Bus rides and mountain summits

The last five days have been all about endurance, in the form of long bus trips and mountain climbing. Over two days I spent a total of 25hrs on buses to go from Chachapoya, via Chiclayo and Trujillo, to get to where I am now in Huaraz which is known as the Chamonix of the Andes.

Not much I can say about the bus trips, apart from finding a cure for feeling car sick while reading a book. The trick is to find a book that is so damn good that you couldn’t put it down if you were traveling by harrier jump jet.  ‘Kiterunner’ in this case.

Having arrived in Huarez I booked up to go on a three day rock climbing course, but a local village is on strike (protesting against a gold mine being put in their lake) and they’d blocked the road we needed to take.  When we got back to the tour operator they offered us an alternative – we could climb the 5686m high mountain called Vallunaraju. The climb takes only 24hrs, which I thought was a little quick given how high it is, but the tour operator was reputable and the guide was excellent so I said yes.

After a two hour drive to the start we began with a three hour hike up what seemed like a near vertical rock face. By the time we got to base camp my calves were already shot to pieces and I knew I was in for a tough day ahead. We pitched the tent and tried to get some sleep. I was suffering a bit from the altitude so only managed to sleep for an hour or two before we got up at 1.30am to start the climb (most of the mountain is covered in snow and it’s easier to walk on snow during the night).

We put on our crampons and roped up (in case one of us fell in a crevasse). About ten minutes after we’d set off I was suffering from altitude sickness and started vomiting. Now the problem with being sick, apart from being horrid, is that you lose any food inside you. If you are at home in bed then its not such a problem, but its not exactly ideal if you are facing a 6hr climb with about 2000m of ascent. Anyway, we carried on and fell into a routine of walking for about 20mins before I had to stop to be ill or just to catch my breath. We made it to the top by about 8.30am. I was relieved and looking forward to going back down hill, but the snow had started to melt and with every step our feet sank by about 2 foot. I got back to Huaraz feeling more exhausted then I have ever been after any event I have ever done.

I went straight to an Italian restaurant for a well deserved feast. While I sat there eating two pizzas and a lasagne I kept asking myself why I had carried on and not quit. While I was on the mountain I thought about stopping every 5 mins but never did. I wondered why. I hadn’t told anyone I was climbing so there would be no shame. I had never met the guys I was with before and they didn’t need me. Its not an Everest, Kilimanjaro or Aconcagua so there was no kudos to be had. The trip only cost 100 dollars so I hadn’t invested much money. The view from the top was no better than it was at 5000m and I had a perfect excuse for stopping in that I was ill. So the first genuine reason I could think of for continuing is that I must just be a bit stupid. Or perhaps its because I knew deep down that I would feel stronger, physically and mentally, the day after. Or that all those small things in life would seem so so much better – such as a shower, clean clothes, pizza, coffee and sleep. Or maybe its because giving up is addictive and once you start then you might not be able to stop. Nah, none of those would have kept me going if i’d have thought of them at the time, so I think I am just a bit stupid. But i’m happy with that. Being a bit stupid makes life more interesting.   

I’m having a well deserved rest now, so I dont suppose there will be much to write about for a day or two.

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