climbing

Denali – First Portuguese Women to Summit (Part 1)

Monday, June 17 2019

Day 1 

I arrived in Anchorage in the evening and checked into the hotel. 

I arrived with a very heavy heart. My mother in law, Bonnie, has been diagnosed as ‘failure to thrive’ and moved to a hospice room for the family to say goodbye. I’m not there. I need to be. I want to be.

She passed away Monday June 17th, my day two of this trip; Day 1 of this climb. Heavy sigh.

I feel so conflicted, because I know Steve is dealing with it by himself and I know he is stressed. I pray for him.

In the morning, I met my 3 guides and did my gear check. 

I was feeling a little sick – I ate some vegetarian tacos at the hotel’s restaurant and they did not agree with me at all.  In the middle of the night I managed to throw up, and then start hydrating myself. I can’t be sick for my first day – this is Denali and I feel enough pressure as it is.

 

Tuesday, June 18 2019

Day 2

We fly to basecamp.  This was after an approximately 2 or 3 hour drive from Anchorage to Talkheeta.  Then we take an Air Taxi. It was a short flight, just 20 minutes., with amazing scenery.

Once we arrive, we take all our gear off the runway and set up our first ‘camp’. 

Kaylee gives me my first lesson, with Jason giving his stamp of approval and further suggestions, on how to set-up our tent in our first ‘camp”.   

As we enjoy dinner, sitting on the snow, I marvel on how much snow there is – and take a few deep breaths and silently pray to God that He guide me and ask Him to have my back, because I am scared about what is ahead of me. Every so often you hear avalanches in the distance.  I have butterflies in my stomach, as stories and previous videos I watched in YouTube about climbing Denali weigh heavy in my mind. Not to mentioned the anxiety I am feeling about wanting and needing to Summit, so I can become the first Portuguese/Canadian woman to Summit Denali.

I remind myself – this is Denali. I am on the ‘big leagues’ mountain. I never imagined in my wildest dream I would here. But I am. I am here.

After our tents are made, we take some supplies out to sleep, since we are going to move during the night when the snow is more cold and compact… It’s mushy right now… packing snow.

Then it started snowing.

Hmmmmm……what does that mean …..

 

Wednesday, June 19 2019

Day 3

 We woke up early, 2 am and got ready to start hiking. Kaylee was like a tornado! Within seconds, she had her sleeping bag in its pack and she was ready to head out. All the while I was trying to stuff my mammoth sleeping bag in the compression bag. I step out and she has her harness on.

Yes, she is a supposed to be a guide in training, climbing to make my climb easier, but I am surprised and very impressed. That was fast!

I was thrown off a little by how fast things were moving. I felt agitated. I needed the bathroom and there was someone in the green bucket. I waited.

When we finally got going, pulling the sled was not that challenging, but stepping over a crack (crevasse) that would be wider when we return, was a little unsettling.

We made it to camp one in 4 hours and 30 minutes. Jason our lead guide said it was good time. I am glad.  It was 8:30am local time. 

After tents are up, there was nothing else to do, but lay down and try to sleep or just rest. These forced rests are the not so easy part of climbing. I texted Steve and the kids and felt better.

Steve is making funeral arrangements and it’s hard. 

Part of me wishes I was there to help, but I know I would not be able to in terms of arrangements. Seems they have it covered, even though Steve says everyone seems angry and upset at the moment. I know that’s normal in these difficult circumstances.

Suddenly, the sun came out and we got a great view of Denali.  Wow! It’s a very impressive and majestic mountain. In fact, it’s a giant! 

Then a cloud goes over the sun; the temperature drops considerably. 

As we climb, there is nothing much to do other than count numbers in your head and think. Here life seems surreal, easy. But in the back of my mind is a mild, gnawing tension about what my family is going through without me.

But I’m here to climb the highest mountain in the northern hemisphere.  I need to concentrate. The plan is to move to camp 2 tomorrow, same time – leave around 2 am.

 

Thursday, June 20 2019 

Day 4 

We did not move to camp 2 as we woke up as planned at 2 am, and Kaylee tells us she had been feeling sick all night and had thrown up a couple of times.

I knew it was our dinner from last night – it had been the pre-made salad we had bought at our last grocery/supply stop we made before arriving in Talkheeta – it had mayonnaise -I had passed on mine.

She says we will have to go slowly and well … slow to me is good! She tells her colleagues and the decision was made to stay put and let her sleep and feel better. Reaching a higher camp not feeling well, will drain her and limit her ability to acclimatize and be strong enough to summit. And we may need to turn around.

I hate just waiting around and doing nothing, but there is nothing we can do. I trust Jesus has a reason for it. 

I advise the kids and Steve, even though he has his hands full. Today is his Mom’s viewing and I know it’s taking a toll on him. Tomorrow is the funeral and I wish I could be there to support him.

Again, I make myself concentrate on the mountain. When the sun is out, it’s hot. Sun and snow is like sand and sun. I had to understand how to use the solar panel, since it has a built in battery. it cannot take a lot of heat.

Sebastian and his client, Aparna, the Indian lady that is trying to climb Denali for the 3rd time, arrived in camp.  She has done all the mountains, including Everest and she did the North side. I’m in awe!

 

Friday, June 21 2019

Day 5

This is my official day 5. Seems longer – the climb portion.

I don’t know why. It was a long day. It started with getting up at 1:00am… actually I was up a little earlier. Days and nights are stretched and shortened. It’s difficult …

We packed everything and backpacks and with sleds loaded, about two hours later, we started climbing towards camp 2.

