Posts Tagged ‘andes’

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..!

 

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 EdOpinion.com

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!

One of the options we are considering for the bike tour training is going from Buenos Aires to Santiago, though did not mention initially in our initial overview of the options we are thinking about. This is personally one of my lesser favorites of the ideas we have, but it has definite positives…

Looking down from Cristo Redentor, Mendoza Province (C) Angel Longo

The journey is a good 1550km, so a nice distance – marginally shorter than the journey from the north to south of Britain that I discussed last time. The last three hundred or so kilometers of this journey would be going through the Andes, meaning that there will be very high passes to go through, with the highway getting to around 3000 metres above sea level, and there being optional side-tracking rides going up to 4000 metres, with the Cristo Redentor in Mendoza province. When we finally leave São Paulo on the main expedition, we will be going along at similar heights through the Bolivian and Peruvian Andes.

The roads will be a mixture of asphalt and dusty highways, so not in the best of conditions – again something that we can very much expect along our main expedition route. This will affect our speed and how much distance we will be able to cover each day in manner that would be much more similar to the real journey than perhaps we would find in Scotland.

Furthermore, with the distances between towns and villages in Argentina and Chile much greater than Chile, we would be required to camp without being able access supplies in these areas, so we will have to make sure that we are taking enough with us to be able to survive longer periods. So in this respect it will be more challenging.

Then, there is the price – it will be much easier and cheaper for us to fly from São Paulo to Buenos Aires, and back to São Paulo from Santiago than it would be for us to fly to and from the United Kingdom, and north Scotland in particular. Moreover, as well as being easy to get to, Buenos Aires is a great city; the Andes would be beautiful and it will be nice to get to know Santiago. But back to the point… the cost of this is definitely an important consideration bearing in mind that sponsorship is coming along… slowly, to say the least.

The Road through Mendoza (C) FerroFreddy

My main problem with this route is that for 1200metres it will be flat. Not just flat for a few kilometres or so and with a few hills here and there… but flat. Extremely flat. Okay we are going to have much of the journey which is flat, going through Brazil towards Bolivia… but being flat like this is not so much of a challenge and is pretty uninteresting. Okay, we get to deal with the local drivers, but this doesn’t strike me as too hard (maybe I am underestimating this factor though…?). Also, with this planned for February, we would be in the summer/autumn of the southern hemisphere, meaning that weather conditions won’t be quite as snowy or as cold as that in the photo showing the route in winter. It will be much drier, I believe. Okay it will be good to get us going through drier, dustier conditions but I think this would be easier to train for than the harder, windier, blustery conditions in the UK. Am certainly very open to this route, though I will probably take some convincing – any thoughts you might have are very welcome!

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

Condoriri

Pico Austria

Pequeño Alpamayo

One of the places we didn’t get chance to write about before the mountaineering started for real: Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world.

At just over 3,800 metres in altitude, this was a pleasant day out from La Paz, with not too much of an altitude gain. It is only an hour and a half or so away from the city so pretty easy to get to. The lake was the cornerstone of the Tiwanaku civilization  the main city of which was situated on the former edges of the waters. The civilization is said to have fallen into decay when severe, prolonged droughts caused the waters to recede.

At the lakeside, we stopped off for a few minutes by a couple of houses where Cholas tried to sell us their wares of Llama and Alpaca jumpers (lovely material – incredibly soft and warm) as well as other souvenirs. The place where we were was maintained by the people who had helped Thor Heyerdahl construct the reed and balsa wood boats he used in expeditions across water bodies such as the Pacific Ocean to prove the concept that immigration across these was possible for early “primitive” peoples. There were plenty of miniature “dragon” boats for us to buy as well, made in replica of Thor’s vessel. While we were looking, a small launch was prepared for us to sail over to the Isla del Sol… not one of the reed boats though, rather a faster, smaller vessel made from more modern materials.

