Ojos del Salado summit dreams come true
It’s December 26 and I’m calling you from the very top of Ojos del Salado, the second highest peak in the Western Hemisphere (6898 m/22,570 ft).
Five of our team members are standing up here. Bernardo Guarachi is here, the best guide from Bolivia, the most accomplished Bolivian alpinist. Bernardo is an Everest summitter, true professional, fantastic guide and he’s here on Ojos del Salado for his seventh time.
Karl is here. I won’t even try to pronounce the region he is from in Germany, but he is here. He began his love of mountaineering on Mont Blanc with his father many years ago and now today he is taking it entirely to new levels.
John Skeels, the Berkeley Bullet, is here.
Larry’s here from Toronto. About an hour ago, down in the rest stop before we started the steep and partially technical climb to the summit, Larry looked at me and said, “This is the toughest thing I’ve ever done.” But I just looked at him and saw a lot of reserved strength left. He wasn’t exaggerating but he is showing a true mountaineer’s face now as he looks out on the expansive space around us.
I should report to you that we left the Upper Refugio this morning at 3:20 am. Shortly into the climb Deborah discovered that she had pretty severe nausea, which can be a problem at high altitudes. She was very strong, however. Sometimes, these things just catch you on the wrong day and she elected to go back with David, the Bolivian guide.
For a long time myself, Donna and Leila were together. At about 6200 m or 22,500 feet Donna and Leila decided they weren’t going to go to the summit, and keeping in mind that they are acclimatizing for Aconcagua, they turned back. A short time later I had radio contact with Donna and Leila back at high refuge.
We arrived at the summit at 2:20 p.m., 11 hours after we left. It was a really impressive summit day, a great summit day for these guys.
The last section as we got to the very top is a rock pitch. It got me thinking about the last time I did a rock pitch at 6800 m. I can’t remember when! Albeit this was an easy rock pitch. We belayed it and each member of the summit team had the thrill of stepping out on to the summit ridge and on to the true summit. It was quite enjoyable although all the guys were huffing and puffing and feeling the altitude as they scrambled to the top.
I wanted to say that in the US and Canada, it’s Boxing Day and I should mention that the BAI office has moved for a brief few days from Canmore to Toronto while Christie visits with her family over the holidays. We wish her the best. The fact that you are still getting the dispatches is because she is working over the holidays, as are Doug and Yan back in Bellevue, Washington with Image Renaissance and Everest News where folks are also working right through the holidays.
We hope you enjoy our cybercast, we certainly enjoy spending our Boxing Day here. I should report, by the way, that I did an informal poll and people from Germany and Brazil and Bolivia knew what Boxing Day was.
We’re enjoying it because we’re on top of Ojos. And we’ll report to you in a few hours when we get down to the Lower Refuge.
Well the five Ojos summitters have arrived back at the high refugio. They are a very tired looking crew as they walked in. Karl walked immediately in and went to one of the bunks here and fell right asleep. John the Berkeley Bullet actually walked in slightly behind the rest of the group, looking like a bullet without much trajectory left. Each member of this climbing team had that very satisfied look on their face and in their eyes of having accomplished a great mountaineering day.
It was 16 hours from when we began moving up the slopes of Ojos across the big glacier, up into the rock and of course that little summit which I described to you.
Beautiful weather all day. We’re exhausted, we’re going to bed now. The rest of the team Leila, Donna and Deborah moved down to the middle-distance hill earlier today. They’re just a couple of hours below us. We’re going to wake up tomorrow early and move down to meet them.
Remember, Bernardo’s Land Cruiser is there and yes, we will be back in Copiapo and in a hotel by tomorrow afternoon.
We wish everyone a happy holiday season and I can report that each member of this team is having a great time. Everyone’s safe now and glad to be heading back to showers. We’ll continue to report as we move back through Chile and into Argentina and get ready for Aconcagua.