Archive for the ‘Mountaineering’ Category

On the glacier - IllimaniThe two climbers from our 360 Extremes training project in Bolivia, alone on the glacier up to the summit of Illimani; two insignificant dots on the ice, making a slow journey up in the thinner oxygen levels at over 6,000 metres (19,600 feet) above sea level.

Down from the mountainClimbing down the knife-edge ridge from the summit of Huayna Potosi, just over 6,000m above sea level. With a 1,000m  drop on one side and 500m on the other, it’s slightly scary for anyone with a bit of vertigo..!


Huayna Potosi, with its summit under cloud - quite daunting!

Huayna Potosi, with its summit under cloud – quite daunting!

It has been almost a year since our first major training project, mountaineering in Bolivia, and I am very definitely missing it all and would love to go back. I don’t know what it is exactly – I must confess that I did not enjoy every minute of it; I got pretty sick for a couple of days; I must have lost a good few kilograms of weight going up those mountains; the fear of heights and looking down those steep steep drops… those 1,500metre falls just inches to one side, and those 500metre drops just inches away on my other side… nope, those knife-edge ridges were not nice! Mountaineering certainly leads to a lot of suffering if you ask me, especially when you are adapting for the first time to the high altitudes; your body just isn’t used to it and doesn’t know what to expect. Looking back at the video when I got sick and remembering back, and the change in my own physical state from good and enthusiastic, to vomiting and other nasty things, is too alarming to think about; literally in an hour or so!!

But I miss it, and I look at the photos and videos – even the one when I got sick – and the good memories of it all easily outweigh the difficult parts.


I guess all the moments which were hard were all balanced by the exhilaration of the challenge; really going for a goal that I had never done before but had wanted to do, and in facing some of my worst fears; going against the exhaustion with the altitude and the fatigue that the lack of oxygen causes in the body; managing to get to the summit and (more importantly!) back again… definitely amazing feelings. Seeing the tents of base camp, after 15 hours of climbing from midnight, just as the weather closes in… a superb sense of accomplishment. So I really do want to go back.

When will we be able to? Good question. I thought about it for this June, but we really do need to train for the kites, so we are going to Fortaleza for training with that for a week or so. Then we will have to keep working to keep income in for paying for this whole project; a month or so training up in northern Canada in February next year… meaning that may be possible next June or July – this would be the last chance before heading on the actual journey… so here’s hoping.

Joe Simpson - Touching the Void

Joe Simpson – Touching the Void

Finished off another book this time quite an old and pretty well-known book by Joe Simpson, Touching the Void. Since being published it was also made into a film-documentary, which I haven’t seen yet though definitely would like to after having read this work.

Siula Grande

Siula Grande (EdsOpinion) – for a good review of the DVD see

As I say, it is pretty well-known, but in case you haven’t read it, in summary Joe was climbing with his friend Simon in the Peruvian Andes up a remote mountain, Siula Grande, which hadn’t been climbed before along the particular route they chose – the west face. It hadn’t been climbed that way for good reason: it was incredibly dangerous! The mountain presented a whole range of problems rested: cornices – massive snow over-hangs that had nothing supporting them, so any extra weight on top of them could lead them to collapse; mazes of snow flutings (very steep snow channels in powder snow that lead up the side of the mountain, that occasionally get closed off at the top – something that is difficult to see from the bottom – and can lead to climbers getting trapped); high altitude; ice falls; crevasses; weather; avalanches… basically a dangerous place.

Touching the Void - Route

(C) Joe Simpson, Touch the Void – The route and the accident

They managed to make the summit but on the way back down Joe got injured – he fell and badly broke his leg. Something like that on such a remote mountain invariably leads to death because of the altitude, the cold and because there is no way to rescue the climber. The two, however, managed to keep going, in spite of the pain Joe was feeling and both with worsening frost-bite and becoming increasingly weaker and dehydrated; with Simon lowering Joe, down as quickly as possible in order to get to safety. Because of their dwindling supplies they kept going into the night and through a storm, meaning they couldn’t see where they going. As a result, Joe fell down another, much longer drop and wasn’t able to get any grip or strength to climb back up. Simon was in the impossible position – his strength was also running out and he wasn’t able to pull Joe back. The only choice that he had – a choice that Joe also recognized as being the only one – was to die or to cut the rope that would lead to Joe plummeting from the cliff… He did the only thing he could do.

