Trip Report #1

I’ve been home for about a week now. The trip went well and I had an awesome time. I didn’t summit due to some concerns I had about a very high blood pressure and some weird heart rhythms. Here is how it went:

The hike to base camp was what I had thought was going to be the hardest part of the trip. I thought this because I knew I was going to have around 100lbs, or 46kg on my back for those three days. What I had expected was some relatively easy terrain for the first two days and then a sharp increase in grade for the third and final day into Base Camp. I was right, kind of. The terrain was relatively flat except for a sharp climb at the start of the third day, however it was not at all easy with the weight I was carrying. Much of the valley I was hiking through was covered in rock fall and mudslide and this meant walking on very uneven terrain. With a lighter pack it wouldn’t have been as much of a concern but I had to constantly be aware of my foot placement. The rocks were scattered enough that there was rarely a smooth path and I always had to keep my head down to avoid stubbing my toe too frequently, and of course, to avoid falling.

The paths along the valley varied from a trail through a flat flood plain or mudslide refuse, to a narrow (half a meter) wide path with a very steep drop of anywhere from 3 to 10 or 15 meters down to a river. This type of path, which I grew to loath, was especially hard on the third day into base camp. At times the path was almost nonexistent and I had to shimmy along gaps where a mistake was not an option. Obviously, I made it but I never thought I could have been as tired as I was on that final day into base camp. The constant vigilance about foot placement, the heavy pack and the sharp increase in altitude was more than I had bargained for.

Once in Base Camp I sat down for a few then set up my tent next to some friends I had made on the hike in and lay in it for about two hours not doing anything. Finally I cooked something (boiled water and added it to a bag of dehydrated something) and felt a little better. I then proceeded to find my water and toilet source, Fernando Grajales Expedition was my outfitter for these things, as well as some meals and Internet.

Everyone who wants to go past base camp has to pay a visit to the Doctor at base camp who checks their vitals to make sure they can go up. I went in soon after arriving in camp and he measured my O2 saturation (a measure of how much oxygen is in your blood, at sea level it theoretically should be 100%, and as you get higher it drops as there is less O2 in the atmosphere. From what I understand this is what causes altitude sickness, AMS, and thus the measure of O2 saturation at least gives some indication of how someone is tolerating altitude, however it is by no means a predictor of AMS.) My saturation was fine and quite high at around 88%, but my blood pressure was extremely high at around 160/100. Obviously this was some cause for concern. I added another rest day and went to visit the Doc again only to find no change in my BP. He said it is normal in some percentage of the population so I decided that the next day I would move to camp one.

But that night a little disaster hit base camp.

Read on: Trip Report #2