“The Sky is Crying” Stevie Ray Vaughan, High Camp 1 Camp Canada.
It has been the most two depressing days of my life. First, I went to the doctor for final release to start assent from Plaza de Mulas to Camp 1 Canada.
I was second in line to get my knee looked at when a large US vet group checked in, some coming up from confluence, with prosthesis. I met them in Santiago two days ago. I am so proud of them, and it was good to hear English. Its funny, when you’re foreign you are invisible and no one knows who you are or where you’re from until you try to communicate. On the log with me was a Brazilian, and he wasn’t looking very good. He just arrived in Plaza de Mulas from the south face – a day behind us. He was with a group of eight friends and didn’t want to tell his friends he was having troubles so he continued to ascend. His friends were with him but the doctor sees seventy cases a day – down from 100 in December and January, and like me was sitting on a log outside the clinic. If you don’t get cleared by her you don’t move on to the next camp. Maximo was with me and I noticed he was having problems and started asking questions. He ends up falling over and they bring him in. Max comes out and tells everyone to leave. There was an Italian guy on the log that told him he was also having breathing problems and needed help.
You can always tell the Italian climbers – when it’s warm they are climbing in short shorts with their nuts hanging out, and when it’s cold they wear insulated tights. Both of which are very comfortable but for middle age not a pretty sight. It was snowing and cold as hell, so they were in both. I don’t judge, just observe.
I was glad to leave. It was 730 p.m., and dinner was Argentine barbeque. We start our summit push tomorrow that will take five to eight days depending on weather. It was late so I headed back to the team for one of the last hot meals that someone else cooked for the next week.
Everyone was glad to hear I was good to go even if the doctor didn’t see me. Later, Max joined us in our dome and said the Brazilian guy had a blood oxygen of 34, and would probably not make it till tomorrow. They called a rescue, but because of the snowstorm could not be airlifted. He also said the Italian guy had a blood oxygen of 40, in critical condition, and was in danger of dying overnight.
Max was angry with both guides. They both had warnings of problems and didn’t say anything and their guides probably noticed they were ill and didn’t do anything. They picked the climbing service over his because of price. Max asked how was the hundred dollars they saved working for them. It cost $1800 for the chopper to get from Plaza de Mulas to gate – dead or alive. We leave the next morning before we know the fate of either.
We are also told of another death – a man from a Polish team. We have been climbing with them all week. Three men and three women, but only one with good English. We talk at poop shack at low altitude in the morning. Roi’s parents were persecuted Jews from Poland, and he started the conversations even though he spoke several languages – none of which were Polish. One lady said she had five kids, aged six to twenty four, and one of the members of the Polish team is living in Phoenix. We would see them up the mountain and they knew what they were doing when we carried to high Camp 1 Canada. They were there in a storm. We dropped our load and headed down for better conditions. They would stay in the conditions and were not worried. One of the men died that night and was left on the mountain to freeze, cause of death heart attack due to pulmonary embolism. In addition, the rescue plane sent to rescue crashes with four on board. We never saw any of the team after that.
We all go to sleep. Taking the risk more seriously, we promise we will not hide our health issues in order to go higher. I said earlier this is not a death wish, but rather a life wish. I feel more sorry for the people afraid to live a full life, even though I didn’t know him I would like to think the Polish guy thought the same way.
Why: Makes me not want to waste another day
Why Not: People die
Italian climbing gear