Yet both survived, and the story shows Joe’s incredible journey back through immense pain to the camp when all thought he was dead. It is definitely worth taking the time to read it really see this and this struggle for survival.

Now Natalia and I have only limited mountaineering experience in Bolivia, and we firmly intend to go back to the Andes and other mountain ranges to build on this. The whole book leads to people questioning Simon’s decision – I personally think he made the right thing; as does Joe. Though the book also begs the question – what would we do in such a situation? What would I do if Natalia was badly injured and we were both struggling to get off the mountain? Would I be able to cut the rope? What would Natalia do if she was in that position if I had such an accident? How would we react in such an extreme situation?? Now these are not nice thoughts or questions, and ones that I really hope to God that I never have to face, or have to ever answer. At the moment I can say that I do not know! Joe admits that the two mountaineers were a bit headstrong and a few mistakes were made in the climb and even before the climb at base camp – mistakes that with experience probably would mean that such an accident wouldn’t happen again. So the more experience we build, the better, so we can hopefully avoid such a terrible situation.

From the start of the time in Bolivia, after a few days acclimatizing in La Paz, the first part of the mountaineering was from the Condoriri, where we looked to climb Pequeño Alpamayo (around 5,400m) – a beautiful mountain. But getting there wasn’t such a smooth process..

Okay, it has taken us a little while to go through all the video we got from Bolivia – quite a massive amount of content gathered, and so many hours in the day to go through it all, work at the office, and train, and organize everything. I hope you can forgive us!

This is just a short clip from the top of Huayna Potosi, the first time we had ever been above 6,000 metres, and only the third time we had been on mountains summits higher than 5,000m. So it was a pretty nice achievement, and I still feel pretty chuffed about managing it, though it wasn’t anything massively technical. At that altitude, every step is painful so, technical or not, a lot of work goes into it (and the body loses about 700 calories an hour!)

While it was exhausting, it was still amazing and had beautiful views of the surrounding mountains of the Bolivian Andes. As I guess I have mentioned a couple of times, however, my head for heights is pretty awful. I don’t like them! I have got used to the heights involved in climbing rocks, and that took a bit of practice… So going down the mountain was, with the knife-edge ridge down from the summit at least, absolutely terrifying. Makes me wince just watching this film and I hope you like it!

Thanks again to Casa de Pedra for their support with this project – and again to Kirk, for giving loads of help on the way down!

A primeira rocha você nunca esquece em Pedra Bela, SP

Aproveitando o tema tempo do post passado, hoje queria falar na velocidade que as coisas acontecem e em como a vida parece a cada dia estar pisando mais forte no acelerador.

Eu me dei conta disso na segunda (17-09), eu e o Ben completamos 1 ano de casamento e nesse 1 ano nossa vida realmente mudou. Não pelo casamento eu digo isso. Acho que essa foi a menor das mudanças, a não ser pelos presentes que ganhamos. Mas  digo porque a mais ou menos 365 dias atrás toda essa ideia do 360 extremes começou a surgir.

Digo que o tempo passou rápido mas não que foi rápido demais, não mesmo. Olhando para atrás vejo o quanto fiz, aprendi, vi e criei nesse tempo. E olhando para frente meus olhos se enchem de lágrimas com tantas possibilidades e coisas que me aguardam. Eu encho a boca pra dizer que eu sim tenho um Mundo de possibilidades a frente. E repito que isso me emociona sim.

Tantos sonhos e conquistas que duas palavras fizeram entrar na minha vida, um mundo que há um ano atrás se o Ben não tivesse dado assas a sua imaginação ou se eu as tivesse cortado não existiriam hoje.

Depois da rocha hora de ver o pôr do sol em Salesópolis, SPHoje vejo que essas duas palavrinha (360 Extremes) nasceram de uma vontade latente em nossos corações e pensamentos. Uma vontade simples e um tanto primitiva, algo que talvez esteja presente em você ou que pelo menos você reconheça da sua época de criança. A vontade de sonhar e acreditar. Acreditar que as aventuras realmente acontecem fora dos filmes, que o mundo sim é nosso quintal e que tudo é possível se você realmente quiser.

Nesse tempo conheci um mundo novo, esse meu mundo de hoje que me encanta a cada dia e que me ensina. Treinos intensos que me introduziram a escalada, a pedalada, ao trekking. Que me levou a montanhas frias, altas e de uma beleza inimaginável; a estradas com curvas, a beira de rios e que aproveitei e suei cada quilômetro e que ao chegar onde queria me senti realizada de enxergar que sobre duas rodas cheguei inteira onde eu quis; ralei a mão, cunhei calos e levei minha cabeça a uma pressão em rochas porosas, abrasivas e de baixo de um sol escaldante tudo isso por um cume.