Some teams take caches to about 11,000 feet and then go back to camp one, then the following day go up to camp two with a lesser load. We climbed with our complete loads and honestly I am glad, I was not looking forward to going up and down the steep hill, when it really was unnecessary.

We are doing this tomorrow – moving to the next camp, We plan to take a cache, leave it and then the following day, move up to camp 3 , at 14,000 feet. Then the following day come down to where we cached and pick up the rest of our supplies. Apparently it’s good for acclimatization.

But It’s hard work!

Overall, today was a hard day. It was also Mrs. Beattie’s funeral and I am really sad that I was not there for Steve. I miss him.

Camp 2 is set in a small plateau and we are not allowed to walk very far, because there is a huge crevasse (Crack as they call it). 

It is colder here, even with the sun shining full blast. 

It is very pretty! We are surrounded by smaller peaks with Denali imposing itself in one corner. It’s a breathtaking sight.

The white of the snow and blue skies make it extra magical.

 

Saturday, June 22 2019

Day 6

Ryan, our assistant guide and Kaylee went up to camp 14, which is how everyone refers to it, but really it’s camp 3. They took a cache, which should be called stash instead. It holds some of our supplies and keeps them ‘stashed ‘ so that we don’t have to carry them all at once. I thought I was supposed to go, but then only Kaylee and Ryan went. I stay behind to go over some skills with Jason my lead guide.

After breakfast, I put my crampons on and harness, got my ice axe, and we went through a couple of basics: foot work on crampons, proper ice arrest, how to hold the ice axe, and we were done. The repetition of basic but necessary skills calms me.

So many people here are attempting it for the 2nd and 3rd time.  I really hope I can do this!

I have been silently praying to Jesus, but I need to pray out loud and beg him for his hand holding and good weather!

 

Tuesday, June 25 2019

Day 9

We are at the 14,000 ft. camp and the weather has been ok, but colder.

We had moved Sunday up here and when the inReach froze, I had a panic attack because I could no longer communicate with the kids and Steve. It was hard.

It was a tough push up motorcycle hill, then squirrel hill and on windy corner, we had to put our helmets on, I think this time it did not go sideways. My helmet tends to sit on me sideways. Thank you Lord!

If you are asking yourself what do all these names of the hills mean or who gave the names, I don’t have the answer. I asked a few people and no one really seemed to know. Its not like there are motorcycles or squirrels up here!

Anyways, on windy corner (which this name I can understand), Jason said we could not stop at all, as it is always windy. Hummm, there is a small ledge on the snow to walk on, but I barely thought about it. There was no wind. None. And that was unusual.  Why? My theory is of course that Jesus is next to me holding my hand; is guiding me and taking care of the weather? He Rocks! 

When we finally got to camp 2, or as they call it, 14,000… it was cloudy and the clouds kept rolling by me. To be high in the sky with clouds rolling past you is an experience that is indescribable. You are in the heavens – above the clouds…To my great surprise I meet the Thai lady here that I saw in Vinson. She was climbing with another Mountain Trip team. It was only her and a German male climber. It is a small world.

I am happy I am doing a private trip, since they are sharing a tent. The group that started when we did, Kristen’s, also share a tent with male/female combination. I don’t know if I agree with it. I certainly know I would not feel ok sharing a tent with a stranger of the opposite sex. 

Once the battery from the inReach died, I was able to restart it and charge it. I had BEGGED Jesus during my hike for a couple of hours. I think I got on His nerves and He just gave in.

Yesterday we went to get the cache back after windy corner and came back to camp. Today it was a rest day.  It was nice spending the morning relaxing, since I had time to change clothes and just relax. I learned that relaxing is part of acclimatization, an important mountaineering life lesson. ☺

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Aconcagua, reaching the Summit and more

It’s February 15th, the day after Valentine’s day.

I remember yesterday that the Canuck Matt had a large selection of Toblerone chocolate bars, which I found ironic, since a) they are quite heavy to carry, each bar weighs 360g, and b) the logo is a mountain. Maybe that is why he had them. Anyhow, on Valentine’s Day morning, he went to Sequioa’s tent and said “Happy Valentine’s day” and gave her a large chocolate bar. That was nice I thought

Today we moved to Camp 2, Nido de Condores, which stands at 5560 metres. There are mountains all around us, yet it seems we are above them all.

Unfortunately we are down one team member – Sequoia, reported a bad headache on the way down yesterday after our carry to Nido, and once we reached Plaza Canada again to sleep low again, since her headache was not better, Carole, one of our guides, accompanied her back to basecamp.

But today, our porters once again set-up our tents, and my personal porter brought my stuff up. I thought I had been over my weight but I was not – all my stuff was less then 12 kilos. My allotment is 20kg. I was very proud of myself. I am learning weight management.

When we arrived at camp, with Vern guiding us alone at this point, there was a group coming down with a person on a stretcher. I did not take any pictures; it simply seemed bad taste. The person was clearly in distress and very sick. Shortly after the yellow park helicopter hovered over us, landed and took the individual away. He looked gravely ill.

We learned after that the person had fallen ill the day before at 7:00pm…. And was only rescued today…. About 3:00pm. He had to be brought up from higher than high camp. I guess attempting to Summit. My heart went out to him.

Feb 16th
Today we woke up to cold, frigid cold, until the sun hit the mountain. I regretted that I had not brought my other sleeping bag with me. The plan for today was to do a group carry to the 3rd and final camp, Camp Colera. It was high. We reached an altitude of 19,580 feet and we are planning to move there tomorrow.

