We had ‘missed’ New Years on the walk in, falling asleep at 8. Missed the one firework lit at basecamp. After some rest we now set to hike up to Camp 1, a higher crest of flattish land sitting in the valley above, right at the current temperature elevation where surface water from the glaciers remained liquid, an invaluable item for those that have ever struggled with boiling/melting water for drinking. For some reason no matter your technique, cooked (melted) snow always seems to taste ‘burnt’, and is not quite as refreshing.
We carried warm clothing, food, and fuel for three hours up through ragged melting penitentes (clean snow pillars – less meltable remenants from the glacier that remained under our feet at basecamp, covered in centimetres to metres of rock and gravel). Also standing in our way were moraine hills (piled rock debris shifted into dunes by retreating or growing glaciers and a 500 ft rise of further more dense penitentes and ice.
We raced up this rise once more duelling the three friends from New York, now deemed the Three Amigos, challenging each other for the claim of first up. This first climb was a true test of our strength and endurance, passing many organized larger groups as we were able to set our own pace. At the very cusp of the Camp 1 rise, wind poured through the valley and each of us bent and scrambled with our hands on the loose scree. Gasping for breath I found it awakening to the risks of this mountain. Sheer drops and wind gusts were realities, mental composure unaffected by mountain sickness would be a requirement for our success on this peak.
Finally topping over the rise I bent over on the grey rocky ‘Camp’ my chest wheezing, weight resting on my two hiking poles and attempted to regain some semblance of composure/sanity. Laura looked gassed as well and we were overjoyed to be welcomed by the applause of our three amigos who lay spilled across the ground under cover of a decaying rock wall.
Half an hour of panting, sucking water from our backpack bladders and then wheezing for air later, we decided this was enough ‘rest’. Stashed our backpack contents in a garbage bag under some rocks and headed down the same route, Laura in the lead and unafraid of full scale sliding down the 500ft snow covered slope. One hour to return down the same route we had just come up… way to fast, but I guess we were excited to really start going.
Tuna and rice, separate this time to let us ‘savour’ the delicious salty flavour (more like allow us to stomach it) and in bed for some earned shut eye at 9.
Tomorrow would be our first move onto the mountain.