The Greatest

Trip Start Jul 02, 2006
Trip End Mar 02, 2007

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Thursday, November 30, 2006

Today I hurt more than I have ever hurt before.  Today I pushed myself beyond breaking point and realised a level of determination that I didnt think I had in me.  Today I reached to summit of a 6000+ m mountain and I will never forget it.

Each day of the last three days has been truely amazing. 

Day one was a two hour hike at nearly 5000m altitude to the Hyuana glacier and then hours of training with crampons and ice pics up near verticle ice face - the views and the experience amazing and exhausting.

Day two was another day where all the "pack work" of the last months was invaluable.  Starting at low camp it was a three hour hike with 14kg on my back to high camp (5200m).  It was supposed to be the easy day and there were serious doubts whether I had it in me to get to the summit the next morning.  The blokes who had reached the top that morning arrived and three had serious altitude problems, vomitting with severe headaches...

Today I was up a midnight and off up the first glacier at 1am.  For all the medicos out there, they did my pulse oxymetry at the high camp before we set out - PaO2 82; PR 104 at rest, yes it had me worried as well!!!  Myself and my guide set the pace for the first hour or so as the snow started to increase. By 3am the snow was thick, nearly a complete white out, 30cm of powder everywhere to lift through each agonising step and when at 3:30am there was a lightening strike less than 200m away (we are all holding metal ice picks) there was a chance that it would all be called off.  Half an hour spent under a rock ledge waiting on the weather and with no more lightening a dash for the top.  The last 230m of ascent is all 50-60 degree ice climbing, breathing at 40-50 breaths a minute, gasping for the little oxygen in the air and demanding your arms and legs to just keep on going. I have never been so determined in my life to achieve something, it didnt matter how much I hurt, how much I couldnt breathe I wasnt going to turn around. It took over an hour of climb to make the top and my God I was exstatic at the top to say the least.  All the demons of the last six months about my own physical fitness could be put to rest - anyone one who wants to comment can climb a 6000 m peak first.

The descent was probably as hard as the trip up.  A combination of the near complete white out, my weary legs and my altitude affect brain (it felt like I had smashed ten beers) had me disorientated and staggering.  Huge crevaces would come out of no where and some of the 50m plus repels were harder enough to manage "sober".  It was one of those moments when you realise that your life is in someone elses hands and thank God my guide was as good as they come (the crazy bastard had scaled this peak 300+ times)

So Im back alive in La Paz, probably more alive than i have ever been in my life.  Have just rushed to Burger King for a celebratory burger and now I think I will sleep for a year.  The small video recording of me at the top saying (in panted breaths) that I will never do this again is already questionable - it was undoubtedly the best thing I have ever done in my life...
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