I got really cold in the early hours of the morning. So I put my red Canada Goose jacket on. I also used the #coldavenger mask over my face to be able to be breathe more easily. The air is so dry here – feels like a desert, but a cold desert.

Feb 17th
We made the move to Camp Colera, or camp 3. It was a long way up. One of our teammates had diarrhoea and was really slow and tired.

Camp Colera was given the name by the guides because people vomit so much and ‘poop’ so much. An ugly fact, but true.

The camp is on an enclave of a huge rock, with a view of the Aconcagua Summit. Usually people just stay here no more than a couple of nights, but it seems we will spend 3 in total, as we will have a rest day tomorrow and then attempt the Summit on Tuesday the 19th.

Today I had a really hard time sleeping for the first time in the mountain. It’s very high to sleep here; we are at 5851 meters in altitude.

It was not just the cold. Around 1:45am I woke-up as I could not breathe. I was gasping for air. I peed in my pee bottle, drank some hot drink from my Thermos to try and sort myself out. I lay down again and I still could not breathe. My nose was stuffy and I could not catch my breath. I began pressure breathing, and it helped, but I still could not get enough breath. Then I put on my #coldavenger mask and I took another quarter of my Diamox pill. After a little bit, I was finally able to feel some relief.
It was the scariest experience I have had thus far. I did not understand what was going on. I really thought I might suffocate.

Later in the morning I was surprised to receive a text message from Emmanuel, that simply read: “How did you sleep?”. Tears filled my eyes as I responded. “Ok, but I woke up feeling like I couldn’t breathe. I mean really couldn’t breathe. I took more Diamox”.

Emmanuel reassured me when he said, “It’s normal. You are up high. It’s sleep apnea. Try sleeping more upright; put all your clothes’ under your sleeping pad to sleep more upright.”
“Ok.” I typed back. But I felt emotional and scared from remembering I had been gasping for air the night before. I felt so alone.

“It’s the altitude.” “You are doing great!” “And you will be ok,” he responded. He is a man of few words, but surprised me that he knew how I may be feeling – I guess having been there himself several times helped. Thank you Emmanuel; I needed to hear that!

Then, I also decided to lay in my parka inside my sleeping bag – huge difference in warmth!

Feb 18th
We did have the day as a rest day. It is cold. Early this morning we heard another group get up for their summit bid. They were a little noisy. A couple of hours later, I heard a guide bring back one of their clients. I guess she had turned around. I could only imagine her disappointment.

Feb 19th
We start our Summit bid at 6:00am. It is freezing. But we are ready. Lynn, one of our teammates whom is 70 – which is a perfect example that age is only relative of how you feel, is ready and we start our summit bid, when all I hear is something about sunglasses and then he is no longer going up with us. I was confused but just kept moving.

We go up slowly, and it takes us about 9 and a half hours to reach the Summit. The last 30 minutes are hard. Every step I take it seams harder to breathe.
I am puffing my cheeks out (like a chipmunk, live Vern had taught us) and exhaling. I am also straightening my body in combination with my rest step, to allow more air to fill my lungs. But I still struggle.

Vern climbs in front of me and says: “You can do this Ema. We are almost there”. I simply reply. “These rocks are hard; there are so many rocks”. To which Vern says in a very Vern like tone of voice: “No shit, you are climbing a mountain!” It made me laugh.

I had read that to reach the Summit, we had to go through the ‘La Canaleta’ which is a scramble up some rocks. I think that would be more true if we could truly scramble up rock, but since there was enough snow to wear crampons on certain sections, I am not sure if this qualifies as a scramble.

To the base of the so-called “La Canaleta”, there is a rocky, concave-base wall somewhat in the shape of a cave, “La Cueva”. Here we are at 6650m.

We Summited at 3:40pm local time.
It is windy up at the summit, and in my first couple of pictures, my flag is upside down. Then I correct it, but the wind makes it hard. Vern offers to hold the flag on one of the corners. It works – kinda.

Then it is time to come down – just like that. All that effort and strain and it’s over in a few minutes. But I did it. I did it.

It was a long way down. It took us maybe close to 5 hours. I was so tired, that I kept slipping and falling on my behind. There is a ridge right after Independencia Refuge… which is the world’s tallest refuge. One must make it across this ridge to make it to the La Canaleta section and then back.

The wind is generally very high here, since it’s exposed. A slip here could mean you fall thousands of meters down the face of the mountain. It is here that many expeditions turn around on the way to the Summit and do not proceed to the summit when the weather is bad. We were told it is usually very windy and on previous days Carole had even showed us how we should climb and brace ourselves when we came to this point on Summit day. However, we had great weather. Hardly any wind in this section. Unusual. I know Jesus had me.

About an hour left in our descent I started seeing what I thought was a fly, or a flying spider on the right hand side of my eye. Because I was wearing my goggles, I thought there were bugs outside, since the sun was also starting to set. But the site of this ‘bug’ was actually something I was only seeing on my right eye. I continued to see the ‘bug’ until the day after we left the mountain. I know now according to my daughter Nicole, an RN, that they are “floaters”, and I am fortunate that they have since disappeared.

Feb 20th
We make our descent from camp 3 all the way to basecamp. It was a long day.
When we reached basecamp we are treated to hamburgers. I had a veggie burger. The team shared a bottle of champagne, courtesy of Alpine Ascents, and our generous guides Vern, Carole and Diego. It was a much needed celebration!