The journey to the island going over to the island was lovely. We could see the mountains of the Cordillera Real appearing in the distance and towering above the lake, and the water sprayed occasionally into our faces. The water was quite calm and clear, though I did end up feeling a little queasy with all the bumps of the boat on the water. The island itself was like something out of the medieval period. No vehicles, a mixture of mud brick houses and more recently made, painted buildings surrounding an old, traditional church; goats, cows, pigs and chickens all loitering around the houses. Fishing men and women on little boats in the water. The environment seems pretty harsh, with just rocky, hilly and dusty terrain – doesn’t seem like it rains too much there. Quite amazing to go through and there is a museum there with relics found from the Tiwanaku civilisation, which is definitely worth a visit.

We also went to a small island a few hundred metres away with views over the bay and also ruins of Tiwanaku graves – though just about everything had been raided by conquistadors and colonists, so not too much to see. Back on the mainland there was a stop off at a restaurant which cooked fresh trout from the lake – definitely worth it as the fish was really quite delicious.

We ony had a day at the Lake, and it was a bit of a rushed day. We had to get back to La Paz to organize everything for the mountaineering that we would start on the following day at the Condoriri. There is, however, a lot to do there and you could easily spend a week exploring the islands and their communities. Other islands include the Urus islands, Amantani, Taquile, Isla del Luna and Suriqui. If you have the time, definitely take it to explore some more!

Thanks Augusto for letting us use your photos!!!

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.

<— 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!

A noite não é como o esperado, primeiro acordo com o quarto super quente e seco. Bebo água, e molho uma camiseta e coloco na cabiceira da cama, de nada adianta. Ben também acorda com o mesmo problema, abro a janela. Ele volta a dormir mas pra mim era só o começo do desconforto. Cólicas estomacais voltam e a noite vira um pesadelo. Molho a minha camiseta e coloco a camiseta sobre ela, quem sabe assim quando respiro fica melhor e na verdade deu uma mehorada sim. Algum tempo depois as cólicas se transformam em mais uma vez diarréia. E pronto já não durmo e as seguidas idas ao banheiro acorda o Ben, que fica aflito. Ligamos para Caleb às 8am e pedimos para adiarmos a ida para o dia seguinte, ele diz que tudo bem, vem ao quarto com uma garrafa de água e remédios. O dia foi de descanso, muita água e de comidas leves. Em nossos rostos era possível ver que estamos tentando lidar com a possibilidade de eu ficar aqui, e além disso temos que lidar com a frustração que aumenta ainda mais de eu ainda não ter conseguido ir ao topo de uma montanha. Chorar não é a solução mas é a única coisa que alívia um pouco o coração apertado.

Com o passar dos dias pareço estar um pouco melhor, e voltamos a nos animar. Amanhã será o dia, amanhã saíremos daqui para o acampamento base e eu vou estar bem, vou conseguir, o pensamento segue assim, e na hora de dormir até me atrevo a tomar um remédio para controlar meu intestino. Durmo aflita porque sei que amanhã não posso decepcionar, e peço para meu corpo ser forte pelo menos nos próximos 5 dias.

Acordamos cedo, descemos as malas e fomos tomar um café da manhã. Enquanto o Ben se esbalda com torradas e ovos, eu tento ser o mais leve e neutro possível. 2 Torradas com manteiga, um copo de leite quente e litros e litros de água. José chega e é era de partir, a viagem de La Paz ao povoado de Pinaya é de +/- 4 horas, as condições das estradas são péssimas, a via de terra e pedras soltas é estreita, diversas curvas super-fechadas e encontros sem aviso de carros vindo do outro sentido. O precipício do lado direito aumenta a aflição, Ben chega a suar olhando a queda que fica a poucos centímetros das rodas de nosso carro. Chegar a Pinaya é mais que um alívio. Lá comemos um sanduíche de pasta de amendoim e geleia e fechamos 2 burros para carregar as coisas até o acampamento base.

