, Augusto, stayed with me and gave some breathing technique suggestions. We stopped for a short break and I asked Natalia for a chocolate bar just to get some more energy. Drank some more water and started walking again, getting to a large lake the other side of which was camp. More rest, more water. It was getting colder now and I just wanted to get to the camp so I went ahead. The rest soon caught up and started passing me.

Not a nice feeling…

I got to the camp a few minutes after them, and the guide was showing how to put up the tent. I couldn’t help as I had absolutely no energy, so I sat on a rock looking at them. Natalia gave me water which had an energy powder in it, but as soon as I took a mouthful, I just vomited. And that was the start of about 24 hours of vomiting and (how to put it nicely…?) intestinal dysfunction… okay okay, sorry… chronic diarrhea. It was looking bad. The guide even seriously thought about sending me back to La Paz, and came to our tent to discuss this as night set in. He didn’t know if it was severe altitude sickness, a stomach bug, or a mixture of both. He would have been happy to trek back with me to meet a car right then. I said I would see how it goes over the night and the following day – certainly didn’t want to give in quite so quickly. He agreed, adding that it would be… an uncomfortable night.

…Which is exactly what it was. Every few minutes I woke up, either needing more water or needing to go to the toilet. Not good. Eventually dawn broke though, and was I feeling okayish. However, the more surprising thing was when the others got up, Augusto looked dreadful and the guide himself was vomiting outside of the tent. I guess this ruled out the altitude sickness. It also gave me some more time to recover…

Recovery and getting ready to climb —->

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