A couple of our teammates, including our Canuck friend has a few beers. I no longer have of an interest in drinking at high altitude and it still amazes me how some can. But I am me and everyone is different.

Feb 21st
We take the long journey trek from basecamp, to exit the park.
This in itself was a wonderful experience – because how often can one say they trekked on a riverbed?

After we exit the Park, we pick up our stuff we had left in storage, and then proceed to continue by bus to Mendoza.

That evening I took my “first” shower in 3 weeks. I had never been so dirty in my 51 years of my life! Kudos to the Hyatt staff that checked me in and never showed in their expression how dirty my face was – which shocked me when I looked at myself in the mirror in the bathroom. No, I had not looked at my face in the mirror while in the mountain! ☺

Back to hygiene. Back to cleanliness. I’m going home!
Only two (well 3) more to go… 7 (8) Summits for Mental Health.

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Climbing Aconcagua in Argentina

Climbing Aconcagua in Argentina

(Part 1 of 2 – Part 2)

After the Air Canada fiasco, and those of you that follow me on Instagram know about the ordeal and the inconvenience caused by Air Canada when they only decided to turn around a flight after 3 and a half hours into the flight, all the way back to Toronto – when we were already over the Bahamas. REALLY?!? Getting myself to Penitentes , Argentina, after more than 24 hours delay was not easy, especially when you have a 10 hour flight and then a connecting flight which I had missed. The next connecting flight would have delayed me yet another day. Such a frustrating start. On February 5th I was finally able to get to Argentina, after driving from Santiago, Chile and crossing the border by car. I felt somewhat flustered, as I had missed gear check scheduled the day before in Mendonza, and of course, I had missed valuable information on the expected climb, schedules, etc.

The Alyen hotel in Penitentes, had a room which was pretty dismal, but maybe it was intentional to get us used to the tent and dirt in Aconcagua. It worked! The green carpet in the room was worn and underneath the radiator, it was down to its last fibres. The bed was only a mattress against the wall on a cheap metal frame. Thin sheets.  In short, it was one of the worst hotels I have ever stayed in.

Penitentes is an old ski resort town, that now is only open for the short season that the Aconcagua National Park is open, and welcomes climbers, or the occasional person that is passing through and needs a room. It doesn’t even have WIFI and from the reviews on Expedia, it has not had WIFI for a long time – even though every guest is simply told that the antenna is broken, as if it just happened.

But the next day, thankfully, on Wednesday, Feb 6th, we make our way to the entrance of the Aconcagua National Park, to climb the normal route of the mountain. We stop at the park ranger’s office and our guides pick up our park permits that cost each of us $610.00US. Was that $61.00US? No, it was $610.00US. Whoa! Then we are required to show our passports as ID, before gaining entrance.

The trek from the beginning of the trail to the Confluência Camp was about 3 hours. Our group gear was being carried by mules, who on this particular day were very slow. I know. I know. Mules are supposed to be slow. But these ones were sedated slow. We only got our duffle bags around 9 pm!

While we waited, we had dinner. Some of us went for a short walk to the top of the hill to see the whole camp, from “above”, and Vern and Carole our guides, taught us how to build a tent “Aconcagua” style. So that our tents would have the best chance to resist the high winds and not blow away. This training would come in very handy!

CONFLÊNCIA CAMP- is at 3,421 metres

The camp has a medical office, staffed with a doctor employed by the park and whom we all have to go see the following day on Thursday, Feb 7th, to get the ‘green light’ to move up the mountain to basecamp the following day, Friday, February 8th. This would be one of two visits with the park’s doctor. The park authorities want to ensure climbers are not experiencing altitude related illness, which cuts down on emergency rescues.

Our tents for this expedition are a 3 person tent, but really only 2 people fit, and in very close quarters. My tent mate is Jenny, a young lady from Chicago in her mid 20’s.

There are only 3 women on the team, and I had been asked the previous day before we left for the trail, whom I preferred to share a tent with. Two male teammates were given to me as my choices; I said no to both. I was utterly surprised this was an option – pair teammates with teammates of the opposite sex!? When I expressed my displeasure, I was assured they would find a solution. They did. Yesterday during our tent building lesson, the guides asked one of the other females if she would mind sharing a tent with one of the other males. She said no. And so the situation was resolved. I still find this presumption uncomfortable and somewhat surprising.

Thursday the 7th, we went for a 7 hour acclimatization hike towards Camp Francia, for a view of the south face of the mountain. The colours of all the rock faces on our way there were spectacular!

First it was hot, and then got very windy and much colder when we reach about 14,000 feet, which is about 4,000 metres.

Friday, Feb 8th, we made our way to Plaza de Las Mulas, Basecamp for the Normal Route. It took us “8 hours plus 1”, as Vern said. For a long period of time we hiked on flat terrain and then slowly we gained altitude. The mules carried our group gear. Slowly …

What can I say about Plaza de Las Mulas? It’s a tent city on a plateau of the mountains. We had to select our campsite and build our tent and that’s ALL that was interesting. 

Alpine Ascents local contractors are Aconcagua Mountain Guides, which is actually a subsidiary of Alpine Ascents. Inca, another outfitter at the camp, is clearly the prominent provider here. Their tents and facilities are at the entrance of the camp. I couldn’t help but notice they are shinier and seem new.

Our campsite was on the opposite end of basecamp, and it had its benefits.  It was closer to the trail to go up the mountain, and after all, that was the goal – to go up the mountain. Plus it was quieter.

