Tuesday, January 8, 2013

(Almost) On Top of the World!

After a good nights sleep at Camp 1, the guys carried up to Camp 2 today, then backtracked to Camp 1.  Camp 2 is at a whopping 17,800 feet.  To put it in perspective, that is much higher than the tallest mountain in the Continental US (Mt. Whitney in California, at 14,500'), which Anders climbed when he lived out in LA.  Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the world outside those in the Himalayas, like a little one called Mt. Everest.

Today's 1500 foot ascent took 4.5 hours, while they "flew" back down in an hour.  It's all scree up there (loose rock), so Randy described it almost like skiing back down to Camp 1.  Randy said he's lucky to have Anders as his "awesome" climbing partner.  Anders is still energetic and strong, and they are having an incredible time together.  Most of the team is still doing pretty well, although unfortunately one of the original 8 had to turn back today and wait at Camp 1.  They will figure out whether he can continue on with them tomorrow.

Randy has had a bit of a nagging respiratory issue for the past couple days, just a lot of coughing.  He and Anders talked it over last night and weighed all the possibilities.  They knew it could be one of 4 things: a cold, a bacterial infection, a mountain cough due to dry air, or (God forbid) early signs of HAPE, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema.  The last one is what you REALLY don't want to get, and you'd have to quickly descend before it gets worse.  So, after taking it over with the guides, they all decided that Randy had none of the other signs of HAPE (weakness, shortness of breath, irregular heart beat, insomnia, difficulty walking).  And his vital signs are strong. They concluded it was probably a bacterial cough, easy to get on the mountain, where Randy said, "there is literally all sorts of  &$#%*  flying around!"  So he started a Z Pak yesterday and felt like a "new person" today.  He climbed to Camp 2 and hardly coughed, which made them all feel they correctly diagnosed it.

Now, as the "loved one" back in a very non-mountainous Delaware, with them on the roof of the world, I have two reactions.  One, I am glad they are all paying attention, taking things seriously, and making careful decisions.  Two, it scares me to death.  Climbing Aconcagua is NOT a trek; it is a seriously intense experience that only the fittest of the fit can attempt.  And even the fittest can have altitude issues and have to be conservative.  I really hope that they take up chess or something after this.

Not to end on a down note, Randy said the views are absolutely breathtaking, the stars out of this world, and, despite his few challenges, they are (almost literally) in Heaven!  They can look up and see the summit and see the highest camp, Camp 3, and can't help but feel the peak is in their grasp.  They know they have serious physical and mental challenges ahead, but they are feeling positive and strong.  Each night they have tea, get into their tents and read their Kindle's, restoring their bodies for another day!  Yes, they are not COMPLETELY unplugged up there!

Keep sending your positive vibes!  : )


michael stricklin said...

Quite a journey. Seriously hope they can make it. I have climbed several peaks in the north cascades but what I recall most is being 200 ft from summit of mt forbidden and we all made decision to turn back due to day ending and chances of being stranded so high so late...I wish them well to move swiftly when time comes.

Anonymous said...

So that's what I have..HAPE!! Think I can claim that even 'tho am at sea level?!
And I always have disliked the word "scree". SOunds dirty or foreign. Or dirty AND foreign.
Fingers remain crossed and heart a poundin'

El Cubano Famoso