Conquistando um cume em Pedra Bela, SP

Aprendi tanto sobre mim, sobre meu corpo, sobre minha mente. Vi que sou fruto das atividades que incluo ou excluo do meu dia, sou feita do que como e sim  meu corpo é 70% composto de água e por isso hoje bebo bastante água para não viver uma vida desidratada.  Sou menos ansiosa e mais calma, o sorriso que sempre foi presente no meu rosto hoje se faz impossível de se desfazer, o estresse não me acomete e dos meus finais de semanas antigos só sinto falta da presença de meus amigos e familiares. A vida hoje é corrida sim, muito trabalho na semana e pedaladas longas nos finais de semana. Achar um tempo para as pessoas que amo é complicado, mas hoje sei que todos que me acompanham sentem falta assim como eu, mas me apoiam e me admiram.Conhecendo um Glaciar em Jasper, Canadá

Admiram uma coragem que levei tempo em crer e enxergar, mas que hoje depois de todo esse tempo vejo. Treinar, se comprometer e viver algo que está te levando a largar toda uma vida aqui em busca de um sonho que deve durar mais de 3 anos exige coragem, a incerteza a frente dá medo às vezes, mas o medo não consegue tirar da minha cabeça o querer de viver isso até o fim.

Mesmo o fim sendo o começo ( São Paulo – São Paulo), mas anos depois a cidade que eu devo deixar não será a mesma que eu encontrarei e essa ideia só torna tudo ainda mais interessante.

Sonhos existem e acreditar neles é o primeiro passo para que eles aconteçam, fica a dica.

Now that we are back from Bolivia, we have a good nine months or so before our next major training project: three or four weeks up in the Arctic Circle doing polar training with Northwinds – a Canadia firm specialised in organizing training for people about to go on expeditions to the North / South Poles.

Northwinds Arctic – consultancy, polar guides and trainers

During the training we will be working on aspects such as back country skiing; more about layering; tents in the arctic; dealing with factors such as frostbite and common injuries… navigation at the poles… (crossing 2000km of white wilderness where you want to go to the geographic north pole rather the magnetic north pole isn’t quite so easy…!)… communications… dealing with polar bears… kite skiing… and much more! It looks like it will be a lot of fun, but it will be hard work and essential. Our expedition is going to take us to environments which will be completely alien and hostile to us: environments where success is not guaranteed though only can be possible with thorough and complete preparation. So this training there will most likely not be our last!

In the next nine months or, however, we need to work more on our physical fitness and also with… considering we will be cycling the vast majority of the journey, through the Americas and through Asia… cycling…!

Surly Long Haul Trucker – minus the front and back baggage racks

Paulo has a massive amount of experience cycling – he is regularly cycling 200-300 kilometre rides, which is one of the reasons why it is great that he is on board with us. We, however, have limited, more casual experience. The Yungas Road was a great ride, though it was all down-hill and it was without any serious weight. With out project we will need hybrid expedition bikes – The Surly Long Haul Trucker looks to be a great bike for our purposes so we will most likely acquire ourselves these next year when we are in the United States. In the next week or two, we will get ourselves slightly less expensive bikes just for training and getting used to long rides here in São Paulo (and hopefully avoiding any accidents with the crazy drivers on the roads here… a challenge in its own right). Hopefully we will be riding the 300km journeys with Paulo quite soon…

All this as well as continuing our climbing, hiking, physical training (pulling heavy tires along beaches will be included in this as we get into shape for pulling heavy 60kg sleds across ice)… more mountaineering projects (we are planning for Aconcagua next year as well as returning to Bolivia)… wilderness survival and medical training…

Plenty to do…

So after a month in Bolivia it is finally back to the daily grind of what seems like five jobs – the day job and then working on the 360 Extremes project with training, sponsorship hunting, planning… the first week back and it was straight to the gym, and on the Sunday even back to Salesopolis for more rock climbing (completing grade six (5.10) climbs on the rock is always nice! Especially after a month away from it. More gym last week and then this weekend, I guess energy levels dipped completely it was a full rest, with just more planning and leisurely strolls down Paulista Avenue as well as a bit of cinema. I figured that after the last month and a half, a break would be nice. At the same time, I miss the mountains and it will be nice to climb another one soon… the problems with living in a country which relatively low and flat. 

