A Visit to the Mountain Doctor and a Day Off ~ A Journey to the Top of Aconcagua

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Plaza Argentina (Base Camp) – Rest Day

Hiking Time: 0 hours

Altitude: 4200m

This morning I was rudely awakened, along with everyone else in Base Camp, by the slicing through the air of rotor blades and the frenzied flapping of our tent. It sounded like the end of the world outside and it took me a few seconds to register where I was and what was happening. Judi was rousing next to me too and it dawned on us a helicopter was about to land, practically on top of us! We unzipped our tent flap and peeked outside. Just meters away from us a helicopter was getting ready to land. As we peaked out of our tent flap, that same feeling of dread rose up inside of me. Was this an early morning rescue, how are our two team-mate who weren’t well last night, the thoughts race through my mind. But the helicopter landed and the rotor blades slowed as the engine died. There didn’t seem to be an emergency, probably more dropping off or collecting loads. Maybe my 2nd duffel bag that hadn’t arrived on the mules yesterday was in amongst this load. The feeling of dread slipped away again. All appears well. We lay back on our half deflated mattresses and pulled our sleeping back up over ourselves. It feels good to be able to sleep in this morning. Today we have a rest day for acclimatization and to prepare for our load carry to Camp 1 tomorrow.

Coming in for landing.

Coming in for landing.

A rescue helicopter preparing to land at Base Camp and in the process waking us all up.

A rescue helicopter preparing to land at Base Camp and in the process waking us all up.

It practically sounded like it was going to land on top of us, what a way to wake up!

It practically sounded like it was going to land on top of us, what a way to wake up!

At 9am everyone met in the mess tent for breakfast. Our two team members were feeling stronger and joined us for breakfast and the spirit of the team in general was high. If felt so good to know that today was one at leisure except for our visit to the doctor. We were all eager to get the doctor’s visit out of the way so as soon as breakfast was done, we headed out to the doctor’s office. Another team had beaten us to it and we had a bit of a wait before it was our turn.

Despite feeling strong and fit, I was feeling a tiny bit nervous for this visit with the doctor. The doc would check all our vitals and ensure we were strong enough to continue climbing higher. My dream lay firmly in his hands now and I could only hope I’d get the stamp of approval to keep moving forward. As we waited some of us read, others chatted and some of us wrote in our journals.

Jake, Hans and Judi patiently waiting their turn with the doc.

Jake, Hans and Judi patiently waiting their turn with the doc.

Views from Base Camp.

Views from Base Camp.

As we waited outside the doc's room, Judi snapped this photo of me looking rather pensive. *Photo By Judi Kurgan*

As we waited outside the doc’s room, Judi snapped this photo of me looking rather pensive. *Photo By Judi Kurgan*

It took quite a while but eventually the team ahead of us were done and it was our turn. A few of my team members went first, with Angel going in with each team member in case translation was needed. As each team member exited the room, cheers erupted upon hearing they got the all clear. I was up next, my hands began to feel clammy and my heart started beating a little louder. It was ridiculous I felt so nervous but so much was riding on this. As I entered with Angel, I found a young Argentinian doctor who was full of smiles. The atmosphere was relaxed with jokes being made and soon I was feeling so much calmer. My pulse was checked, he listened to my lungs to make sure no fluid was building up on them and then he checked how much oxygen was still left in my blood. He wrote a few things down, and as he did so I widened my eyes to Angel sitting opposite me. Then with the stamp on my papers I had gotten the all clear to keep climbing.

Oh my, happiness is!

So nervous, hoping for the all clear with the doc!

So nervous, hoping for the all clear with the doc!

The doc testing my oxygen levels making sure I still have some reserves for the remainder of my climb.

The doc testing my oxygen levels making sure I still have some reserves for the remainder of my climb.

All clear to keep climbing. Happy Lara!

All clear to keep climbing. Happy Lara!

The rest of our day was at leisure except of course for some repacking once again. My absolute least favourite mountain task. Today we need to sort and pack our equipment carefully and to ensure we take up the bare minimum for our load carry up to Camp 1 tomorrow. From Base Camp we can see the trail we’ll take up. We’ll climb 800 metres tomorrow and it will take us approximately 7 – 8 hours to do the round trip, with the down taking much quicker than the up. I, along with most of my team mates will be carrying 20kg’s in our backpacks. Once our load carry is done we will return to Base Camp where we will spend the night before doing a move up to Camp 1 with another load of 20kg’s each.

After lunch food packs have been divided up in the mess tent for each of us to pack into our bags. Other items that will go are our extreme cold gear and all the items we will need for our climb to the summit. I pack my bag and then repack it again after I have found something I left out. My backpack doesn’t feel too bad and I’m ready to carry the load. I know it’s going to be hard carrying the weight at altitude but I’ve trained for this as best as I could. By training outdoors back home in South Africa it has kept me physically fit and it has also kept me mentally in shape. Living at sea level doesn’t help me with the altitude but I knew taking a slow and steady pace would continue to help my body acclimatise and so far I was feeling good. I repack my bag again trying to distribute the weight more evenly and I ensure that nothing is digging into my back. I am ready for the carry tomorrow.

Exhausted, I lay down for a short while as a thunder-storm began to rumble outside the tent. At altitude the slightest of tasks renders you out of breath and exhausted. But it is our day off and today I have the luxury of having an early afternoon nap and that is exactly what I did.

Looking past Base Camp, we would take the trail leading up between the two mountain peaks.

Looking past Base Camp, we would take the trail leading up between the two mountain peaks.

The trail we'd take to do our load carry up to Camp 1 tomorrow leading up between the two mountain peaks.

The trail we’d take to do our load carry up to Camp 1 tomorrow leading up between the two mountain peaks.

In the late afternoon we headed into the mess tent where a few of our team members were sitting around chatting. I loved the relaxed atmosphere of today and everyone was laughing and smiling. It felt good. As we sat chatting, sipping on tea, the monopoly card game came out and we lazed the rest of the afternoon away as played until dinner. As you can see I didn’t take many photos today, I was taking our day off quite literally!

The Inka team, who were looking after us at Base Camp, served up a feast once again for dinner. Portions were huge and always included soup for starters with meat or chicken and veggies for the main course. With my eyes bigger than my stomach, I once again couldn’t finish what was dished up to me. At dinner we did the highlight and lowlight of the day again and needless to say almost everyone’s highlight was our day off. One thing tonight was niggling me. As the evening went on, I noticed a tingle in my nose and it was beginning to feel more and more blocked. I can only hope it is an irritation from all the dust and I hope that it’s nothing that another good night’s sleep can’t cure.

After dinner we played some more monopoly before retiring for the night. The night air at Base Camp is cold and I have started wearing my down jacket around the dinner table to keep warm and cosy, which thankfully arrived safely in my missing 2nd duffel bag earlier today. I knew my down jacket was going to work wonders higher up the mountain.

Tomorrow is going to be a big day.

Tomorrow the hard work and the climb really starts.

I’ve trained really hard for this.

I’m ready.

~ All Photos By Me, Except the One of Me, Thanks Judi Kurgan! ~

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