Monday, July 13, 2009

Going up can hurt

High altitude does strange things to the body and mind. For someone new to altitude, it can be a horrible experience (dont let that put you off though!) . The process of gradually pushing the body higher and higher to force the body to adapt to higher altitudes can be painful. Headaches, nausea, vomiting can all be symptoms when you push it. Anxiety about what is happenning and how long these syptoms will last is common for people new to high altitude.

A few days ago, Simon, Jono (an easy going Californinian we met at the hostel) caught a taxi to the Llaca valley to attempt a peak called Vallunaraju (5680m). After a night in the run down, half collapsed refugio(4300m), Jono and I headed up the mountain at 345am. Simon had woken up (actually he hadnt slept at all) with a pulse of 130 bpm and screaming headache. He wisely decided not to join us. I didnt´t have high expectations for myself as I wasnt aclimatised much at all really. Jono was already acclimatised after a few weeks in the range andwas looking to climb one last peak before heading home.

Onward we climbed until we stumbled upon the high camp and the path onto the glacier. We stashed our approach shoes under some rocks and strapped crampons onto our boots. I still felt OK at 5000m so onward we went. All the training I had done must have paid off. cool!

6 hours after starting from base camp, we stood on the top with incredible views of the cordillera blanca in every direction. This was my first time back in the mountains since the trip to Tibet in September 2008 and it felt great to be back. A strange feeling to describe, but nothing else really matters up there. The pressures of work and life fade away into insignificance and the focus becomes getting down safely.

Carefullly we retraced our steps back down the corniced summit ridge and back down the mountain to the refugio and eventuallly the taxi back to Huaraz. We even manged to score a free lunch off a visiting tour group while we waitied for the taxi. Simon was thankfully feeling better by the time we returned and still psyched for the next Alpamayo. Jono has extended his ticket home by a week to join us. Should be a fun mission................

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