Aconcagua Memoirs Rest Day at 5380m.
We had moved up to the barren snow land that was Camp Nido – High Camp 2 at 5380m
After 4 days consisting of gear drop to camp Canada, move to Canada, gear drop Nido, move to Nido we were all feeling exhausted and hanging out for a rest day.
The rest day was to consist of readying our kit for what we estimated would be 2-3 days up higher in our bid for the summit. A large part of the day would also consist of melting snow for water to hydrate as much as possible before the next push.
If you have never tried to obtain 10l of water from melting snow, let me tell you, it takes a LONG time at altitude and is mind numbingly boring. But essential. So must be done.
Some Argentinian soldiers had moved up next to us earlier. This meant the empty tent that a guy we knew had used over-night (due to his being smashed down in the high winds lower down.) was now being used.
Some of the day was spent rallying round trying to get his tent into a workable state using duct tape and some discarded tent poles we had found. It wasn’t ideal but it was better than the idea of 3 grown men spending the next few nights in a tent for 2 people.
We had to calculate how much food and gas we thought we would need while considering travelling as light as possible to higher, more challenging altitudes.
I opted for 2 x 1000kcal packs of dehydrated food, a bag of trail mix and 4 museli bars, 2 cup a soup and 4 oxo cubes for drinking.
That was it. Not much considering the outlay of energy that lay ahead. My hunger had all bit disappeared and over eating added to the feeling of nausea.
It was at this point we realised that we might not have enough gas between us to melt the quantity of snow needed for the next few days. Calculations and conversations. Some agreement, some disagreement. The result was rallying round asking others on the mountain if they had an extra canister or two they didnt need. Fortunately we acquired two more and our minds were eased.
The day soon passed and it wasnt long before I was enjoying my 30 minutes sanctuary in the blackness of the mountainside. In sleeping bag, cuddling a hot Nalgene bottle full of Tang, listening to Skid Row, thinking of home and the people who I missed, and of course, what lay ahead.
That night I slept restlessly. Our tent being buffeted once again by freezing cold high winds.
I listened the wind battering our tent and hoped that the job we had done on our friends tent would last the night.
I remember reflecting over the experience of the last few days in-between bouts of melting snow.
“Suffering – this is Suffering.”
There is nothing that could prepare me for this incredible experience.
Taking on this challenge self-supported has been a massive learning curve.
The altitude is just plain HARSH. Everything feels harder than it should do.
Sometimes, even thinking straight feels impossible.
The breathlessness of ascending for long hours, heavy pack on back,
Every footstep is hard won and costs. The pace is agonisingly slow.
It is easy to become lost amongst feelings of hopelessness and self-doubt.
It’s about self-management,
It’s about being aware and being able to have a stern word with oneself,
It’s about observing and processing the avalanche of mixed emotions of which, most are not good.
A battle with the self. Until the task is complete.
Head throbbing, heels burning in new boots (why didn’t I break them in?!?),
Brain feeling fuzzy, vision a little dreamy, everything feels like it has slowed down,
Every breath is fought for and used immediately.
I haven’t washed in over week, baby wipes frozen solid.
My sleeping bag stinks of the effort of mountain life, of mountain existence and survival.
Stale, musty and yet the only delicious sanctuary I have.
And yet, the reward, beautiful, magnificent, breath-taking – the scenery.
But still more, that is not it either. It’s the process, it’s the experience, it’s the journey, unfolding into daily new chapters and seeing what may be – just what can I do and where can I get.
Another day looms, another Altitude stage and onwards into the unknown once more.