Começamos a trilha, o lugar é muito bonito, passamos por diversas casas e cholitas puxando ovelhas, por aqui tudo é muito verde e quente. A medida que vamos subindo o calor vai diminuindo e o vento aumentando. Por mais resistente que eu tente ser meu corpo começa a entrar em colapso, o estomago dói e se revira. Mais uma vez é difícil respirar e manter o ritmo. Todos começam a reparar que estou ficando mais lenta e ofegante, e minha cara de desconforto demonstra que algo está me afetando. De início respondo que tudo está bem quando me perguntam, mas a revira-volta no meu estomago me obriga a confessar que não estou 100%. Diminuímos o ritmo mas seguimos em frente, quando a dor piora paro, sento e espero passar. Depois seguimos mais adiante. Começo a ficar brava porque não sei se mais uma vez fiz a escolha certa, minha cabeça segue com diversas questionamentos que a cada minuto penso em respostas diferentes. A todo instante José nos dá uma previsão de quanto tempo ainda falta sempre diz a mesma frase ” A esse passo mais ou menos 2 horas”. A verdade é que essa trilha normalmente leva entre 2 a 3 horas, e nós levamos umas 5 horas.

Ao chegar no acampamento, me deito sobre uma pedra que está no sol e me aqueço um pouco ali. Os outros vão olhar as coisas deixadas ao lado das barracas que já estavam armadas. Ben vem me checar e me chama para ir deitar um pouco.

A tarde e a noite no acampamento base promete ser tensa, enquanto Caleb e José conversam sobre o dia seguinte, eu e Ben estamos aflitos na nossa barraca.

So yes, instead of hiking to just camp I (about a five hour walk away, at around 5,000 metres), it was decided that we would go straight past that to high camp (another couple of hours hike/climb at around 5,400 metres); get there for around mid-afternoon, rest and get up at about midnight for an attempt at the summit of Illimani (just under 6,500 metres). Altitude gain of about 2,000 metres in less than 24 hours. Something I wasn’t quite sure I was ready for. Apparently there was no water at camp I, and no snow to melt there. José, who had climbed the mountain a number of times, was to stay with Natalia, whilst Caleb, who had not climbed the mountain before, would go up with me. The one good thing was that we had porters to carry our heavier bags so we were able to go with lighter rucksacks with extra layers in case the cold got to us.

Hot drinks at 7am, though we left at 9am. The sun was still behind the mountain so it was still quite cool and a bit breezy. The walk was quite easy at first; steadily increasing in altitude along a reasonably well trodden path, going up around and over lateral moraines, down again into carved out glacial valleys, and back up over the moraine on the other side. We could see small streams with ice on the surface, with water running underneath, and in one of the small sub-valleys, there was a glacial stream running quite strongly – strongly enough that we were able to re-fill our bottles with it. We made such good progress that we completed the apparently five-hour hike in less than three hours, as we passed a small plateau where wind walls had been built from rocks to protect tents which had been encamped there. The tents had gone, and as we though, there was no water or snow to melt. So  passing that, and upwards.

Which was when the hiking turned into effective climbing and scrambling over scree, and steep, loose, rock surfaces. It was a struggle, that was for sure. We had to be very careful with our footing with the scree and the angles of the falls to our side gradually increased meaning that any loss of balance could have led to bad injury or worse. The fact that we had porters was even more gratefully received as had I had to keep my pack on going up those rocks, I would have … let’s say, had difficulties. Then when we got to parts where we had to cross over ice with steep falls to the side, I was even more grateful as I took step, then a breath, and further steps forward. Painfully uncomfortable for me.

It was more or less consistently like this for the entire two hours we took to complete the trek to high camp. It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure: as well as the struggle over the scree  and rocks, the altitude certainly took its effect on me as well, and I gradually became slightly more breathless with the steps I took.  It was great to finally get there, above the snow line, on a small platform of ice, looking down over the valley of base camp and with amazing views of the various summits of Illimani. The porters had set the tent up for us which was even better, as I was able to move in and rest almost immediately. It looked like we would be the only ones attempting the summit in the early morning, as the only other climbers there were going back down to base camp.