It was a long day.  I don’t get cell service even though many people seem to – but I was able to buy WIFI for the days we are here, so I can talk to my husband Steve, my daughters Nicole and Patricia and of course, my grandchildren Ethan and Julia. My family. My lifeline.

Feb 9th, we tried our crampons on, and went for a short exercise wearing them on some dirty snow. Afterwards, we went for a short 90 minute hike, over lots of rock, to ice sticking out of the mountain like icicles, which are called penitents.  It was pretty cool.  But also, I never realized that so much dirt can be on top of an actual glacier – the primary reason why it’s so dusty and a little disgusting here.

This outing was followed by a group meeting, to discuss the game plan for the next few days.  Acclimatization is an important part of climbing, especially at this height, to have the best chance of success. The following day it was decided we would do a carry up to Camp Canada, and the next day it  would be the repeat of the same.

A ‘carry’ is done to carry a small amount of supplies to a higher camp, and leave them there to be used once we move up to that camp. This exercise serves to acclimatize and also to lessen the weight of carrying the supplies we need, in our backpacks. 

Porters are now available on the mountain and I have taken advantage of them. So I will not do a ‘carry’ of group gear or supplies, but only take my daypack and simply enjoy the acclimatization climb. The porters will carry my portion of the group gear and my own personal supplies, on ‘move’ day. The plan is to do the same the next day and then move up the following day. The theory is to climb high, sleep low.

On the second carry day the winds are extremely high and we get hit with a snowstorm.  The snow is small round ice pellets, not beautiful snowflakes. This is jarring and difficult.

We were offered a free shower because the mules had been late when we came into Confluencia, the previous camp and we all take advantage of it here at basecamp. But the word ‘shower’ is used loosely. The water only served to rinse the dust off and it was cold! Unfortunately no one shared a vital piece of information – I only had to move the lever a very short space to get warm water!

Camp Canada is at 4947 metres but surprisingly, my Sunto watch showed 5001 metres as a measurement. Feb 12th was a rest day. We did nothing, just ate and stayed in our tents actually. Pretty boring. One of the other female teammates went for a swim in one of the lakes nearby, apparently skinny dipping. I passed.

Feb 13th, we moved up to Camp Canada. The camp sits on a hill, and if you take a wrong step, you might just fall off, but the view is amazing. “Ahhhhhh” had two meanings!

The porter assigned to me moved everything, I just kept my emergency gear in my back pack and also a bottle of water and my personal documents like passport, insurance and money. That was very nice.

At camp Canada the group had all opted to use the services of the porters to set-up our tents. It was so much easier to reach camp and have a place to get comfortable in, sheltered from the cold and wind.

Once again, my tent mate and I, have a tent that has something wrong with it. Ugh.

The tents are NorthFace and spacious, but they are beaten up or they just don’t hold up. This time we are stuck with a vestibule zipper that is broken, so we literally crawl in and out of our tent.

Feb 14th, we do a carry to what will be our second camp, Nido de Condores. It was a 3 hour hike up and then we left some personal gear there.  It is a huge camp and the 360 degree views are just amazing! Mountainous peaks and vast sky as far as the eye can see. Spectacular. There is also a rangers’ station here and a helipad.

Coming down it took us only an hour.

One of our teammates, Sequoia reported a headache and Diego, one of the guides raced down the mountain with her. The rest of us followed.  My feet were sweating with the socks I had chosen and I got two blisters. Not much to complain about in the grand scheme.

When we got back to camp Canada, there was hardly walking space between tents. There are tents everywhere around us. Seems everyone at basecamp is moving up. There are climbers galore.

Sequoia is not feeling well. She is the 3rd female of our team. She is still reporting headaches and Carole accompanies her down to Basecamp to see the doctor.

Tomorrow we move up.

(Read Part 2)

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From Base Camp to High Camp

From Base Camp to High Camp

After dinner at Union Glacier, there was talk about the possibility to have us flown to base camp that evening, there was even a person from ALE walking around with a flight scheduled. But the weather did not co-operate, and we spent the night at Union Glacier.

However the next morning though, On November 27, after breakfast, we boarded one of the twin otter planes, which are planes operated by Ken Borek Air, a Calgary based airline, on service for the season for ALE in Antarctica. I was on the first flight. Lakpa and Sebastian also flew with us to base camp, as we were the first group of the season.

ALE ultra-qualified guides are assigned a rotation schedule of working as guides and rangers. Rangers are ALE guides available to assist other climbers with their expeditions in case of an emergency.

Our flight to base camp was about 20 minutes, and all we can see out the frosted windows is snow-covered peaks. Of course, we are in Antarctica.

Once we land, we are greeted by a smiling, happy head guide name Tre-C (pronounced Tracy). She knew our names, greeted us all like old friends and then proceeded to give us the most important tour – how to pee in Antarctica.

Number “2” is flown out of Antarctica, back to Chile, but ‘pee’ remains in Antarctica and as per the Antarctic Treaty, its Environmental Protocol has set guidelines to deal with Waste Disposal and Management, which essentially directs that “ as far as practicable so as to minimize impacts on the Antarctic environment and to minimize interference with the natural values of Antarctica”, read more about it (https://www.ats.aq/e/ep_waste.htm).

