Friday, October 09, 2009

Huayna Potosi - Sky High in Bolivia

We climbed a 6088m mountain! We f-ing did it. It was the worst day of our lives, but we did it. I´m talking climbing with ice crampons and ice picks! I´m talking ZERO ice climbing or mountaineering experience. The route entails an exposed ridge and sections of steep ice, with a UIAA rating of PD (whatever that means, Please Don´t we´re guessing). We each had a moment where we almost slid down the mountain into an icy grave.
(rocking the crampons with the neons)

This was the most physically and emotionally demanding thing either of us had ever experienced. Near the end I nearly broke down crying from pure exhaustion. Gemma was a bucket of tears throughout the six hour accent.
(The happy couple before they realized what they were in for.)

I got through it by repeating "step by step, one foot in front of the other, its the only way to the top." Gemma got through it by repeating "strong, fit, healthy". There were many points during the final six hour climb when I didn´t think I´d make it. One such point was when Gemma asked how much longer and our guide told us four hours. It was 3am, the path ahead steep and actually quite dangerous. Sweet question.
We first had to climb two hours up to the base camp up rocky terrain carrying all of our equipment. We had our crampons, ice picks, snow suits, two pairs of gloves, fleece masks, sleeping bags, cameras, 4 liters of water, and snow boots.
The base camp sits at 5130 meters, leaving a final accent of 958m for the morning. We then had dinner at about 5pm and went to bed. We had to wake up at midnight in order to get ready for our 1am departure up to the summit. You start climbing at 1am so that you are walking on the snow while it is tightly packed. By 8am the snow starts melting and puts you at risk for an avalanche.

At base camp.

We had been climbing for about four hours or so when the sun started to come up. We took a break to take a couple pictures. The white in the foreground is snow and the white in the background below the horizon is clouds.

We finally made it to the top. The views were incredible but we were so tried we couldn´t even stand up to fully enjoy them. We just sat there in disbelief at what we´d just done. I let out a couple of long Yes!!!! yells and fell to the ground.

Views from the summit:

On the trip back down we passed by some of the most beautiful natural landscapes I´ve ever seen. Here is a great example of some of the passes we had to cross. It wouldn´t have been fun to fall into one of these crevices. On the way down we also had to cross over a massive crevice in the snow. The path was melting away and with our complete lack of energy after 8 hours of hiking plus what we´d done the night before it made the two foot jump seem like a certain leap of death.

After three hours back downhill to the base camp and we literally hit the ground.

We had another three hours down the rocky terrain to the bottom. We could barely walk and were cursing ourselves and our guide at this point. Neither of us had ever been this exhausted in our entire lives. It was an incredible experience standing atop the summit above the clouds. We´ll never forget it. Hard to forget the worst day of your life.

1 comment:

  1. Hehehe Jordan..thank you for this blog..I'm so glad I get to read all about the best days and potentially worst days of your big adventure!! CONGRATULATIONS to the both of you...I think you most definately deserve a medal of some sort!! x x x