The Condoriri Trek

So the 6 day Condoriri trek and ice climb is over. We were lucky this time as we had mules to carry our sleeping bags, tents and cooking equipment, so our backpacks were a lot lighter than when we did Colca Canyon. We all went super minimalist – not even bringing any wash stuff (we´re all showered and scrubbed now back in La Paz and it feels so good!!).

Each day was pretty similar. Me and Nat would get up around 6am, about 45 mins before everybody else to put on the hot water and make the porridge. Camping each night was absolutely freezing as soon as the sun set, and facilities were basic or non-existant (hello lots of nature wees!). Then around 8 or 9am we´d set off up the mountainside, trekking for around 6 hours. The actual trek wasn´t that bad, it was the altitude which caused the hinderances as it was so difficult to breathe and we´d often get dizzy. Some of the team were still enduring bad stomachs which was awful for them as literally the only place to go was on the trail. The views were beautiful though – plenty of lakes and mountain views. Llamas wandered freely over the trails.

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At the end of the third day we reached our base camp. Tired and sleepy we lay out in the sun until it was time to prepare dinner. The next day we chilled in the morning until our ice climbing guides arrived, and we sorted out our gear. Then in the afternoon we set off to the glacier just under an hour´s walk away. Walking in the snow boots was tough. They were huge and bulky and pressed into my shins. When we reached the bottom of the glacier we put on all our climbing gear, including crampons, harness, waterproof clothing and helmet. Using our ice axes to balance we had a go at climbing the glacier. Immediately I was terrified. I don´t like ice at all. Panicking I had a bit of a cry, and the guide came over and helped up slowly. I gained some confidence and made it to the top, zigzaging across the icy slope. I was then put in front to head back down (not a great idea) – I took two steps and immediately broke into a panic attack, and had to sit down on the glacier for a while before regaining calm. I´ve discovered on my trip across South America so far that I seem to be extremely afraid of falling – everytime we encounter dodgy slopes I always freeze up and get nervous. At one point on the trek I had to hold hands with our Bolivian guide down a particularly long scree slope… I felt a bit stupid.

On the fourth day we rose at 2am for breakfast, then by 3 we embarked for the glacier to begin out ascent of the ice peak. It was freezing cold and we had only the light from our headtorches to lead us. By around 4am we had put on all our equipment and split into two teams to begin the climb. Once again I was struck by fear and very nearly quit before stepping foot on the glacier. Luckily I was persuaded to continue and so I began the climb.

Oh that climb. Summiting that peak was the hardest thing I´ve ever done! It was pitch black for hours, and it was a long long trudge up the ice. I very nearly slipped a few times, and the mental battle during the climb was awful. Once the sun rose it was almost worse, as I could now see my surroundings. Everytime we thought we were nearing the top, another snowy ridge would appear that we had to climb. The ice boots dug in with every step, the pain was awful. But after many tears and hate filled words me and my team made it to the top of the peak just after 9am. The feeling of relief was immense and the views over the surrounding peaks were stunning.

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The team that had gone ahead of us managed to summit a second peak (which looked absolutely terrifying – I was quite content with just climbing the first one). The peak I climbed was about 5350m. After about an hour and a half at the top we were reunited with the other team and began our descent. To my surprise downhill was much easier and we made it down pretty quickly. By the time we reached camp and took off our boots, our skin was rubbed raw and we all slept in our tents until dinnertime.

A lot of hard work but a great achievement.

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