High altitude climbs…

We are definitely feeling the effects of the training, however. I must have lost at least 3kg from the time in Bolivia – people keep commenting that I look much thinner, and indeed, I do need a new belt as there are not enough holes in my current ones to keep my trousers comfortably up – without a belt, I can easily fit a hand between my waist and the trousers, so there is a potential for embarrassment should I forget it! It is great for climbing though as I do feel lighter which helps. Also, I guess coming down from the high altitude, my breathing when I am running is better – I feel much more comfortable running for longer and don’t get breathless so quickly. Our nutritionist thinks that I might have lost too much weight too quickly and that I lost some muscular weight rather than just fat… which could very much be the case.  Burning muscle for energy is never good as you become more tired more quickly.

The training in Bolivia was meant to help us not just with mountaineering but also with working in difficult conditions that were challenging in ways that neither of us had experienced in any way: when we leave São Paulo in 2014, we are going to encounter situations that are going to be tough, so the challenging nature of these training projects will help us deal with them. Also, it helped us evaluate ourselves, physically and psychologically, in terms of what we need to do before we leave.

In assessing where we are… physically, we are doing well though definitely need to continue and build on our training. Walking up those mountains was exhausting! Okay, altitude was a massive factor (less than half the levels of oxygen than at sea level) and this was our first time at such altitudes… but to be in even better conditions to deal with this will be essential. At the Antarctic, we will be reaching altitudes of 5,000metres – in an even colder environment…. And there is a steep walk up from McMurdo to the plateau… And we will have even more weight.  I was proud of my own achievements in forcing myself to pretty much my limits in going up those mountains, and also in recognising when to turn back at Illimani… again, learning points for the expedition as a whole as safety is paramount. Better trying, turning back and trying again than killing yourself by pushing yourself too far.

Effects of illness

Illness affected our climbing – and indeed, dealing with illness is something that we will need to be prepared for: if none of us gets ill over the course of the three years, traipsing through the tropics and across the Poles… this would be a minor miracle. The importance of rest and the right treatments (not using antibiotics when we don’t need for example) again can’t be understated.

This also brings in the factor of food… the body finds it hard to digest food at higher altitudes though it is important to maintain high calorie intake in such journeys. With our guide being the guide and the cook, we certainly weren’t eating enough, regularly enough as we were dependent upon him. More varied snacks (not just twix and snickers) will definitely be important. Also, eating enough at regular intervals will help ensure that as little muscle is burned by the body for energy as possible. Lesson noted.

Psychologically, in terms of determination and working as a team, getting up early, going on the long hikes with heavy bags that seemed even heavier in the higher environment; moving onwards in spite of becoming physically drained… I might have snapped at Natalia once or twice, and vice-versa, but in general everything went pretty smoothly. Yes, I think we can give ourselves pats on backs… though this was only a month-long expedition, with breaks in La Paz every now and then; more time together on longer projects will be very important to making this whole plan work. 

Determination, however, isn’t something I am worried about too much – all of us are really working hard towards this project. I like to think that after 60 days traipsing toward the North Pole, with only each others’ company, I will still be saying this!

For more about our time in the first few Bolivian mountains, see our posts about:


Pico Austria

Pequeño Alpamayo

Voltar para Casa

Posted: July 1, 2012 by Natália Almeida in Climbing, Mountaineering, Photography, Training
Tags: , , , ,

Ir a Bolívia fazia parte do nosso treinamento físico e mental. E lá vivenciamos dificuldades e enfrentamos condições que no nosso dia-a-dia aqui não seria possível.

