|The summit still 3 hours away|
we're already camping at 4850m, and our aim at 2.30am is to start the 6 hour climb to the peak of Vallunaraju - 5686m. (That's a 800m ascent, much of it over 5000m high. Man that sounds hard.) It sits proudly at the end of a valley in the Cordillera Blanca, aptly named as the many mountains there are dusted - or loaded as Vallunaraju was for us - with white (blanca) snow. It's not a technical summit, but at that altitude and with deep snow, it's not an easy final ascent.
we had started out the previous day from Hurarz at 7am, Piotrek (a Polish traveler who I had met through the agency) and Rolando, our wry guide. It's about a 1.5hr (and like 20km drive) out, and a nice surprise was being driven there by Fey who had taken me to Laguna 69. Fey? Odd name no? well tonight when coming back I found out that his name is actually Freddie! I could never work out why he looked at me odd...
|Farmlands around Huaraz|
|Entering the parque with our 4wd|
|Ronaldo and Piotrek about to start the climb up to base camp|
|Valle de Lluta - we are walking up the right hand side|
|Clouds part momentarily|
|Beautiful plays of light on the other side of the valley|
|Pointing at the air it seems|
|Boys navigating the poles at base camp|
|Marios pointing out where he had explored earlier in the day|
|Geared up to practice with the crampons|
|2.30am - start of the glacier climb. Moon beautifully lit up the mountain|
|Ronaldo marking the way|
4 hours later, I'm still just holding on, but now it feels like that after every 3rd step I need to stop and lie down to recover. I'm super hungry, but feeling a bit nauseous; feeling happy but fatigued; wanting to keep going but happy to stop. I decide that when the sun comes over the horizon, I'll stop. The summit is still 2 hours away, and to be honest although summiting appeals, I want to enjoy it too.
|The boys head off up to the summit|
On the way down I think about whether mountaineering is for me - I love trekking and hiking, and also the high altitudes. But the actual ascent of a peak? The challenge (physically or technically) of it? It doesn't really get me. Perhaps I'm not competitive enough, or not up for doing something just for the challenge, or perhaps I'm simply just a bit lazy to train so that I'm physically strong enough, or perhaps I'm just a bit clumsy, but somehow mountaineering isn't as attractive as trekking. I'm loving being up there, but don't feel bad that I'm not summiting.
So the sun is out in full force, the sky is generally clear, and all that white snow is making me hot. More derobing, more snacking and idling, and about 2 hours later I'm de-cramponed and back down at our tent to lie in the warm cocoon. I doze, I read, I snack, then I get active and pack up the tent and bags, and wait.
|Heading back down|
|Photo by Mariusz of Rolando and Piotrek approaching the summit|