Back down again

Posted: June 22, 2012 by Ben Weber in Climbing, English, Hiking, Mountaineering, Training
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The views from the summit of Huayna Potosi were spectacular. We could see the Condoriri mountains with Pequeño Alpamayo; Illimani  was clear behind La Paz… lake Titicaca; Mount Sajama in the distance. It truly felt like we were on the roof of the world. There was a group of five other climbers who shared the summit with us for ten minutes or so, but when the left, it was just myself, Kirk and Caleb. There was not even any wind so there was a blissful silence as we looked over Bolivia. Incredible.

We had a couple of chocolate bars each (these had become our staple energy diets when going up the mountains. Apparently we were easily spending about 5,000 calories each in the course of the ascents); took a few photographs, and packed up to leave. Descending didn’t take too long with the exception of the knife-edge ridge from the summit. Going down was even harder for me than going up, though maybe I was not quite so breathless with each step. I guess in going down, as with Pequeño Alpamayo, we are forced to look at the consequences of any fall… down, and a long way down at that. The wall of ice to our left was a great help as I was able to plunge my ice axe into that every couple of steps and it was nice to have that extra security, but the fully exposed part towards the end, with no ice walls for protection, was again terrifying, but Kirk and Caleb coaxed me along and I was able to maintain my balance. As you can imagine, I was extremely pleased to get to the end of that part.

And yes, straightforward after that – the trail through the ice and snow was quite clear; all the main crevasses were clear either side of this path and no new crevasses opened up beneath our feet, so it was all good. Back to high camp and it was nice to see Natalia and José again, though they were leaving earlier to go down to base camp. We had chance to have a quick nap and some noodle soup before we had to pack our things up to go down. It was heavy work. Going down the perilously slippery rock-ice path with full back packs was tough (no porters); we needed crampons for parts because the snow was quite deep and going down in inflexible plastic mountain boots made it even harder. Then after that, the path just seemed to go on forever until we saw the buildings of the refuge. We saw a group of people on the glacier leading up to the mountain and they were coming down – they soon passed us and apparently this was training that they were doing in preparation for an ascent. José commented to Natalia that in general in Bolivia, inexperienced groups would do this type of training – and it would have been nice if we could have spent time doing it… but ah well, we had managed it anyway.

So back to the refuge; Kirk got us all a beer which was great, then the two hour drive to La Paz, a day’s rest and then, if things went according to plan, to Illimani.

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