January 15 - Success Near the Summit
It’s late at night, just before midnight on the 15th, and I’m calling you from Copiapo, Chile. That’s at about 800 meters (2,625 feet) above sea level. It’s amazing for me because earlier today a few of us were in the crater on top of Ojos del Salado at 6,700 meters (21,983 feet).
I’ve done a lot of wild things in the mountains, but I’ve never done such a big descent in one day. We drove back in the darkness, the last truck load of us. Grant drove most of the way. He stepped out once we got down out of the mountains, when we were coming into the last section of the drive into Copiapo, when he commented on how thick the air felt. Actually humid, even though it’s still in the desert just a richness and a thickness to the air that we had missed at the high altitudes where we’ve been.
Remember that for the last 10 days and nights we’ve been over 4,000 meters (13,124 feet), mostly over 5,000 meters (16,405 feet). I’ve just spent the last two nights prior to this above 5 700 meters (18,702 feet) at our high camp.
The entire group as we were coming off (the small group of us who went all the way to the crater yesterday) as we were coming off the mountain were talking on the radio and we had a group of people at camp 1 and camp 2 on Ojos. We had drivers down at the hot springs area, at Laguna Verde. It was quite a complicated process getting everybody down.
But it worked well and now we’re back in the city taking showers and washing off all of the dust that we lived in, in that wonderful wild area, the high desert of the Ojos region. It was all about acclimatization and getting ready for Aconcagua, enjoying that in its own right.
I had several people make this comment, and I said to myself that was an excellent first half of the trip. But the acclimatization that we have stored away under our belts now, in our hearts in terms of our spirit and certainly physiologically for climbing in the high mountains is going to pay off as we cross over into Argentina day after tomorrow, and get our permits and get ready to go to Aconcagua