Sunday, July 24, 2016

Mentally and physically pushed to his limit, 14 hours later, Randy is back!

I honestly don't know whether to throw Randy a celebration party or lock him in a closet so he stops doing these things, but thankfully he just called and is back safe (but not quite sound) at their base camp huts.

He couldn't talk long because he was "completely wasted, dehydrated, and shaking", but he did manage to recap the highlights of his brutal day before heading inside to rehydrate, rest, and recover.

In Randy's words:
"Many times today I had to come to grips with not summiting; I really didn't think I would. But I just kept plugging on. This was so much harder than I expected. Much harder than summit day on Vinson, and up there with Aconcagua. I didn't expect that. I was lagging behind the guys, really struggling, so wasted.  I guess I wasn't adjusted enough to the altitude.  I tried every trick in the book and then invented some more.  For example, at one point on a long traverse, I would step, then say 2, 3, 4 and breath deeply on 3.  I just kept going "step, 2, 3, 4" and then doing it again. That kept me going for awhile. Then I'd try something new. We were lucky this morning because it was sunny, no intense lightening storms like the last few days.  But the wind was so strong and made it difficult the whole day.  I fell behind the guys and just could not keep up with them.  If it was just those guys and me, I would not have summited; I couldn't go that fast and would have had to turn back to not hold them up. 
But the great thing was, here I was behind the guys and ahead of the girls, then Gina suddenly showed up. She was really doing well and had moved ahead of the other girls. So we just stayed together and kept going. We were on a pretty intense part for a couple hours, basically curling around the base of the shorter peak of Elbrus, one of the two volcanoes, heading over to the saddle between the peaks and then the steep ascent to the higher volcanic peak.  You don't rope together on this traverse, but you CANNOT fall. There's a snowy platform from about 12" to 2 or 3 feet wide cutting across a steep slope with 3000 feet of exposure, and you have to stay focused.  For some reason, I ended up leading Gina and then some other scattered climbers who joined us on this traverse.  Crazy that I was leading because I was really struggling, but that's when I was doing by step 2,3 4 breathing.  We did this for a couple hours and just kept going. Gina did great, and we stayed together and made it to the steep saddle. The guys had waited for us, and at this point, Mike asked if I wanted to climb with  Anders and guys, but I knew there was no way I could keep up.  The other girls and Sasha had now caught up, so I went on the rope with the girls; the young guys and Mike went on their way ahead. It was so hard at this point; I was done.  But we kept on, and it was so awesome when we finally did summit. I was definitely crushed by then, but it was great to get up there with the girls.  The girls really helped me; we did this as a team and helped each other. It helped so much to go slower. No way I could have done this without them.

Authors (Judy's) note:  Go girls, you rock!!  Aren't women awesome?

So Randy talked a bit more, but was so depleted he really had to get off the phone and said he'll fill me in later, or more likely tomorrow when he isn't so spent.  Of course, he left me with one story that freaks me out a bit which I keep thinking about.  Not long after they summited, they had to descend that exposed, steep saddle where they rope together for safety.  Sasha, the guide, asked Randy to take the lead position, then Gina and Kristen, then Sasha would be anchor.  So Randy was first heading down the incline. Not five minutes into the descent Randy fell. He immediately drove his axe in the snow to self-arrest, and Gina, on the rope right behind him, did exactly what she was supposed to do which is get down and drive her axe and dig her crampons into the snow. So Randy didn't fall further and he didn't drag the team with him down the steep incline. Oh boy....  Then they got up and just kept going.  Just amazing.  And as described in my previous blog entry, once down to 16K, Gina and Kristen chose to take the offered snowcat ride back down to the huts, but as most would expect, Randy insisted on doing it old school and hiking back to base camp.  Sasha stayed with him, and he eventually trudged back to the huts 14 hours after departing in the wee hours.  He was physically wasted when he called, but definitely proud and thrilled to have summited.

Hopefully back at the hotel tomorrow Randy will blog and fill in more of the details and share some pictures.  In the meantime, hats off to the whole team, particularly those tenacious women, my amazing son Anders, and my unstoppable husband Randy!

1 comment:

jlchristofferson74 said...

Dad, I'm so proud of you! Even though I think you're nuts and it's scary, I'm so happy you accomplished your goal! Love you!