Post 9 There is no place like home
Standing at the entrance to the summit in the background, forty miles away, down in two days. This was going in two weeks earlier, the weather and my clean clothes give it away.
Four days ago I was standing on the top of the world. We are chased down the mountain by the deteriorating weather making it to the gate in two days, including a twenty-mile day over a rocky trail. We have two injuries, one required a helicopter ride to the front gate. I slowly make my way down, mudslides block the trail, and we have to work around them. The warming weather and now rain at low altitudes cause a heavy runoff, and the way out is getting complicated.
Max has climbed mountains in nine countries this year, and he has had everything from earthquakes to typhoons. He takes the mudslide in stride. I am at the bottom of the mountain. I have tent, food, and water. I don’t need anything else. We move to a ski resort that has mules to unload our gear, there are two thousand people stranded in their cars, and every place is soon out of food. We are told it may take four days to clear or we drive to Chile. Max finds an empty condo that the group crashes in. It is dirty and has no water, but better than sleeping in a tent in the rain and wind. I have a bad cough and keep everyone up. Carol offered to transplant my lung with her fork. I didn’t put sun block on my nose and lips, on Summit Day, so they are badly burnt. The dust in the condo makes me sneeze, and my face feels like it will break off.
All week we have been seeing a film crew spread up the mountain to film a Brazilian lady’s attempt to break the record from gate to summit in twelve hours. My friend from last year, Gabe, was one of the cameramen. We meet him at the bottom. The record attempt has been called off, and they, too, are stuck. After two days we finally get through to Mendoza. I try to get an early flight, but the main road out of town is still one way and all flights are full. I have a flight out in two more days – no chance of getting out any earlier. I now have communications, Internet, bed, shower, toilet, restaurants, and a barbershop to get rid of the beard. I meet the group for dinner, beer and steak. I have lost twenty pounds, and now my appetite is back and I’m starving.
Roi flies out at four a.m., and we say goodbye to the rest of the group. I am grateful Roi reached out to me, as we both had something unfinished on the mountain. My training preparations were for Everest in April. This climb gives me confidence, and had Roi not called I don’t know if I would have returned. When you spend weeks with a person in a two-man tent you become good friends or bitter enemies. I couldn’t have had a better climbing partner and tent mate.
I make it home finally, well rested and glad to see my family and ready to get back to work. My gear got lost. It is in the United States, but still waiting for it to get delivered. It will take a few days to get the mountain out of my thoughts and fully digest the trip. I am still fourteen pounds less than when I left. Now I need to stop eating. I think about how lucky I got with the weather and my body holding up. My equipment and preparation was perfect. My climb leader and guides were the best in the business , and are bigger reasons for me making it to the top than what I did. Everest is two months away, and no time to celebrate. Aconcagua was kind to me this year.
I apologize for the choppy posts. I wrote a novel on the
mountain, and as I read it now, I know I was in a hypoxic state and sound like a crazy person. I will end with my last post from last year.
I said I hoped to find out “why” by the end of the climb. It has been almost three months since I got off the mountain, and I am just finishing my last post. It has taken me this long to heal – both physically and mentally – from the trip. I had visions of writing about my feelings while standing on top looking down on the Andes. I have been asked if I made it to the top and I tell people yes to keep from a longer explanation. I made it as far as I was to go, which, after three weeks just a few hundred meters from the top. I hear people talk about conquering the mountain. The mountain can kick your ass at any time, in many different ways. With my attempt, it wasn’t injures and illness, of which I had both, it was bad news from home that ended my climb. If you’re lucky and prepared the mountain will let you up and down, if you’re not prepared or take too many risks it will kill you.
This is a retrospective account of my time on Aconcagua; It isn’t a how to live or self-promotion, but my attempt to understand why and continue to grow and learn. I have had time to think and look at what is important without the clutter of everyday life and this gives me direction. I challenged myself physically and mentally, and removed myself from my comfort zone to become present and aware. I have always looked for inspiration, and gotten it from many places – a coach, friend, coworker, nature, art, my children, my wife. Climbing a mountain inspires me, and in some strange way makes me appreciate my friends, family, and life more. Aconcagua’s biggest lesson was how precious life is and not to waste a single day.
So did I find out why? I have forgotten the why nots and list only the Why’s. What’s next? I am now training for another climb this July in Russia to Mt Elbrus not as tall 18,600, but cold and nasty. I will write on another blog on Elbrus.
Have time to think about what’s important in life
Have something to train for
Will never regret not trying
See something that I have never seen
Challenge myself physically & mentally
Learn Portuguese? probably not
Met new friends with similar interest
Best steak and Malbec ever
Seeing and feeling the South face of Aconcagua
It’s a sin to waste the gifts God has given you I have been blessed to be able to do this
Only God knows why
Over coming days like yesterday
Learning Hebrew, a few words
Sunset looking down on the Andes
Living my Life wish
Mate gets me jacked up
Think I can survive a nuclear winter
The thin air makes me goofy
Don’t need food
Made me appreciate simple things again – toilet, bed, shower, real food
I look real scary