Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Chachani Challenge


So I wanted to give a pretty detailed account of my mountain climbing experience for all out there who saw my pictures.

For a while now, we’ve wanted to climb Misti.  Finally we set a date to climb Misti and we went to the tour agency (Quechua Tours) to get some information.  They ended up talking us into climbing Chachani.  It was around $90 with all gear included, not a bad deal at all.

The morning of the first day, we left the house at about 7:30 AM for the tour agency, which is downtown.  Got there at 8 and started packing our stuff.  Ours bags were huuuge.  Mine weighed a good 40-50 pounds, and I then realized that we’ll be carrying these things for 2 hours.

So we took off at 8:30 in two 4x4’s and rode in them for about 3 hours.  They dropped us off as far as they could go.  There was one point where we had to get out and walk up the hill while they tried to get up.  It took my truck about 5 tries to make it up that part.  We gathered up our stuff, put it on our backs and started up a hill.

This is where the mental process started.  It was a tiny hill, in comparison to the rest, but I just started to feel pain and started telling myself that there was no way I could ever do the rest of the mountain.  Well that might’ve been the easiest part of the trip, haha.   We continued on and only climbed about 200 meters that day, although the terrain was mostly a bunch of boulders.   That part would’ve been super fun just to mess around in and hop on the boulders, but we had these huge back packs that made it a little difficult.

Two hours and a bunch of breaks until we finally reached base camp.  We were all SANY0059exhausted, and thought that part was really hard.  To the left shows me reaching base camp with the cold coming in very quickly.   I thought it was hard and I couldn’t wait to get to bed.  We set up camp (tents, sleeping bags, etc.) and had a nice dinner of vegetable soup and spaghetti with tuna sauce.  It got cold just like that and we went to bed at about 5:30 PM.

The next few hours were pretty rough.  I had the second worst headache in my life, and I kept saying random stuff in my head in Spanish.  I was annoyed, frustrated, and couldn’t sleep.  I just kept praying for the gift of sleep, multiple times.  I finally got up, trying not to wake my tent buddy Chad up.  Turns out he was awake too.  I took some medicine and went back to bed, trying to think of different things to get me to sleep.  That was the last I remember until being woken up our guide at 1:00 AM for breakfast.  Chad looks outside of the tent and says, “whoa” and I’m like “what, what?”  He said that he’d never seen so many stars before.  It was crazy, because camp was still not lit up with headlamps.  You could see all the belts and everything, I can’t really explain it very well.  We ate at 1:30 AM, and took off at 2:00AM with our small packs that contained water, snacks, and our crampons. (what are crampons?)

This part was surreal.  We were all walking in the pitch black with just headlamps, everyone silent except the sound of our feet.  It was so crazy to be there at that time, and I happened to have some soundtracks playing on my headphones which made it even more epic.

It only got harder and harder and steeper and steeper.  Minimum of 60 degree angles, climbing up switchbacks, no air to breathe.  It only got worse.  We had one turn back, but the rest of us trekked on.  Some would stop and rest for a bit, but I knew that if that was me, it would only demoralize me further to see people way ahead of me.  I kept with the guide, a half step behind him the whole time.  I had it in my mind that I could make it rest to rest, not base camp to summit.  We rested more often as we got higher, and the rests became less satisfying as the air became thinner and thinner. As it got steeper, we were told to put on our crampons.  Well my left crampon ended up staying on for about 5 steps because it was missing a nut.  You can see that in the picture below, and you can see how much of a help a crampon would be.  This was great. SANY0093 It only made things harder because it basically made my left leg lame on 90% of the mountain.  There was one part where the whole group got split up because of the difficulty of that particular section.  We were up far enough that I couldn’t tell who was who below.  Basically at that point we were two groups.  The guide told us he was going to take us past one ridge then we were on our own as he went to ask the others if they were coming. 

The guide left us, and the crater of the volcano was to the left, a ridge to the right and I saw a cross in the distance, signifying the summit.  4 of us went on, and I gave almost all that I could give to reach the top.  I reached it, then fell down on my face tout of fatigue.  I had done it, I couldn’t believe it either.  The rest of us 4 made it up within 5 minutes.  I took some pictures, then laid down for a little rest.  I ended up sleeping for about 30 minutes, and SANY0078about 45 minutes after summited, the last of us summited.  We were all sleeping, the guide said it was the first time anyone had slept, let alone the whole group.  All of us, passed out, then I started to get frustrated.  I couldn’t breathe like I wanted and I was actually starting to get nervous.  I asked the guide if going back was just the same way as going up.  He said yes, so I took off, I had been up there long enough.

I started booking it down, trying to get more oxygen, and ended up almost killing myself.  I decided it was a good idea to slide down the mountain, I discovered I could do it on the rocks.  So I was sliding down the mountain, with no one in sight and the rocks turned to snow.  And the slow speed I had on the rocks turned to really fast.  I had nothing to stop me, and I was headed right for a group of boulders.  I stuck my one crampon in the snow and it basically grabbed the snow and wrenched my foot back.  That hurt a ton.  I pulled it out quickly, and tried it again while speed sledding down the mountain.  I managed to stop, using that crampon, but learned my lesson.  I waited for some others, and got the ice axe from the guide to make up for my missing crampon.

Going down was frustratingSANY0096, and my feet got all bloody from the pressure on my toes.  Towards the bottom, I started to sled again.  This time it was fun and I had an ice axe to stop me.  I could get some serious speed.  I finally reached base camp, and started to pack up my stuff.  We were at like 15,000 feet which might be hard for most, but I was more than happy to be at 15,000 feet with the more or less abundance of oxygen.  To the right is me and Sixto arriving to base camp.  I packed up and took off with three others and a guide, not waiting for the rest as I wanted to get back to the car and take off for Arequipa.  We ended up having to wait for the others, because they wanted us going in the same truck in which we came.

They eventually came maybe 40 minutes after, but it was good to sit in the truck and rest.  2 hours back to Arequipa, and I can say that I’ve never been so happy to see that city at a cozy 8,000 feet.

My New Years celebration was sleeping in my bed.  I went to bed at 8:00 PM and woke up at 11:00 AM, so I got in my 15 hours of sleep.  I woke up this morning not feeling sore in my muscles, but in my lungs.  I feel like I pulled a lung, if that makes sense.  I think I was trying to breathe in so much that my own body stretched my lungs further than they can go.  That’s the best way I can describe it.  Other than that, a few bloody toes, and a sore ankle, I made it up and down safely.  Those picture show the extent of my injuries,  thanks be to God.


Like I’ve said before: It was worth it, I would highly recommend that you do it, but I will not be doing it again until I forget how difficult it was.


As far as what is going on for why I am supposed to be here: This month has been a month of waiting.  We found a house in Puno and we’re moving there the 4th of January.  Christmas was great, but I can’t wait to get started with the work I’m supposed to be doing down here.  Please stay in prayer and thanks for all of the prayers so far.

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