Caleb later radioed to José to say we were okay. I could hear him outside the tent talking with him, and I heard him say that he didn’t think it was possible for me to speak with Nat. I guess this was because I was in the tent and he was outside. I didn’t say anything at the time, though I was a bit annoyed about that. I later asked if possible to radio back to them though he said that the radio at the bottom would have been switched off for the night. Definitely would have liked to have spoken with her before I went up the mountain, and I went to bed with slightly negative thoughts about the climb.

La Paz é uma cidade bagunçada e um tanto caóticas, carros vem e vão a todo instante e respeito ao pedestre é algo que eles realmente não aprenderam na auto-escola. Uma briga de carros e pessoas que vão e volta sem parar no meio da fumaça e da poeira. O barulho de buzinas gastas, motores velhos, carburadores furados e de pessoas falando são a trilha que embala sua estada pelo centro. Para chegar a Calle Illampu, onde fica nosso hotel, passamos por diversos mercados de ruas e barracas vendendo das coisas mais comuns ao mais bizarro. Mesmo com todo esse caos a me esperar não tem como não sentir aliviado em poder descansar. Ouvir a palavra La Paz soa como calmaria, descanso, noites bem dormidas, banheiros limpos, comida quente e variada, acesso a internet e todo o luxo que estamos privados no acampamento. Não que eu não goste de acampar, aqui na Bolívia tem sido uma experiência de dois lados, boas conversas, caminhadas, lindas paisagens mas de outro muita dor de estômago, uma doença que não para e pouca comida. Me anima sempre a cada novo acampamento que vamos, mas a frustração de ainda não ter conseguido um pico me persegue e invade meus pensamentos a toda hora. Tenho consciência que não tenho controle sobre esse mal que anda me afetando e que me enfraquece a cada retorno. A vinda para La Paz me enche de esperança, vir a capital é sempre sinônimo de fim de uma etapa mas também de recomeço. É daqui que começamos e é aqui que terminamos, logo mais uma chance de recuperação antes do Illimani.

A noite saímos para comer no Café Banais, ver o Augusto melhor foi bom, pena que daqui para frente não teríamos mais a sua companhia ou a de Kirk, eles fecharam o pacote de 14 dias que se encerrava essa noite. No dia seguinte partiriam para o Uyuni numa viagem de 3 dias conhecendo o salar, as grutas e as lagoas com flamingos.

Volto para o hotel e não ter nenhuma dor de estômago só me deixa mais animada. Vamos dormir que amanhã é dia de passear e levar os nossos 2 parceiros para conhecer a porte cult da cidade, do outro lado da avenida Perez Velasco tem uma infinidade museus, catedrais e galerias. O destino na verdade era a Calle Jaen a mais antiga da cidade.

Acordamos atrasados para o café da manhã mas mesmo assim conseguimos chegar a tempo. O dia foi cheio como imaginamos e o passeio agradável. Entramos no museu de intrumentos musicais e nos divertimos muito, por 5 bolivianos você pode conhecer um pouco da cultura musical local e tocar muitos dos instrumentos expostos. Depois fomos a um café que fica no fim da rua, onde comemos sanduíches e bebemos capuccino. O Ben e o Augusto provaram Chocococo, que é um chocolate quente com leite condensado, mais gostoso do que imaginei. 

Depois de muito passeio hora de voltar ao hotel e arrumarmos as malas seja pra ir para o Illimani ou para o Uyuni. Uma despedida breve e a certeza do reencontro quando voltarmos da montanha.

Arrumar a mala parece cada dia mais simples, e dessa vez fica fácil saber escolher o que fica no hotel e o que levamos. A noite chega e junto a fome, ligamos para Caleb e vamos ao Lunas, um restaurante bem perto do hotel. Lá conversamos sobre o que nos espera em Illimani e comemos uma lasanha vegetariana. Voltamos para o hotel e combinamos de sair amanhã às 9am.

Agradecimento a Augusto por suas fotos aqui nesse post.