Scaling 6000m mountains

Trip Start Feb 14, 2006
Trip End Mar 19, 2007

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Flag of Peru  ,
Wednesday, August 2, 2006

We arrived in Arequipa to the sights of the huge El Misti volcano and Chachani mountain overlooking the city. It really is an amazing sight with them towering above.

After a day sussing out the various trips we decided to go to the Colca Canyon the next day ourselves rather than with a tour adn then come back and conquer Chachani , 6075m.
The trip to the Canyon took a lot longet than expected and we ended up on anohter local bu for about 7 hours. We even got treted to a bit of panpiping and some really bad singing along the way. We got into Cabanaconde in darkness and follwed a random guy to his hostel which we got for fairly cheap. Then we manged to find the only restuarant in town where we sat with all our jackets on, freezing and eating a miserable dinner with the rest of the villages gringo population.

Next day we didn`t have ,much time so we skipped the trek down into the canyon and headed straight for the Condor watching. We got here about 9am with all the other crowds of tourists and were treated to some amazing views of the condors. There were abtou 4 of them flying around constantly for about an hour and their sheer size was unbelievable. You could hear the noise of the wind rushing through their wings as the flew passed, some of them had a wing span of over 2m. Again our camera didn`t perform and we were left with lots of pictures of empty blue sky. We were really jealous of the people with their high speed cameras going click, click, click as they flew passed, and we just knew they were getting amazing shots.

We walked down the road afterwards for about 2 hours waiting for our bus to come along and pick us up and in the meantime trying to get used to the altitude again.

After a days recovery we got our gear together for the trip up the mountain. We were a bit worried that we hadn`t spent enough time at altitude, Arequipa is only at about 2500m so it wasn`t much help. We were a group of four plus our guide, myself, Tadgh, a swiss and a french guy. We got a jeep up to about 5000m where we were left to walk up to the camp at 5300m. We took it nice and slowly so it wasn`t too hard, although we had a lot of gear and had to bring 5 litres of water each. We set up the camp there for the night and in between heavy breathing, dizzy spells and headaches we got the tents up. Then disaster struck when the swiss guy sliced his leg through his gore tex pance with his penknife. He also managed to cut his finger as well and both were pumping blood. I couldn`t even look and was battling myself with the nausea and dizziness....i didn`t need to see blood at that stage. Tadgh managed to get a look though and was able to offer some help but in the end we knew he needed stitches, it was pretty much an open gash. So the guide had to go up the mountain to get a signal to ring for help and then go back down the mountain with the swiss guy to meet the jeep. Meanwhile we were in the tents at about 5pm trying to keep warm and feeling awful. When the guide came back he went about cooking our dinner and bringing it to the tents like room service! We were supposed to be getting up at 1am that morning to start the ascent so we tried to get some sleep but as is common with high altitude supposedly, we didn`t sleep a wink. We got the wake up call (or rather,the "get up" call since we hadn`t gone asleep in the first place) at about 3am to the sound of our guide playing on a flute or something! After a small breakie off we went up the mountain in the freezing cold and pitch darkness.

Only about half an hour into it Tadgh started to feel bad and ended up getting a bad dose of the pukes. He decided that there was no way he was going to make it further so himself and the guide had to go back to camp (poor guide must have been knackered at this stage from all the to-ing adn fro-ing!). I, being the heartless girlfirend that I am, decided to keep going. Myslef and the french guy carried on a bit and then waited for the guide to come back. As we waited I started to loose the feeling in my fingers and toes and started imagining amputations! It was so cold even through the 4 tops, 2 pance and 2 pairs of gloves!

When the guide got back we set off traversing one of the moutnain peaks with our crampons (spikey things for boots) and ice pick....not as hard as it sounds...just basically walking on ice! The french guy had a lot of trouble with his crampons falling off so we had to keep stopping and I was getting colder and colder all the time. I would have given anything at that point to be transported back to the tent, and I was strating to wonder was there any point in us going on at all.

Eventually we got moving at a steady pace and the sun came up and I realised that maybe I wouldn`t be losing any fingers or toes afterall. We walked for another hour or two adn then teh French guy started struggling and falling behind. he decided that we couldn`t go any further and would only hold us up so we left him at about 5800m and we woould pick him up on the way back down. So now it was just me and the guide. I`m sure he was secretly hoping I wouldn`t go on so he could just call it a day. But being very stubborn i wasn`t going to let this beat me and at least we could say that one of us got value out of the trip. So onwards we went and as soon as we did thats when it started to get harder adn harder. i wasn`t too out of breath because we were really oing at a smails pace but it was just energy sapping. I felt like I might pass out sometimes adn then I thought i might jsut puke and I didn`t have the energy to put on foot in front of the other. It was a pretty steep climb at the end and I was just about to get down on my hands and knees when the guide pointed out the summit , about 10 minutes away. So mustering the small scrap of stubborness I had left, up we went to the top, 6075m ! Girlpower!

We didn`t spend too long up there, concious of the fact that the others would be waiting. But the view was spectacular and I tried to appreciate it even though I pretty much felt like crap. So I made the guide take a few photos, did a quick little celebratory jig, and off we went again. It was a pretty quick decent but some parts were really tiring adn the headaches got pretty bad going down. Eventually we made it back to camp to find Tadgh still dying sick. He had been puking since we left him and was feeling realyl miserable. So you can imagine the scene with us trying to pack our gear, sick as dogs, each of us having to take a little breather to bury our head between our knees and try not to pass out. There was dust everywhere and all our clothes were covered in it and the smell of sulphur was really strong from it. Anyway, we packed up eventually and got back to the jeep, the driver having punished us even more by parking that little bit further away then where he`d dropped us off. Didn`t he realise our condition??!! As soon as we dropped a few hundred meters we all started to feel better immediately. Its really amazing the effect that the altitude has, by the time we were nearing the city again tadgh was horsing back the chocolate, feeling great, with lots of lost food to start replacing!

That night we celebrated with dinner and wine..thankfully it wasn`t Peruvian stuff, and we started dreaming about all the wine that awaited us back in Argentina.
The next few days we spent recovering and doing some shopping to send home, enough LLama jumpers to last us through 40 irish winters!

Tadgh managed to catch the Cork game on the net and was dead chuffed with the win....he`s already planning the All ireland celebrations! He also got in a bit of soccer with the locals, when the hostel owner invited him for a game and came back in a right state, gashed knees, ankles, elbows, the lot, but still wearing the Cork jersey with pride! Obviously he was imagining himself back with the Valleys and got carried away.I`m sure they reckoned these irish lads are fairly rough stuff ( and probably why we weren`t in the World cup.

So we bid goodbye to Peru and started our marathon journey to Bariloche in southern Argentina.....only about 4000k to go.
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