I was very nervous about this climb. The day before was supposed to be a trial run and increase confidence if we completed it. Although I completed it I was very worried how much a vertical climb of 200 metres over 1 kilometer in 40 mins affected me and was comparing that to a vertical climb of 900 metres over 5 kilometers in 5 hours in snow.
But you don’t know unless you try so we woke early and headed to the agency to meet our friends Jess and Tom who we met in Sucre and would be completing the climb with us. We were doing the climb in two days where there was also the option of completing in three days.
The reason we had picked two days instead of three was that the three day trip included a night at 4800m at base camp. We didn’t think it would make much difference and we had spent quite a bit of time at altitude.
We met the others who were doing it in 3 days and off we went. The bus drove us to base camp which is at 4800 metres. We left the 3 dayers there and packed all of our climbing and warm gear into our packs and started the two hour hike to 5180 which was high camp. The weather was horrible as it was hailing. Again it was tough but I was fairing much better than yesterday. Our guides told us we made good time so we were pretty confident.
We got to high camp at about 4pm and were having dinner at 5pm to be in bed by around 6pm. This is when I started to not feel so well. I was nauseous, dizzy and felt like I was going to faint. I didn’t eat very much at all but after about half an hour the dizzyness past. I had started taking altitude sickness pills as a precaution before we started the trip and was regularly taking aspirin as well but it didn’t seem to be helping much.
After a few hours sleep we were awoken at midnight to start getting ready. I thought I would have improved with a few hours sleep but in fact I had gotten a little worse.
Anyway I could tell Tim was worried about me as my breathing was also getting worse and the easiest tasks like going to the toilet or putting on my jacket had me struggling for breath. I knew at this time that something drastically had to improve for me to make this climb. (Yes I know it was not really the right attitude to have at this point but I couldn’t help it)
We started our climb and once we hit the snow we had to put on crampons and be tied to one another in our group, being France our guide, Tim and I. We needed to be tied together because if someone fell and you were not tied together you would risk serious injury.
I lasted about 300m before quickly realizing that I was not going to make the top of this mountain. Now this doesn’t sound like a lot. But with snow shoes and crampons in the snow going up a steep hill at altitude it was for me.
It was decided that France would take me back to camp and then come back up and pick Tim up who was now tied to Tom and Jess. I will let Tim tell you about his experience after I went down.
Symptoms such as nausea, dizzyness and headache are all very normal signs of mild altitude sickness and for someone with a strong will and sheer determination can ignore these symptoms and keep going. I will be the first to admit I am not one of those people. The goal of getting to the top of the mountain was definitely not strong enough for me to endure the pain. It wasn’t so much the nausea or dizziness it was the trouble breathing and the feeling of exhaustion. When the others who made it up the mountain came back they were at the point of exhaustion and there were tales of vomiting and fainting and yet they still kept going. I find it hard to comprehend the determination it takes to put yourself and your body through that just to say you have climbed a mountain. But like I said before I am a big sook! I take my hat off to anyone who climbs mountains. I don’t think I am cut out to be a mountaineer. S
Made an error in the video. Not surprising really! At that stage we were at 5000m not 4500m
Made a mistake in this one too! Tim made it half way not a third of the way. I am blaming the altitude!