Em 28 dias aprendemos a lidar com nosso corpo, ansiedade, convivência, pensamentos… Sentimos frio, medo, dor, fraqueza, tristeza, solidão mas também nos sentimos fortes, confiantes, seguros, espertos e poderosos. Assim é a vida de montanhista, a montanha não te perdoa porque está exausto ou sem forças, a montanha não está ali para te entender, passar a mão na sua cabeça ou relevar. Não, ela está ali para te fazer superar limites, para te fazer se sentir pequeno, para te fazer pensar nas suas prioridades, pra te questionar. E nós fomos a diversas montanhas para experimentar isso.
As expectativas antes de chegar lá eram meio perdidas, não tínhamos base de como seria o esporte e como seria tudo, as informações da internet não ajudavam a criar o cenário. Os primeiros dias em La Paz foram gostosos, sem sintomas relacionados a altitude e o clima era amigável – nem frio, nem calor – pudemos desfrutar dessa cidade bagunçada e cheia de vida. O tempo na capital boliviana foi de surpresa a cada esquina, e o povo se mostrou alegre e festeiro. Antes de começar a empreitada nos Andes, tivemos tempo de experimentar os lados da Bolívia, e eita país pra ter faces. Eu diria que lá é possível encontrar o tipo de turismo que qualquer um gosta: compras, aventura, natureza, sossego, cultural… E as opções são tantas que normalmente você perde um dia tentando escolher qual a melhor. A escolha mais difícil que encontramos foi entre ficar na cidade para ver a maior festa folclórica do País, o Gran Poder, ou descer de bike a Death Road. Para quem nos acompanha sabe que a escolha foi a aventura de descer uma das estradas mais perigosas do mundo. Tenho lembranças eternas desse dia, seja as cicatrizes ou a memória. Muito podem achar que me arrependo, mas não, recomendo que façam. As paisagens são lindas, a experiência maravilhosa e cheia de emoções. Caí, e reconheço que o meu excesso de confiança foi o culpado. Mas esse dia está entre os melhores para mim dessa viagem.
O treinamento pesado começou quando encontramos o pessoal da Alaska Mountain Guide, aí cada dia era de acordar cedo, caminhadas longas, e aprendizado.
Ir aos acampamentos já não era fácil, saíamos cedo, e caminhávamos longas horas, a beleza dos lugares ajudava a distrair o pensamento em relação as mochilas pesadas nas costas. Na hora do hiking, um ajudava o outro, e foram nesses momentos que mais aprendi. Kirk e Augusto sempre atentos a tudo me davam dicas de como respirar e técnicas de caminhada, até mesmo as conversas sobre as experiências anteriores deles aprendemos muito.
Na hora de acampar mais lições: tratar a sua água com iodo, lembrar de estar sempre se movendo para ajudar seu corpo na aclimatação, a importância em se manter hidratado e de se alimentar constantemente, como evitar a condensação dentro da barraca, etc.
Comer certamente foi uma das parte mais complicada, você perde parte do apetite e meio que se força a comer a todo instante. Como ficamos boa parte acampando a alimentação ficou a base de macarrão, arroz, frios e pão, o que não faz da nossa dieta uma coisa ideal. De volta ara casa esse é um ponto que estudaremos melhor aqui e com a ajuda da Dr. Isabela poderemos ser mais criativos e saudáveis. Com a terrível intoxicação alimentar que eu tive boa parte das opções ficaram intragáveis, doces e chás só pioravam as minhas cólicas, e a ânsia em se aventurar e conquistar um pico me deixou um tanto cética em relação a minha saúde, mesmo com diarreia e cólicas por 17 dias, idas ao banheiro contantes e enfrentando as latrinas e os sanitários a céu aberto com neve, vento, chuva e o que mais São Pedro quisesse mandar, eu acreditei que iria conseguir, achava que ia passar rápido. Os dias passaram e eu lutei para conseguir, forcei meu corpo, ignorei a minha mente, e com isso me detonei. O desafio real pra mim foi lidar com a minha cabeça e meu corpo, o trabalho mental era o de ignorar as cólicas e enfrentar as caminhadas.
Ao fim desses dias sinto que sou outra pessoa, aprendi que respeitar meu corpo é essencial; lidar com a dor e a controlar os pensamentos que às vezes parecem uma tortura mental; saber motivar e compreender meu parceiro foram coisas difíceis no começo mas que conseguímos ver e trabalhar juntos.
 Hoje sei que temos muito o que nos preparar e aprender para encarar uma aventura dessas mas tenho certeza que conseguiremos porque agora nos sentimos mais fortes e seguros para encarar os próximos desafios.

Strangely enough, in spite of not having reached the summit of Illimani and even having been within touching distance of it when we turned back, I felt content with the decision. As I said, I had done my best, and that was all I could ask of myself. Going back down the mountain to high camp proved easier and even turned into a confidence builder as, as we crossed the knife edge ridge we had crossed in the darkness, with stupidly lethal falls to either side, I was actually able to do so without getting close to panicking or hyperventilating – I was beginning to trust myself and my crampons a bit more and well enough to keep calm. We also crossed some narrow crevasses in the ice which, when we looked down them, did not allow us to see the bottom. It was nice that the cracks (about a foot wide) were visible as some serious damage could have been down had we placed a foot directly in one of them.

