We did it!
Last Thursday, we started a four-day, three-night trek to Cerro Charkini and Huayna Potosí. On Thursday, we took the hour ride up to base camp at Huayna Potosí and had a chance to practice our skills at what is called Glacial Viejo - with crampons and an ice axe.For the final skill, our guide, Porfidio, had us climb a 90 degree glaciar using two ice axes…Aaron of course had a blast and I managed to power my way up as well!
Day two we were up at 4am for a 5:45am start to summit Cerro Charkini (5300m) - our ¨warm-up¨climb, with hopes of acclimatizing for Huayna.The day started out well with gorgeous views of the sun rising over the moutain range and lakes below.But by 9am, we realized that this was not going to be an easy climb. With Porfidio breaking trail in front of us, we were still faced with temperatures in the 60s and 70s (with all of our gear on and the sun reflecting off of the snow) and knee to waist deep snow. Two hours later, three very exhausted and hot trekkers reached the summit!
Day three was a short, but challenging hike to Campo Alto where we were to rest and wake up at midnight to start our climb. Unfortunately, whether it was nervousness or general discomfort, we didn´t sleep much, making the midnight wake-up call a bit challenging! Nevertheless, we were out on the trail at 1am with a gorgeous backdrop of lightening and the lights of La Paz.Although still tough, it seemed a bit easier (at first) than Charkini because here the snow was more packed.But by the time we reached primero pala (the first 45 degree climb), we realized what exactly was ahead of us. 30 minutes later we had completed our first challenge, only to face the next…the weather. At this point it was starting to snow, the wind was picking up a bit, and the clouds were rolling in. At about 4:30am, we had reached our final challenge: an hour and a half straight at 45 degrees needing to use an ice axe and crampons just to summit.With Porfidio constantly tugging at the safety ropes pleading me on, and the wind and snow whipping at our already freezing faces, we finally summitted at 6am, 6088m, and -6C! We couldn´t last too long at the summit, despite our fatigue because of the temperature and weather conditions, but we did get a glimpse or two of the mountains in the distance and a peek at the sunrise. Otherwise, we were completely clouded in.
The downhill proved to be just as challenging because of the weather conditions and our physical state.At one point, our guide even had to stop to find the trail because it was so foggy and windy.At this point, I was definitely looking to the heavens for a miracle because -6C is no time to be hanging out!Luckily his experience paid off, and within 20 minutes he had his bearings again and we were on our way back down.
This was certainly the most physically and mentally challenging thing I have ever done. After Aaron summitted Cotopaxi in Ecuador and I was able to look at the photos…I told myself that I had to at least try it, and try it I did.Can´t say that I am hooked yet, like Aaron, but who knows what we will attempt next!