Our sleeping quarters here at base camp are huge dome shape tents, that could accommodated at least 4 people inside each, and which I was able to stand in. Yes, I am a short person. But even my friend Emmanuel when he refuted at my comment, that he could “not relate” to standing up inside the tent – just assuming I could because I was short, had to say to me: “ I stand corrected, I CAN relate”. This only after I politely had asked him to stand in the middle of the tent himself, and he obliged cynically. ☺

Our group tent, which was also ALE’s basecamp office and the kitchen was heated, had chairs and tables for all of us to hang out at, with hot water at our disposal for tea, coffee, hot chocolate, etc. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were served here, along with an array of soft drinks, beer, red and white wine, as well as champagne for celebrations and sangria for treats.

 

 

 

 

 

This was just for ALE’s clients.

At base camp, there were other groups from different companies. They set-up their own tents, including their own kitchen and dining tents, etc. I realize there is an argument to be made for those that call themselves “purists” that this is the best way to experience the mountains and its true mountaineering. That the comforts and attention to detail and may I venture to say, the touch of luxury (in the mountaineering realm) that ALE provides in Vinson is not true mountaineering, then I argue to disagree.

In Everest no one complains for using the services of Sherpas, and in Killimanjaro the use of porters. Well, in Vinson, I am of the opinion, one should climb directly with ALE.Why can’t one enjoy climbing the tallest mountain in Antarctica in more comfort? I see no reason.

We still carried our own personal equipment to the other two camps. We still climbed up the same fixed rope from low to high camp. We still ‘trekked’ the same distance from high camp to the Summit. But we enjoyed a little more comfort. I know some of the other mountaineering companies and they are wonderful of course, but I am just saying, ALE has the right idea. I want to climb the 7 Summits, but I do not see any reason why I can’t enjoy it as much as possible. After all is ‘mountaineering’ not just the act of climbing mountains?

The next day, on November 28th, 2018, our three assigned guides, Lakpa, Seba and Tre-C divided our team of nine, into three rope teams, randomly selected. Each rope team has three climbers and one guide. At all times when outside the camps areas, we are roped in together, because of the existence of crevasses.

Myself, Emmanuel and Christian are in Seba’s rope team.
On Lakpa’s team is David, Matt, and Nicolas, and Tre-C has Jenny, her husband Matt and Steve. This last one became the British connection rope team!

 

 

We practiced putting our crampons on. And we go for a small acclimatization hike, training, to get used to being roped in, the team’s pace, the weather and of course ensuring our crampons are working well in our boots and also our clothing layering system is working for us.

 

 

The next day, the weather reports are not favorable for the next few days, and our guides explain to us, that we will continue to acclimatize in base camp.

However, to keep us ‘prepared’ we get a lesson on how to rig and attach the sleds to our backpacks. We will use the sleds to take supplies to low camp. In each rope team, only three sleds will be used, meaning the last person on the rope team will not have a sled.

November 30th, 2018, we are still hanging out at base camp, but we get our food planned for when we start to move to the low and high camps. We get to select breakfasts, dinners, and snacks from the ALE supply store. These are all meals that can be made by only adding hot water. We also have a going to the ‘bathroom’ lecture for low and high camps.

 

Here we will be using the disposal toilet method, which we will use with the help of a empty bucket for our seating comfort. The ‘portable’ toilets are personal of course and we will need to carry them with us, until our return to base camp, so they can be ‘packaged’ with the other entire bathroom ‘matters’.

We also do ‘arts and crafts’ and build the VINSON sign from snow. The sign is created once every season. Our lead guide Tre-C and I spearhead the undertaking of this task. Some of my teammates also got some exercise filling the hole of the previous seasons’ ‘freezer’ tent. Every year when ALE staff opens the camp, the location of the tent needs to move back a few feet. The old hole then needs to be filled again with snow, and because we were the first group of the season, and weather kept us just lazing around and enjoying great food, we needed to burn some calories!

December 1st, 2018, the weather became promising and our guides make the decision for us to move to low camp. We pack our gear into our backpacks, and some supplies get on the sleds. The suggested ratio was 70/30, on backpacks to sleds.

The hiking time from base camp to low camp was about 5-6 hours. We took a break about every 60 to 90 minutes. Breaks are used to catch our breath, eat a couple of snacks, drink some water and pee.

Once we got to low camp, the area is more rudimentary. We have to set-up our own tents, which ALE maintains stored on-site, but due to high winds, they cannot be left up when not in use, like in base camp.

 

The kitchen tent is also more basic. It is not artificially heated, but with 2 separated seating areas, with benches carved out of snow and a middle section for the cooking area, the double wall clam tent is pretty nice!

From here we can see the ridge of where the ropes start and go as high as 1200m (close to 4000 feet) that we will have to climb to move to low camp. We can also see Vinson Summit peak and we can see the wind blowing the snow, at the top of the ropes and on the Summit. We need to wait for a break in the weather to move to high camp.

Two other groups are also here, having moved from base camp to low camp with us.

The next day, we do a small hike to the start of the fixed ropes and we practice ascending the rope until about the third switch and then practice our descending.

December 2nd, 2018, weather is still bad up at high camp, however, because we are also a little restless of not doing much, except eating great food and sleeping, some of us go on a hike to nearby peaks.

Steve and Seba go on their own. Tre-C and Lakpa take five of us for a view of the pyramid. Three of our colleagues had decided that they prefer to stay back at camp and “chill”.

It was a 2 to 3-hour return hike but what can I say, the view was amazing. The Pyramid was the actual location of the old base camp. At the top of the small peak that we climbed to, we took a break, ate a snack and took pictures. Tre-C had some dress-up articles in her backpack, which give us the opportunity to take funny pics! Purple was Emmanuel’s color!

