Climbing Austria….

Posted: June 13, 2012 by Ben Weber in Climbing, English, Mountaineering, Training
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Augusto’s headlamp shines as he walks past through the darkness

Waking up at 2.30am in preparation for the ascent of Pequeño Alpamayo, it was clear that Natalia was  feeling quite unwell with stomach problems, and as I looked outside, heavy snow had transformed base camp into a winter wonderland. The mountains around Pequeño Alpamayo were covered in cloud which glowed with the moonlight that managed to get through here and then. As I watched, the clouds were visibly speeding by – one moment the sky over us was clear, the next, clouds obscured everything. Celeb was awake and I asked him if we would be going ahead. Looking towards the mountains, he shook his head: if it was snowing down at camp, with the clouds over the mountains then the conditions up there would be considerably worse. I pointed out the shifting clouds and he said that okay, we would check again at 4am to see if the weather had cleared. I chatted with Augusto for a little and he helped me with a few photos as the camera was playing up.

4am came and I heard Celeb talking with José, our second guide who is local to the region and who has spent his life climbing the mountains in the Cordillera Real. I didn’t quite understand everything they said, but I  didn’t need to as shortly after I heard Celeb saying to us as we sat in the tents that we would not be going up today. Celeb later explained that whilst the clouds had broken, José thought the conditions would be too tricky for us, with us trail-breaking through deep snow. It was a relief in a way as it was clear that Natalia was feeling worse and wouldn’t have been able to make it. We went to sleep. More or less, as Nat was like me when I first arrived, waking up needing more water every few minutes. Not good at all, and I was worried if she would be okay should the weather clear for an attempt on the next day.

Morning light and the barren land around base camp is transformed

Morning came and the camp was brilliant bright with the snow: sun-glasses were well and truly needed. Caleb, Kirk and I were still the only ones who felt well – I guess I felt at around 90% so… good enough. Augusto still had not fully recovered and Natalia… not bad but not great. They decided to stay at camp whilst us three went off for a hike in the snow.

This turned into a hike that lasted six hours and saw us climbing Pico Austria – a 5,000 – 5,300m (not sure exactly how high as it is not clear) peak nearby which can be climbed without any technical equipment. It is a relatively easy climb, though I certainly felt the altitude: after a while, every step that I took was tiring and left me a little out of breath. The trail was straight forward and in São Paulo, down at reasonable altitudes, I would have had no problem whatsoever with the gradient or the terrain, however, after a couple of hours I asked how high Celeb thought we had climbed. He said… “hmmm…. I guess 100 metres or so”… I felt liked we had climbed a thousand. We kept going and got to the top of a pass from where we would approach the peak and chatted about whether I would be able to go on or not. I said that I would, but I would most likely be quite slow… Celeb agreed, though I decided I would give it a shot.

And I surprised myself in that not only was I able to keep going, I was able to keep a decent slow, but rythmic, pace and stay with the others. No headaches with the altitude, no stomach problems or other indications of altitude sickness aside from the occasional need to catch my breath. Slowly but surely, we got to the summit. Though I have been to Everest base camp, this was the first 5,000+ metre peak that I had actually climbed/hiked up and the views… were breathtakingly beautiful, and the sense of achievement was still pretty satisfying. It had been a good day.

Thanks to Casa de Pedra in São Paulo for all your support in making this happen!!

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