Back to the tents, and packing up – after a little rest before the porters got there. It was time to leave our final mountain and go back to La Paz for the final time before returning to São Paulo. Going down the scree and rock face wasn’t easy for me. It was nice that Caleb belayed me down some of the steeper sections, and short-roped me on trickier sections where we had to go over only ice (with the nasty falls to oblivion) with no crampons or ice axe to support us. There were footprints carved into the ice which helped make things easier, though it was still pretty slippery. After three or four ten-metre sections lie these, we had passed the worse, and then it was just the scree and occasionally flat-panel rock faces.

We arrived at base camp at around 5pm. Natalia must have spotted us coming from some distance away as she had come away from the tents to meet us at the trailhead. She explained that she and José had been pretty worried about us as we had been out of radio contact – Caleb had tried calling from the mountains but the radio didn’t seem to want to function. José was preparing to leave the camp to try to find us on the descent. She then told me about how José had lost two friends who were guides on Illimani on separate occasions – basically because in each case they were in rope teams with one tourist, and the tourists lost concentration and fell with nobody being able to arrest the falls. The slopes of Illimani are steep enough that arresting a fall is tough enough for one person by themselves but for the guides to save both themselves and their partner… well it wasn’t possible for José’s friends and that was the end of their stories.

I was just happy to be back for a final night under those clear stars. The disappointment of not having reached the summit hit a bit more on the two-hour walk back in the morning to our vehicles, when we were continually looking back to those spectacular mountain peaks behind us, and during the drive to La Paz. But ah well. At least there can, and will, be a next time.

Acordar de manhã e começar a arrumar tudo já virou rotineiro. E as noites acordando para ir ao banheiro também.  Acordamos cedo, antes d despertador e foi bom poder conversar um pouquinho, falar de coisas bobas e rir um pouco. Depois da descontração é hora de falar como vai ser daqui pra frente, na noite anterior decidiu-se que eu ficaria aqui com o José enquanto Bem e Caleb seguiriam rumo ao cume. Entendo os motivos e agora não adianta mais sofrer, de tudo isso sei que forcei demias meu corpo e que isso só anda atrapalhando. Agora é hora de descansar, comer direito, bebr muita água e tentar ficar melhor de verdade sem recaídas.

Despedir é sempre difícil, e todos sempre parecem com pressa. Desejo boa sorte e peço que tenham cuidado. Da barraca vejo eles seguindo rumo a maratona que vai ser o dia. Ao invês de parar no acampamento intermediário ees seguiram até o High Camp que leva mais ou menos 8 horas. Lá descansaram um pouco e saiem à meia-noite para mais umas 9 horas de subida ate o cume, a volta para o acampamento superior é de +/- 3 horas, mas não poderam dormir lá então voltaram para o acampamento base mais 4 horas. Vai ser cansativo, mas esse na verdade é o jeito que te deixa mais apto, porque ficar muito temo no high camp te faz reter muito líquido em com as pernas inchadas e possíveis dor de cabeça o cume vira coisa do passado.

Enquanto o Ben tem muito o que fazer eu e  José papeamos, fazemos trilhas curtas, escolhemos entre as diversas opções de macarrão para comer. O guia boliviano é cheio de histórias agumas  muito engraçadas outras desapropriadas para a situação. Daqui de baixo sem notícia fica difícil ficar ouvindo sobre os amigos dele que morreram no Illimani. Mas ouço e tento não ficar preocupada, acho que  que mais me aflinge é a falta de experiência de Caleb, ele nunca fez o Illimani antes e não conhece direito as vias. Sempre que o coração aperta, tento me distrair lendo um livro ou caminhando.

A subida até o acampamento foi super desgastante, de acordo com o Ben mesmo com os portadores, ele conseguiu dormir lá em cima e eles decidiram sair rumo ao cume às 4am, j´´a estavam desgastados e chegaram muuito perto do cume, há uns 200 metros, mas estavam lentos e exaustos, acabaram voltando ao acampamento porque senão voltar para o acampamento base ficaria inviável. Voltam magros e cansados.