 

 

 

December 3rd, 2018; winds still prevailed up top. We rest, read, sleep.
December 4th, 2018; and our guides rally our team up to move up to high camp, as they are confident with a predicted 2 day window break in the weather.

We only pack our sleeping bags, water bottles, food, snacks, medication, and our clothing layers necessary into our backpacks. Our sleds also stay behind. We take down our tents. We leave any supplies and any equipment that we do not need up in high camp inside our duffle bags, and ALE stores them by the kitchen tent.

Another advantage of climbing with ALE in Vinson, is that the group does not have to carry up group gear, like fuel, tents, and even sleeping pads. ALE has all that at each camp. Each season ALE’s guides and rangers, in anticipation of the climbing season, for each team, restock supplies. Other companies must do “carries” and “cache” supplies. All climber teams with these other companies do this by taking supplies to a camp one-day and returning to the previous camp. They then move up to the next camp the following day.

The climb up to high camp includes a climb of about 1,200 meters, with an approximately 45 degree angle on the side of a mountain, aided by fixed ropes. We had to use our ascenders’ and cows’ tails to move on the fixed ropes and for safety. We took breaks, some just beside rocks but still roped in together.

I found the climb ok, with the exemption of the last transfer point. I had looked up and had seen Seba, our guide, positioning his feet, with each step on a very narrow part of the terrain. My fear of heights rose immediately with my heart rate threatening to deafen me, but I tried to concentrate in following his footsteps, completely aware I would have to climb down. I forced those thoughts out of my mind and concentrated in continuing the ascent. I would deal with descending another day.

When we reached high camp, both Wes and Nate, two of ALE’s rangers that had gone up ahead of us, to “open” camp”, had our tents set-up and ready for us to go inside and rest, after we removed our crampons of course and made sure that our other ‘sharpies’ were a safe distance from our tents.

We were the Vinson 1 team, and therefore the first set of climbers of the season, so the pee hole was still being done, as was the placement of the ‘toilet’ bucket.

We were able to admire the surroundings and the view from this height. Dinner was served inside our tents, after our guides’ boiled water for our drinking pleasure and our dehydrated food preparation. I enjoyed my oatmeal. Emmanuel complained about his Spicy Pad Thai and repeated a few times to me how he hated dehydrated meals; this after he had lectured me previously that I needed to eat more than just oatmeal. But my oatmeal looked pretty good now!

Personally I don’t like dehydrated food! It upsets my stomach. I have tried it and tasted various commercially available brands. I don’t like any of them. And I was not going to risk an upset stomach in a continent made of white snow! Even energy bars cause me issues. That is why I had only chosen oatmeal for breakfast and dinners and for snacks I stuck with my Suzie’s Good Fats Peanut Butter Chocolate Snack Bars.

Other teams shortly arrived after us and got busy setting up their own camp. Although, one of the teams had just come up to drop a cache and then they went back down to low camp. They would not be attempting the summit with us, and I personally found this to be a mistake since the weather was predicted to change shortly.

After ‘dinner’, Tre-C discussed with us our plan for the next day and suggested we go to sleep as the next day we were hoping it to be our Summit day, as we only had a two day of predicted good weather, so we would not be spending the following day acclimatizing and resting in high camp, as sometimes happens. I was honestly rested enough I must admit. Aside from 7 blisters total on both my feet, I was fine and looking forward to moving.

The next morning, we would have an early start – before 10:00 am. So, as usual, I pulled my hat around my ears and over my eyes to ‘shut the blinds’ form the Sun and I went to sleep. The next day was the Summit day.

Ema Dantas

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Mount Elbrus Russia Climb Part 2 -Summit

It is Sunday, July 29th, 2018 and to the ‘Putin on the Ritz’ team, day 9 of our adventure.

My alarm is set for 2:00am for breakfast, but I, like several of my teammates, was already up. Vern turns on the electrical kettle for hot water, to warm our first batch of water bottles, and we are ready to go.

Our plan was to be ready and mobile at 3:00am and be by the ‘cats’ to put our crampons on at 3:30am. Plan accomplished. Yes! Off to a good start.
We have a large group and need two ‘snow cats’ and awkwardly get on board, with all our equipment. We sit excitedly, knowing what’s to come and hold on tight as it brings us up to just past the Provesky Rocks on Mount Elbrus. We all jump off. The moment has come. At last, we are about to attempt to summit Mount Elbrus. For me, mountain number three!

We remove our down jackets, because we always ‘start cold’; our bodies start heating up fast. Snow googles on next, with our face buffs securely underneath its strap, so we don’t have any of our face exposed. My buff has a Canadian flag print. Yes, I am proud to be Canadian!

It’s windy and cold as we start out. And we all knew that as we gained altitude, the temperature would decrease and the winds would increase. The clear blue skies we had been seeing the previous days as we glanced up the mountain from base camp were merely a rouse. Clearly, this is NOT going to be easy.

The previous day, when we were informed by Vern that we would attempt our Summit today, it was with the expectation that the weather would be similar to the previous day. The report brought back from the climbers that had reached the Summit, was that they had to literally ‘crawl’ to the Peak. I had visualized the ‘crawling’ action myself and yet only believed Vern 50%. I thought he was simply exaggerating. In a few short hours, I learned first hand, that ‘crawling’ was the right adjective. A daunting exercise; but the only way…

However, with our backpacks securely buckled on our backs, our headlamps turned on, we get to business. We ensure our ice axe is deployable and both our trekking poles are at the appropriate climbing length. These two skills we learned and reviewed with Carole and Vern until we were proficient.

