My first mountaineering experience at 18,765 ft.

Trip Start Sep 21, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I must honestly say that mountaineering has never been my cup of tea. I never dreamt of climbing peaks just for the sake of it. I normally only risk my life when there's no other choice, which happens often enough on a world tour such as mine, not just to get an adrenaline rush out of it.

But this excursion had something special about it. For one, I was going to do it with six friends whom I had met the previous week as we trekked Santa Cruz together. None of those was a superman so I was no worse than anyone else. And I thought, what the heck, if I hit a wall at some point I'll simply turn around. Not everyone can summit at 5686 m (18,765 ft) that's well known. No shame, right ?

Well, I was kind of fooling myself on that one, and deep inside I knew it. I knew that there was not going to be any quiting in the middle of a challenge for me. I knew that if I set out to climb this mountain, La Cumbre, the summit, was going to be my last stop. Perhaps that's why I was so nerveous and felt so uncomfortable the day before.

I definetely didn't feel normal. And it could not be the altitude for after Santa Cruz I was very well acclimatized. It had to be something else. Perhaps was it a cold, or some other traveler's bug that always have a way to ruin everything for you, even in the most spectacular places. Anyways, I was signed in, and I was going to go no matter what.

My nose quickly brought an answer. On the first day's climb it seemed to be running faster than the streams we were crossing. A cold it was. And a bad one as well. We had to reach 4800 m (15,840 ft) to camp that night. There was no other flat area big enough to hold our tents. The climb was very exhausting for everyone, and probably even more for me.

That night, my nose was stuffed as can be, and I was starting to feel a bit of a fever. I was so tired it would be easy to sleep. At least I had that going for me. It must have been around 9:00 PM when the sound of the wind woke me up. It fact, it was the hail blown by the wind the made that noise. We were in the middle of a terrible hail storm. By moments I thought the tent would get cut wide open. I felt so sick, so weak. I was so discouraged. The thought of climbing another 900 m the next day made me feel even worse. I surprised myself hoping the this storm would never end and force us to cancel the climb.

But it did stop. And this warm soup made me feel a little better inside, both physically and psychologically. In a matter of a few minutes I was asleep again.

Though it had only been a few hours, when my clock went off at 1:00 AM, I somehow felt like I had had a good night sleep. The sky had gottem a little clearer. It was a go.

The rest of the story lies in the pictures, they speak better than any words I could write. And possibly will be in this book I want to write at the end of my world tour.


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