Trip Report #4

Today was going to be an easier day than my carry to Camp One. For one thing I had no return trip and presumably I had acclimatized a little on my climb the previous day. I slept in as much as possible, made myself some coffee, at some granola or something granola related and slowly packed up all my gear. Packing is usually pretty easy, especially when it’s only about half of my gear, but wrestling a down bag rated to -30C into a bag that when closed and compressed in the size of bowling ball is not fun. This is made worse in a little tent when it’s not nice outside; it has a tendency to not stay where you put it, I kind of felt like I was at a fair with a mallet trying to keep the ground hogs down…they just keep coming back. Once everything was packed, I luxuriated in the still standing pit toilettes at Base Camp, not relishing the thought of what the next few days were going to entail. Nothing can stay on the mountain, as I described in an earlier post, so aim and Ziplocs were going to be key.

I was somewhat anxious to get to Camp One as I knew it was fairly crowded and I had left almost all my food, gas and quite a bit of cold weather clothing cached at my tent site. There is purportedly some theft of food and gear on the mountain though I was never really worried, as everyone I met seemed nice and honest enough not to steal someone’s food on the side of a mountain. What I was more anxious about was that someone would have stolen my awesome sheltered tent site. So, I went over to my new friends at Grajales and checked on their rebuilding process and shared a last Matte with them, not thinking too hard about the straw we were all drinking out of, and said my goodbyes. If all went according to plan I would not be seeing them again as my plan was to traverse the mountain after summiting and to come out down the normal route because it’s a shorter hike out.

The move to Camp One was essentially the same as my carry the previous day except this time I was almost totally alone on the trail. Apart from some porters, who passed me like I was going backwards, there was no one else. Best of all there were no sexagenarian Germans to race against so I really made my self try and slow down. In the end my effort to pace myself and go slow and steady resulted in me arriving about to Camp One about ten minutes faster than I had the day before. Whether this was due to some acclimatization, less stop and go than the day before or an utter failure to pace myself is up for debate but regardless of how fast or slow I was I felt fine when I arrived.

I quickly found my unoccupied, awesome site and cached equipment. I then had a snack and set up my tent and the rest of camp. Once I had everything set I wandered around a little and talked to some of the people I had become acquaintances with at Base Camp. It seemed that almost the whole camp was going to either be moving to or carrying to Camp Two (19,200 feet or 5,900m) the next day. My original plan was to take a rest day at Camp One before trying to head to Camp Two. The reasoning behind this was mostly because I was way out of my element and I to be safe taking more time to acclimatize is obviously better than taking less. After talking to a few groups and hearing that many weren’t spending any extra time at Camp One, I began to doubt the necessity of my original itinerary. I lazed around camp, reading, writing in my diary and taking stock of everything I had. I still had more than enough food, gas and water was plentiful, what I was running low on was patience. After ruminating more and more about whether i should stay or try for Camp Two I hadn’t made up my mind what I was going to do the next day as I began to try to sleep. It was not a pleasant night.

My sleep was going to be bad, I had prepared enough to know that until you’ve acclimatized sleeping can be a real challenge at that kind of altitude. What I found happening was that as I was falling asleep and my breathing rate would slow I would jolt awake with sleep apnea like symptoms. Before your body acclimatizes to altitude it has to some how make up for there being less O2 in the air, generally the best way is to breath faster. My body happens to be good at doing this automatically, however, when sleeping it apparently isn’t. So every few minutes I would jolt awake and gasp a little, eventually I grew tired enough that I fell asleep anyway but it wasn’t a nice feeling.

The breathing issue was expected and therefore not necessarily scary, but nevertheless it was a pain. However, there were two other issues that I wasn’t comfortable with. The first was an erratic heart rate that, combined with my high blood pressure, and gasping were not helping me to feel either safe or sound. The second was that as I was lying in my tent, drifting off, there would be the occasional CRACK and then a moment or two later a thump, or sometimes a sound that made me think of rocks or ice rolling. Maybe the reason all the experienced guides didn’t set their tents up in the lee of the giant cliff was because occasionally rocks fell on tents. I hadn’t read about this happening anywhere in my research but regardless it was pretty scary and I had a few moments where I was almost ready to simply pick up my tent and move.

After that night I was taking a rest day at Camp One, I’d be stupid not too, and I was moving my tent.

Of course, we all know that decisions made late at night, to sooth our racing minds tend not to be the most firm of decisions. I awoke, ate, used my Ziploc fairly well, and went over to talk to some people who were breaking camp. I should have been stealing my resolution to rest at this point, but impatience combined with inexperience and the thought of being super bored all day had me right at the brink of being convinced to make a carry to Camp Two. After some conversations with the guys whose tent was directly above mine about falling rocks, which they heard too, one of them even jumped out of their tent, I still hadn’t decided and even after saying goodbye to almost the entire camp I still hadn’t decided. It was when I wandered back to my little lonely orange tent that I decided I was going to try and make a carry to Camp Two.

My cache bag was ready to go as I hadn’t needed to unpack it the previous day, so I loaded it up in my pack, grabbed some extra snacks and filled my water bottles and excitedly began the climb to camp two.

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