DAY THIRTYNINE – DAY FORTYFOUR
I had an interesting bus ride from Arequipa to La Paz. Sat next to a very chatty American and I am pretty sure that we left him at the border. Hope he made it. Back in La Paz I met Australians and had a great fun night. The night was a bit too much fun so that I slept the whole next day. Then finally the day after that I got up and booked my tour to climb Mount Huayna Potosi 6088m. It’s a three day climb. Kevin did it and he kept telling me how amazing it was and I really felt up for a challenge. I also knew there’s a great view from up there and that it must me and amazing feeling if you make it and that is exactly that I wanted. I was excited.
Day 1: As soon as our group got in the van we immediately started talking and laughing. I felt comfortable from the beginning. I was afraid I would end up being in a group of just two or three really fit people. But we were six : three french (of course, they are everywhere), one Israeli, one Swiss and me. We got along great and it felt like we already knew eachother. I was really happy to have had such a great group because it losened up the whole situation. We arrived at our base camp (4700m) after about two hours of driving and ate lunch. The scenery of the Cordillera Real is amazing. After lunch we hiked to a nearby glacier where we practised walking with crampons (this is just the terminology they used) and ice axe. It was so much fun to wear all this equipment and walk around in it. We also got to try climbing the glacier wall with ice axes. That was physically extremely difficult and tiring but fun to try out. It was a great and fun first day!
Day 2: We got to sleep late, had breakfast, lunch and then after lunch we hiked and climbed to the high camp (5300m). We hiked on rocks and gravel for the frist couple of hours. I couldn’t talk to anyone because I had to concentrate on breathing because I was already having a hard time. It was tough just that little part. Then we put on our snow boots, crampons and ice axe and climbed for another hour. It took me of course longer than the others but I made it. I was so tired afterwards, it was really hard. The camp was funny. Just this huge container filled with mattresses and surrounded by poop and pee in the snow. It had the most incredible view though. By the time we got up there the sky was covered in clouds BUT we were above all that. So we looked over and down on the clouds. All you could see were other mountains that peaked through the clouds. During sunset there were these beautiful rainbow colors just above the clouds. It just looked stunning and I got some great photos. We tried going to sleep at seven because we had to get up at 00:30. I couldn’t sleep for one single minute and it got really cold.
Day3: After several hours of not sleeping it was finally time to get up and get ready. I was hyped and ready to go. This is what I’ve been waiting for and I really wanted this! Diana and I were slower so we got a head start. I loved it so much in the beginning. It was very exciting. The sky with it’s gazillion stars and you walking beneath it in the snow with your headlight was so much fun (at first). The first hour was manageable. It was cool because the higher you got the more you could see the lights of La Paz in the distance. Every other direction you looked was dark. You could just barely see the silhouettes of other mountains close by. Every step kept getting harder and harder. Eventually ou other 2 groups passed up. They looked super fit and happy. I kept seeing these different peaks but our guide just kept telling that wasn’t the summit.
It kept going uphill what felt like 90°! I had such a hard time breathing I could never go very far because my legs couldn’t take it. It’s not just like a normal hike. You’re wearing so many clothes and all the equipment is heavy. It was also ice cold out. My toes, nose and fingers were frozen. And just to make things more fun there was also this icy wind. I also had a bit of a headache and icy wind didn’t help. It was just so damn tough! I cherished each hill that didn’t feel like 90°. We stopped a lot and after this very steep difficult part I had reached my limit. Or so I thought. I was expecting one more little tough part and then finally reach the top. I was ready to pull myself together and bite through one more little rough part. But then the guide told us we were only half way. HALF WAY! I couldn’t believe it and I didn’t know what to do because I really couldn’t go much further. I had been suffering before but it was a good suffering but after this point it was just painful, miserable suffering. We still had many hours ahead of us and I didn’t know what to do. Of course I wanted to make it. I kept thinking of the feeling standing on top and telling people about it but I was just so weak and in so much pain. Then I reached my absolute low. I couldn’t go any further. I was hating every step so much. I started crying and I just wanted to give up. I was freezing, my nose was running and I was crying, which made breathing harder. I just didn’t care anymore and I wanted them to leave me behind.
I thank Diana because if it weren’t for her I wouldn’t of made it. She hugged me and comforted me and told me I’d make it. She made sure I was warm and let us take a break as often as I needed. I partly did it because it wasn’t fair to her. It wasn’t her choice to walk with me. After taking a break I always felt great, energized, motivated and I knew I could do it. But after a few steps all was lost and I was this suffering mess again. I had about another five lows where I wanted to give up but each time I just kept walking.
After about six hours of walking the sun slowly began to rise over the ocean of clouds. It was magnificent. The bottom was covered with clouds except for some mountain peaks peaking through. They had this blueish white color. Over the clouds layers of different colors from blue to red to yellow like a rainbowand above that a dark red moon with a yellow eclipse. It looked phenomenal! The moon kept rising higher in the sky and the sun started to rise brightening up the world again.
I kept looking at that sunrise trying to capture tha image forever. I tried to appreciate even having the opportunity to see something like this. I tried to motivate myself by cherishing what was surrounding me like I did in the Colca Canyon but nothing worked. I was just exhausted.
Finally we could see the summit but unfortunately also the path that leads to the top. I was so close but I just couldn’t anymore. They were ready to go on without me but then I couldn’t accept being that close and not making it. So I went on up to 6000m walking slower than anyone could imagine. Then at 6000m we finally saw the rest of our group again already descending. Some didn’t look too happy either. I was so close. I already had come this far I wasn’t going to give up again.
The last part to the summit felt like the easiest because I knew and I could see that it wasn’t much further and I knew this time I was going to make it no matter what. I think it could’ve been quite scarry because it wasn’t a very wide “path”. Half of the “path” was snow and the other half rocks and to both side it went straight down several meters. I didn’t care and I wasn’t scared. I just tried to carry my legs up to the top.
The first thing I did at the top was sit and breathe. What an incredible feeling. It took us eight freaking hours but I do not care. I was so extraordinarily happy, relieved and proud I made it. I’ve given up things in life or set my mind to things without completing them, which made me doubt I have the energy and discipline to complete something. But climbing this damn mountain I was able to prove to myself that I can do it.
If you have to fight with yourself for such a long time it’s just the most freeing feeling once you’ve made it. I just sat there in silence with the greatest feelings rolling through me. I was so tired I just wanted to take a nap right there and then but our guide made us take some photos. I really was happy but I just didn’t have any energy left so I had to force myself to smile making some photos look akward.
The view from the top truly was incredible. On one side you had the ocean of clouds with the sun. If you turn 90° you can see La Paz and Mount Illimani (6439m). Turn again and you can actually see Lake Titicaca. And another turn and you’re looking at the beautiful Cordillera Real, the rest of Huayna Potosi’s family.
That was by far the toughest things I’ve ever done but it has given me one of the most rewarding feelings ever. This great feeling that you’ve achieved something amazing not everyone could do and it just puts this smile on your face. Like when I got my Matura. Those three days were incredible. Our group was amazing. I got to see this amazing landscape and actually succeeded in climbing my very first over-6000-meters-mountain in Bolivia. It’s an experience I will never ever forget. It was the highlight of my trip and most memorable moment of my trip for sure!!