O retorno deles levou muito tempo, e José e eu ficávamos o tempo todo tirando fotos da montanha tentando encontrá-los, foi um dia em que o Illimani parecia uma televisão, o dia todo olhando pra ele. Pessoas que chegavam no acampamento vinham conversar mas a atenção estava voltada para a montanha. Com o passar das horas a tensão tomou conta e o fato dos rádio não funcionarem não ajudava, a falta de comunicação era terrível, me peguei xingando o guia americano diversas vezes. Mas as horas passaram e quando finalmente vemos eles terminando de descer fico feliz da vida, de longe consigo ver que estão no fim de suas energias, corro com garrafas de água e os ajudo com as coisas. Conversando com o Ben vejo que se irritou de ter saído tão tarde, se saíssem a 1am certeza que teria conseguido. Tento acalma-lo, porque afinal a montanha vai estar ali por muito tempo. Hora de comer e descansar, amanhã toda essa aventura nas montanhas acaba.

<— Marathon to high camp

Negative thoughts did include hearing avalanches and ice falls in the background after dark, and the thoughts of falling off the side of one of the knife-edge ridges that we were bound to encounter. Also, as I mentioned, it would have been nice being able to speak with Natalia. It was good being in the same tent as Caleb though as we were able to chat about everything, though he he had spoken with other climbers who were going down who had said they had completed the summit after leaving at 4am as opposed to the normal midnight. Caleb decided that would be okay to do the same due to the cold that can be experienced on the mountain, though we had said we would meet the porters to go down to base camp at 1pm.

Fine by me, and when I woke up, all of the negative thoughts had gone and I was ready to go. It took a little time getting everything together and getting the gaiters on, though everything was in order. It would have been pitch black outside were it not for the stars which were brilliant. The moon was hidden by the mountain and it was only a very thin crescent moon as well. We could also see the lights of La Paz glimmering in the distance behind us. Headlamps on, and off we went.

Immediately there was a slope which went up to a knife-edge ridge. Fortunately with the dark I was not able to see the consequences of any fall and I was able to get by without too many problems. Up and beyond that and the slopes just did not let up. In comparison to Huayna Potosi where there were relatively gentle slopes coupled with frequent platforms where one could catch one’s breath, this was just un-remitting slopes. Not gentle ones either.

My body didn’t feel great at the start and the slopes soon started to have affect on me. Not sure if it was because I was still tired from the trek up to High Camp – Caleb, in a frank discussion about fitness, said that he thought I was above average fitness in comparison to others he had worked with. Problem is that at the altitude of High Camp, the body doesn’t recover quite so well from physical exertion quite so quickly, and it needs much more water to be able to function properly – more than I had been drinking, though from my urine I did not appear to be dehydrated at all. Caleb thought that the altitude at around 5,800 seems to hit me a bit like a wall and perhaps my body is still not completely adapted… I guess this will only come with practice though.

We kept going, though pausing frequently. At around 6.30am the sunlight appeared in the sky, though the sun was coming directly from the other side of Illimani, so we remained in the shade for a good while longer before the rays did eventually reach us. The wind was pretty strong and for the first time during the three weeks, I had all my layers on while walking, including my think down parker jacket and down mittens. My pace became slower though and though I was using breathing/walking techniques Caleb had taught us, I still had to stop every five or six steps or so to recover some more air. We could see the summit and it was slowly getting closer.

Passing crevasses to both sides of us, we weaved our way up and over the main glacier along the route, and up so we could see the trail in the side of the mountain leading its way to the summit. Caleb estimated that we were about 200-300 metres below the summit, though we would still need a couple of hours at my slow pace to reach it, and the time was already 10.30am… then we would need to get back down again. So it was I who took the decision: we would admit defeat and turn back.

Time and exhaustion were the main elements in the decision. It would have been nice to have had longer to complete the ascent, but there was nothing much that could be done now in this regard. The climb had turned into a continual struggle to place one foot ahead of the other and push mself up the mountainside, so I think it was the right choice. A shame, but the mountain will be there for a long time to come (hopefully with glaciers in tact, as they have been shrinking with global warming), and I don’t want to kill myself reaching any goal. I had done my best to get as far as we did (Caleb was pretty impressed that I had pushed myself as far as I got considering the struggle it proved to be for me). Am pretty confident that with a little more training, and a bit more time, I will be able to reach the summit of Illimani and higher peaks. Same with Natalia. Maybe we didn’t make it this time, though next time it will be a different story.

Thanks to Caleb for letting us use a few of your photos!