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Tuesday, 12 February 2008

"Whine" Potosi - Page 2

Written by Sarit Reizin
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While traveling, you end up doing many things that are exciting and fun only in recollection. After the wounds have been licked shut and the pain in your lungs does not feel like a knife through the chest anymore - only then can you say with a straight face that you would do it all over again.


Huayna Potosi, 6,088m mountain near La Paz, ice climbing, adventure travel Bolivia, adventure travel south america, altitude sicknessCautiously, that day our guide decided to not even take us out for training. Instead, we spent the whole day playing the card game “Asshole” in a tiny room behind a little house belonging to the hydro-electric plant guard. To be honest, it was alright with us. We had a chance to dry off our very wet shoes and rest our sore muscles. Actually, I'm pretty sure we were not even supposed to be there at all - we were allowed to use the bathroom only if there was nobody else near the house; and then, right before we went to sleep, and I went to brush my teeth, I was literally shoved back into the room by the guard because, as he apologetically explained later, the Sheriff was outside the door.


Things started to look brighter the next morning. There was only a slight change in plans as we still needed to do our ice climbing exercise. It was decided that we have more than enough time, and we will do it all next to the high camp (5,150m) and still have enough hours to catch some rest before we do the night climb. Perfect. That morning I felt as hyper as I usually do when we are headed towards something well beyond my abilities. We were going to climb about 450m, trekking on thin ridges and jagged rocks, and so as soon as we geared up I was the first one out the door.


Sadly, it took me all of twenty meters to realize my lungs were not in the same cheery mood as I was. With every step I could feel my chest constricting and my legs becoming heavier and heavier. I shall not lie, I hated it. I knew I wasn't the strongest member of the group, but I really didn't want to be a burden on Julian and, even more importantly, on Alex. I knew that if I were to quit, he wouldn't leave me behind just as I wouldn’t continue without him.

Huayna Potosi, 6,088m mountain near La Paz, ice climbing, adventure travel Bolivia, adventure travel south america, altitude sickness About the same time I started feeling the hardships of altitude, we met another group coming down from high camp and they didn’t have good news. They were a group of experienced climbers who arrived at low camp the same day we did, but since they had experience they could tackle the peak right away in two days. The sad thing was, though, that they too had to turn back due to the risk of avalanche. Moreover, the only girl in their group got so sick from altitude, she had to stay in high camp while the guys had their unsuccessful stab at the peak. That’s the thing with altitude, everybody has their own barrier which, when crossed, hits you like a ton of bricks. I guess my barrier was around 4,750m even though I thought we had acclimatized more than enough in
La Paz. Nonetheless, the way to high camp was up, and this is exactly where we went.

Lunch was almost ready when we reached camp. The two guides, Miguel and Juan along with the driver who, we later learned, never goes above high camp, set us up in their big permanent tent with blue tarp walls and two heavy off-the-ground beds with wooden frames. We sat down to have lunch, but even though the climb up was very hard, and I wasted quite a bit of energy getting here, I had absolutely no desire to replenish my strength. The boys did not seem to have the same problem. Alex and Julian gobbled up everything in sight and were ready for whatever Miguel had in store for us. Can't say I shared their enthusiasm at that point, but I have to admit it was quite contagious. I finally managed to shove some food into myself, and we all set out to a nearby glacier for some much needed training.

Huayna Potosi, 6,088m mountain near La Paz, ice climbing, adventure travel Bolivia, adventure travel south america, altitude sickness

I don't know if it was the food, the guide, or the snow, but I was finally having a great time. Just a half hour prior I was miserable and gasping for air, and now I was piercing the frozen snow with my ice axe, digging my crampons into the steep glacier, and practicing rappelling. If this is how the real thing goes, I just might go all the way to the peak, I thought to myself.

(Page 2 of 4)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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