Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Safely back to High Camp (19,600ft), Tired but a Happy Camper!

If you read my previous blog entry, you know that Randy achieved one of the most ambitious goals of his life and managed to stand on the summit today of Aconcagua, a whopping 22,841 ft! To give you a sense of just how enormous this mountain is, here's a picture of Aconcagua from a distance.  It's gigantic, towering over all the mountains in the Andes, the highest point in South America.  In the second picture you get a sense of why they had to trek three days and 23 miles through the Vacas Valley to even get to Base Camp at 14,000 where the real fun began!

Hearing Randy's voice from the summit today was truly one of those special moments in life that I'll never forget.  He was very emotional, thankful for all the support, humbled by how this mountain had kicked even his Ironman-trained butt, exhausted, exhilarated, and mostly just 100% ecstatic.   Back home in the land of abundant oxygen in little old Delaware, I was also ecstatic, proud, shocked (but not totally), excited, and mostly relieved that he was okay.  Also relieved that he had managed to go back and get it done -- achieve this aggressive goal that had been nagging him since he was forced to turn back after 20,000 ft last year with fluid-filled lungs.  And relieved because, well you KNOW Randy, we just might have been in this exact same position next year as he went for round 3.  But here we are and he did it.  Amazing.  Who knows what's next, but right now we'll settle for celebrating this victory!

So now the details.  I spoke at length to him a while back and they had made it roundtrip back to Camp 3 (19,600) in about a little over 12 hours.  They took 9:15 to summit, stayed up there celebrating and taking in the breathtaking views (below) for about half an hour, and then came down in about 2.5 hours.

Views of the sheer south face from the Top

The day started very early for them, still dark at 5am as they plowed through a foot of new snow heading out to the first major landmark at 21,000 ft, Independenzia Hut.  It was bitterly cold and extremely slow going in the deep snow, and the wind was raging.  After about a half hour, the two sisters determined they needed to head back.  The rest of them kept moving on the long traverse and steep ascent up to the "Cave" which marks the start of the notorious Canaleta, one of the most physically demanding challenges in all of climbing .  His teammates, Bo and Randy, made it about 3/4 of the way to the Cave, and then they too determined they needed to call it a day.  So that left Randy, head guide JJ, and "young bucks" Todd and Tom from Miami.  At that point the wind was gusting and with the frigid temps, they couldn't risk one bit of exposed skin. Once at the Cave, it took 1.5 hours to traverse and climb the steep Canaleta (picture below).  Randy thought once they climbed that part, the summit would be close, but he got to the top of the Canaleta, saw how far away the summit was, and his first thought was, "Holy S%#$*  this is going to take forever!"  He said he was definitely "close to the edge".  Well, thankfully, it didn't take forever, but it did take another hour and a half, even though Randy said at this point they were very excited and moving well.  Once at the summit they all slapped five and celebrated, and then Randy took out his video to capture the moment.  He fished out the picture collage he had brought up with him, one of all of us (the 4 kids and me), his parents, our adorable and adored little dog Roxy, and I think at that moment he was full of awe; as if in a moment he comprehended the enormity of his accomplishment and the depth of his gratitude for the love and support of his family and friends.  I know he broke down then and when he called me a few moments later, he was still pretty choked up.  It is rare in life when in one instant in time we have the gift of clarity of purpose and at the same time a wave of pride but also humility and gratitude.  Certainly a very overwhelming experience!

Steep traverse on the way up

The descent from the summit was very steep, slippery, and snowy and Randy had decided he was not going to trip and start sliding, so he took his time and stopped when he needed to.  Even though Randy knows he was the slowest of the 4, JJ said it was one of the fastest descents ever.  Back at Camp 3, Randy was feeling "a little tired, a little dehydrated, but overall really good".  For the first time on this trip, I heard a bit of a cough, a "mountain hack" Randy called it, but that is pretty par for the course up there.  The day had been really cold; in fact one of the other climbers, Tom, did get a bit of frostbite on his face.  But our old faithful, Randy, at 56 years of age, managed incredibly well, didn't he?

Tomorrow they will pack up and head down to Base Camp around 10.  It should take them about 4 hours to get down to Base Camp, even though it took 9 days to get from Base Camp to Camp 3!  Funny how gravity works.  Randy said it will feel so good to descend back to the land of thicker air and back at Base Camp tomorrow they will have a big dinner and maybe even a beer to celebrate.

Randy took a ton of pictures and videos.  So now you've read the book.   I know I can't wait to see the movie!  : )

1 comment:

Dave said...

Great Job RC!