January 6, 2017
All that night and day before I had been tossing around in my mind what to do. We still had a lot of elevation and didn’t want to push it, but at the same time this could be the only weather window for awhile. What to do?
As my mother had posted while we were summitting, we should have at least 4-7 days to acclimatize and bring gear higher up the mountain. What she didn’t and couldn’t know was: the weather window, where we were exactly on the mountain and how we were feeling. She was giving detail off of what she knew about a “normal” climbing schedule. Well as most of you may know by now, I am far from “normal”.
I did have to consider a few things. First, this was Logan’s first high mountain and this is a very high mountain. Second, it was a lot of elevation gain and third, if we pushed to get the weather window, would we exhaust ourselves for the summit day and then be caught high and in a potential storm or not feeling well due to the elevation gain.
I probably asked Logan 5 times or more “how are you feeling?” “What do you want to do?” “Are you ok if we push for the weather window (summit in 2 days)?”
Thankfully, he was feeling great, feeling strong, liked my plan and I think mostly excited about not pooping in a bag any longer then he had to.
The morning in camp 1 was busy for us. Making sure we had everything we needed, but also as minimal as possible as it was a long carry to Colera. With full, heavy packs, we started out shortly after 0900. From camp 1 the route crosses a small river melt before heading up a scree slope until it meets the base of a snow and ice field. There had been no snow accumulation for several days on the slope and so we opted not to wear crampons as it was like a set of stairs kicked in from previous climbers.
At the top of the snow field, we went over the pass and rested here for a short period out of the wind. The sun was shining, it was beautiful.
From there the trail headed downhill before traversing up another scree slop. Brian, a guide from another expedition who we had chatted with as they were on the same schedule as us, until now anyways, pointed out the valleys below us as well as the landmarks on the mountain above us. Another short flatter traverse and we arrived at Guanacos Camp with only 400m of elevation gain.
It was quit windy here so we found a rock wall and tried to melt some snow. Matches and a lighter are a necessity. Without them, your stove does not work therefore, no food, no water. Knowing the importance of it, I had packed 2 lighters, a box of matches, extra matches and a light anywhere jar of matches. First lighter was empty, second one melted itself and wouldn’t work, box of matches falling apart and wouldn’t ignite, or went out as soon as got lite due to the wind. Finally got the stove going for it to malfunction and go out. It had been acting up the last few times used. Thank goodness for a new backup, now just to light it in the wind. Both of us huddled around the stove to block the wind, we finally got it started with the light anywhere match – this was only the third or fourth light anywhere match.
We had some lunch while our stove melted snow for us to drink. It took a long time to make water, but I guess everything is slower at altitude including us.
When the water was ready, we cached a few more items, as we would decend to this camp or lower if we couldn’t make the weather window tomorrow. Just as we were about to leave our three amigos arrived. We notified them of our plan to continue up today and borrowed a lighter as an emergency even though I thought I had 4 backups but the backups for the backups weren’t security enough.
The weather changed a little as we left Guanacos. Clouds filtering by, and wind a bit stronger. A rocky incline out of camp turned into a gradual uphill before turning into a steeper slope. I was getting tired and the ridge to Colera never seemed to get any closer. Step by step we continued our slow accent. Clouds became thicker and the world around slightly blurred at times.
3.5hrs from camp 1 to Guanacos then another 3 hour accent to Colera made us pretty beat by the time we arrived around 6:30pm that night. Thankfully other then a slight headache and being tired from the long climb and heavy pack, we felt reasonable well. I still had my reservations about tomorrow, but fingers crossed, water, food and a good nights rest will have us ready again for tomorrow’s accent.
The sun cleared the clouds and hikers trudged back to camp after there day spent summiting. They were met with applause by their guide groups however all appeared very exhausted. Something to look forward to as we closed our eyes at 9.