Bolivia Expedition – Recovery at camp (Days 2 and 3)

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

<—Day 1 and Arrival at Base Camp

So it wasn’t looking good, but at least I wasn’t going home – something I have to confess I was quite relieved about. Three out of our team of five, including Celeb the guide and myself, sick. Our guide said that he thought he might have given us food poisoning, possibly from the salami, though it wasn’t certain what it was. The positive side of it was that while I wasn’t feeling great after the first night, by midday the vomiting had stopped, as had the regular toilet stops. Which meant that if everybody had the same thing, then it would most likely be over quite quickly.

The day was spent recovering, with only Natalia and Kirk remaining unaffected – taking care of us all and trying to work out how to use the camp stove. Fortunately, base camp is full of other teams going mountaineering in the area with plenty of peaks to climb, and an Argentine mountain guide helped them work it out. In the afternoon the weather was lovely, I went with them both for a short walk towards the glacier, which is a few kilometres away from the camp. I managed to get about half way there, so I was reasonably happy with that (no energy to take the camera with me though). By the time we got back, Celeb appeared to be on the mend, though Augusto was still unwell.

A better night was spent. I only woke up a couple of times needing water. At high altitude, it is incredibly important to keep drinking water. Lots of it. We did have a few condensation problems in our tent – we needed to sort out the ventilation as it was below freezing outside and with our breathing, we woke up with the insides of the tent covered with a thin layer of cold water which wasn’t so good with our sleeping bags, which also got a little wet. Pretty difficult to regulate effectively, though we just kept on opening more and more ventilation windows to let air circulate more effectively. This created the problem of allowing a draft to come through, though huddling in our bags and sleeping on the opposite side of the tent to the doors with the vents open helped us avoid this.

Third day and things were good. I was feeling good, as were Caleb and Augusto (though Augusto still was not fully fit), so we were able to start skills training with just a day lost. We covered basic prusik knots which would help us lift ourselves out of crevasses should we fall into any on the way up glaciers. Prusik knots work by locking ropes to ropes when sudden friction is applied… Quite complicated to explain but I will try… something called the Texas Kick rope system. Basically you have a rope divided into three: one attached to your waist harness; a short part above this attached to the main rope by a prusik knot, and a longer length of rope below your waist which can reach one of your feet, where you would create a loop at the end to put your foot. At the same time you have another prusik knot attached from your harness to the main rope above this. By this system you create a kind of ladder: when you put weight on the foot, the prusik locks in so you can stand on it and push the higher prusik further up. After this, when you “sit down” the higher prusik locks in so you don’t go lower – you are a couple of foot higher than where you were beforehand – then you would keep repeating this until you are out of the crevasse… Quite tiring but definitely good to know in emergency. I apologise for the lack of photos/video here – though I was feeling better, I still didn’t feel too much like bringing the heavy camera with me in the cold. However, here is a decent example of the texas kick system being used with tree climbing:

Slightly different in the way it is put together to what we did, but the principles are pretty much the same.

But anyway… By the evening we were all suitably tired but well. Augusto was still not 100% but was feeling more confident. The situation was looking so good that we decided we would attempt our ascent of Pequeño Alpamayo in the morning, with a 2.30am start. But then two problems: Natalia went to bed in the evening but started feeling stomach pains, and then… it snowed. Heavily.

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