Claps of Thunder, A Snow Storm and Views That Make It All Worth It ~ A Journey to the Top of Aconcagua

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Camp 1 – Camp 2

Hiking Time: 5 Hours

Altitude: 5500m

After a good rest day yesterday, the team was ready to move up to Camp 2 sitting at 5500m. The journey would take 5 hours and the first section was going to be the steepest and slowest section. Thereafter we had some flat walking to look forward to before one final small climb up to Camp 2.

As I lay in my warm sleeping bag, I braved my now frozen wet-wipes to freshen up and then slipped on my layers of clothes, ready to climb to 5500m. The antibiotics I was taking seemed to be working slowly and I was feeling ever so slightly better. The rest day yesterday had certainly helped too. I deflated my air mattress and slowly, because at this altitude slowly is the only way you can do anything, stuffed my sleeping bag into its compression sack. Because from today onwards we have given up our rest days, communal porters have been arranged for the team to help lighten our loads as we will no longer do load carry’s. In one way I’m grateful for this new development but in another way I’m worried about my chest infection and moving up higher to a new camp every day and then finally pushing to the summit that same night, in the early hours of the morning. I hope today’s climb goes well and I can rest in Camp 2 before pushing to Camp 3. I check my pack to ensure I’ve evenly distributed the weight to balance my backpack properly. The items for the porter to carry have been passed on to our guides.

This morning’s breakfast consisted of some very sticky oats. It was hard for me to push the oats down my throat but I knew I had to eat to give my body the energy it needed to get up to the next camp. As hard as I tried thought, I just couldn’t finish what was in my breakfast bowl.

The team packing up Camp 1 ~ *Photo By Judi Kurgan*

The team packing up Camp 1 ~ *Photo By Judi Kurgan*

Our guides weighing the loads for the porters to carry. No load could be heavier than 20kg's. *Photo by Judi Kurgan.

Our guides weighing the loads for the porters to carry. No load could be heavier than 20kg’s. *Photo by Judi Kurgan.

At leastsome remembered what day it was, according to the guys, it was Day 7! *Photo By Judi Kurgan*

At least some remembered what day it was, according to the guys, it was Day 7! *Photo By Judi Kurgan*

After breakfast the team headed out, our climb starting almost immediately. A steep trail that leads to where the eye can no longer see. Once again the path zig-zagging its way to the top. With Angel leading the pack, the team moved forward together in slow motion as we all did the rest step. The path much more solid this time, making it so much easier to keep the steady but slow pace without sliding back down on scree. It was a slow climb to the top, everyone’s breathing laboured and hard, but this was nothing unusual at altitude.

Although it was freezing cold today, patches of blue appeared in the sky and the view as we climbed was beyond spectacular. We stopped often for a water break on our climb to the top and to take in the view. We would be in Camp 2 by lunch time, there was no rush. My backpack felt so light today making the climb so much easier. I was hugely grateful for the team’s porter help.

The team continued to weaved their way to the top, finally cresting the top of the ridge where the most amazing views opened up before us. Two teams behind us were also making their way up, all of us on the mountain eager to attempt a summit before the bad weather approaching hit. News was fast coming in that gale force winds and heavy snow was arriving on Saturday and the strong winds and bad weather was due to last at least 5 days, limiting the chance of summiting over that time. Our summit push would be in the early hours of Saturday morning if all went according to plan and by Saturday afternoon, after 12 – 14 hours of hiking we’d be heading back down into Base Camp and miss the bad weather heading for the high camps. I prayed the team would all stay strong and I prayed I would get better, enough to allow me to summit, full well knowing that the body takes so much longer to heal at high altitude. I believe in mind over matter and as I made my way to 5500m I had no doubt in my mind I would depart with the rest of the team on summit morning.

Views as we headed out.

Views as we headed out.

Letting the porters pass us by with their heavy loads. *Photo By Simon Bates*

Letting the porters pass us by with their heavy loads. *Photo By Simon Bates*

As we made our way up the steep climb, this is what the view offered behind us.

As we made our way up the steep climb, this is what the view offered behind us.

The team having a rest stop.

The team having a rest stop.

After a snack break and some photos at the top, the team began their walk across towards Camp 2. The walking was easy and flat and the views, just unbelievable. Today’s climb was somehow re-energising me, my purpose was clearer than ever. I thought of Emma a lot as we walked, this time her memories making me smile. I knew in my heart she was walking with me, still encouraging me on.

The steep incline we had just ascended from Camp 1. If you look closely you can just see the team behind us making their way up.

The steep incline we had just ascended from Camp 1. If you look closely you can just see the team behind us making their way up.

Looking like a pilot from the early 1900's here but happy to be on top of that rather steep 'little' hill!

Looking like a pilot from the early 1900’s here but happy to be on top of that rather steep ‘little’ hill!

Another team doing the slow "rest step" to the top.

Another team doing the slow “rest step” to the top.

The team enjoying a rest stop before we continued onto Camp 2.

The team enjoying a rest stop before we continued onto Camp 2.

The team behind us, almost at the top, still slowly making their way up.

The team behind us, almost at the top, still slowly making their way up.

It wasn’t long before the flat turned into our last little climb up and there on up on the hill we could see the orange glow of Camp 2.

Beautiful views on the way to Camp 2.

Beautiful views on the way to Camp 2.

Steve, one of our expedition leaders, and I on our way to Camp 2.

Steve, one of our expedition leaders, and I on our way to Camp 2.

Zebra like patterns made by the snow as we headed towards Camp 2.

Zebra like patterns made by the snow as we headed towards Camp 2.

Walking flat, destination: Camp 2

Walking flat, destination: Camp 2

Almost there, Camp 2 on the hill was in sight!

Almost there, Camp 2 on the hill was in sight!

We arrived in Camp 2 at 1pm, just in time for lunch. We had made good time and made the journey in just under 4 hours. This is a busy but beautiful camp. The buzz, with all the teams on the same agenda as us now, is electric and the views, wow, the views are hard to describe. We truly on top of the world and we are taking in God’s world beneath us. I feel so incredibly blessed to be experiencing this.

Camp 2, as beautiful as it was, was bitterly cold and before we could retreat to our tents to rest for the afternoon, we had to ensure we got fresh water before the stream froze again. Once all the tasks we needed to do were done, and after some sight-seeing around camp, feeling exhausted again, it was time for me to head to my tent to rest before our climb to Camp 3 tomorrow.

We had arrived, this would be home for the night.

We had arrived, this would be home for the night.

The amazing views from Camp 2.

The amazings views from Camp 2.

The weather was changing once again and a cold wind began to blow...

The weather was changing once again and a cold wind began to blow…

Finally settling down in our tent, taking off my boots, I lie down in my cozy nest. It is comfortable, soft, and warm. It feels good, comforting. I close my eyes and let out a long, deep breath. The stillness envelopes me for a few moments. Opening my eyes again I look up at the photo I’ve put up of my best friend, Emma. The reaction is involuntary. The lump in my throat actually hurts, the water in my eyes, real. The emotions at high altitude are real and raw. And again they cut deep. I missed my best friend very much, but here at 5500m I am closer to heaven and her once again.

I drifted off into another deep sleep, it was still early and it was good to be resting only to be woken up with a jump. A heavy clap of thunder rolled into Camp 2, making me wide awake and alert, never mind giving me the fright of my life! Judi also stirred next to me. I peeked outside and it was snowing quite heavily, covering Camp 2 in a blanket of white. Lying awake, snug in my sleeping bag, Judi and I lay there chatting as a hectic thunderstorm played out in the mountains. Each clap of thunder was so loud; I literally jumped 10cm’s each time one clap of thunder sounded. Our tent didn’t feel like too much protection from the elements outside but I was certainly glad to be inside.

A view from our tent as the snow fell outside.

A view from our tent as the snow fell outside.

Camp 2 blanketed in a snow of white!

Camp 2 blanketed in a snow of white!

Later this afternoon as the snow still fell, we had a few visitors to our tent. Angel brought us some nice hot water and Simon and Daniel pop over to say hello as did the lovely Lisa. I was going nowhere , I was snug in my sleeping bag and that is exactly where I intended to stay until I had to get up to move to Camp 3!

Simon and Daniel stopped by to say hello!

Simon and Daniel stopped by to say hello!

Angel came to bring us some hot water for tea and later dinner.

Angel came to bring us some hot water for tea and later dinner.

The lovely Lisa also stopped by to say hello!

The lovely Lisa also stopped by to say hello!

The snow continued to fall heavily and Angel came around to bring us dinner in our tents. He warned us to keep our vents of the tent open overnight to circulate the air. It was a warning that for Judi and I and for some of our team mates could have been tragically disastrous by the time morning light rolled around….

But that’s another story for tomorrow.

The snow was falling heavily, the wind was howling around the tents of Camp 2, it was 9pm and I was ready for sleep to take over again.

~ All Photos By Me, Except Those By My Team Mates ~

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