In a single file, one step at a time, practicing both our rest-step and pressure breathing, we start to climb. I concentrate on both, and at the same time, ensure each of my steps are careful ones, so as to not get my crampons tangled on each other. I try to only concentrate on my rhythm and nothing else. ‘One, two, whooof…. one, two, whooof…’

I know to others looking at us from below or even from behind, we look like fireflies, slowly moving up the mountain, as only the light from our headlamps is visible. Fireflies in a string, moving upward in the extreme cold and wind.

Daylight is breaking and we reach our first stop. Vern directs us, “Keep warm people.” “Ten minute break.” “Remember to pee, drink and eat – in that order.” “You do not want to be caught with your pants down when we are ready to go!” His sense of humor lifts our spirits. We need to smile.

This first rest stop is by a broke -down, red, snow caterpillar. It is now a fixture on its ridge, and I doubt it will ever be removed. Just another piece of ‘garbage’ on Elbrus. I wonder how long it will remain here.

Modesty in the mountain does not exist. Men and women simply accept our basic nature needs, and simply that. And all are respectful. We ‘go’ when told, like in grade school.

“Two minutes people!” Vern commands and we know its time to rap it up and get going. We all respond as quickly as possible.

We continue our ascent as the sun slowly slides past the fluffy white clouds, painting a a golden hallow around them, as it rises to set its place against the blue sky. For a brief moment, both sun and moon share the same space. It’s magical what God has created. And from this vantage point, even more so.

Anatoli, the ‘official’ mountain photographer is going around from group to group, capturing special moments, which he will sell to us in a couple of days. Vern tells us at one point to simply pull our buffs down for a brief smile into the camera as we pass him at a certain point and time. We do. It records our red, frost faces that are hiding under our buffs. And also relieves us. There are some civilized moments up here! Plus we are not alone. We are having this adventure together.

Our second break is on the vertical face of the mountain, just off the narrow trekking path. As we follow our break routine I try not to think of the height which we are at, and also the fact that one slip, would have any one of us demonstrating our ice axe arrest techniques. Better not to think of that possibility. None of us wants to practice that. I try not to look back because of my fear of heights and simply tell myself I am on solid footing. It helps.

As we continue in single file, we come upon another group, which after a few moments, our guides and theirs, negotiate our passing ahead of them. All of our group secretly feels good about this maneuver. We seem to be moving at a decent pace!

I can see that we are entering ‘the saddle’. The saddle is termed as such because it’s a ‘dip’ between both mountain peaks, resembling an actual saddle.

While we enter the saddle, the wind is not prevalent and I foolishly think that Vern was exaggerating about the wind speed we were to expect. Never doubt Vern!

As I look ahead I can see snow blowing and creating dust clouds against and around other fellow climbers, already at the base of the saddle and also making their way up the other side towards the Summit. The brief stillness we feel was very much like the proverbial ‘calm before the storm’. Brace yourself Ema.

As we reach the saddle base, the wind is demonstrating its superiority. It pushes us like a bully, demanding we push back and fight to keep ourselves vertical.

Vern commands and guides us efficiently to get our down jackets on. We need to pee, drink and eat like on any other break, plus we need to put our harnesses on. We are securing all our backpacks and trekking poles in a pile and leaving them behind here. This is both to facilitate our final push up to the Summit, but also to save space – there is not much room up there!

Our guides help us with getting our harnesses on, without taking our crampons off. As Irina and ‘Jason’ (nicknamed by us, because of his white mask) help us, I make a mental note that I need to get a better harness for when I repeat this task in a future climb. It’s just not smooth enough for crucial times like this.

And we are off, for the final leg.
Again, we are soon feeling the wind’s defiant tease to ‘take him on’ with only our ice axe in hand as if to threaten the wind to ‘back off’. Just as we clip on the static line, the wind retreats teasingly, giving us a false sense of hope. Then it comes gusting against us with speeds of about 50km an hour. At moments, it takes a deep breath and then when it exhales, it spits out ice pellets that hit our faces and bodies, with demanding threats against us. I have never experienced wind like this. Truly, if we break our attention from it, it will and can toss us into the abyss. I briefly wonder if this is what Denali or Vinson will feel like, but I don’t have much time to ponder this thought, as all my energy is spent concentrating on each step, bracing myself with my ice axe and also guiding my leach on the fixed rope.

And suddenly it dawns on me, we ARE ‘crawling’ up to the Peak. The roar of the wind, the stinging of the ice, and the concentration required, are all very real. We are indeed crawling to the top.

Then as we leave the fixed rope section, we continue slowly, hunched down, up the glacier ridge towards the summit point. It’s in sight and that encourages us. But we move very slowly and carefully, because even though wind has given up throwing snow dust at us, it continues to push us defiantly.

And then suddenly – we are there! We are at the top of Mount Elbrus! We did it!

The Summit space is maybe a 10×12 foot small, cramped space. Our group alone fills it, as others also compete to share it.

At the same time, I realize and feel like, the wind is going to blow me away. This is not a good feeling; despite the relief at being successful, I still need to concentrate. I hunch down and secure my axe ice on its floor. I start to pull out my first flag, the Portuguese and Canada flags. I have sewn them together and realize the wind is blowing it like an out of control boat sail. Another climber sees me struggle and helps me hold an end, while Andrey, takes a picture. I know that it will not be possible to take pics of all my flags: the Language Marketplace flag, the Peaks for Change flag, CAMH, and why I climb. I will also not be able to take a pic of #JesusRocks flag and my heart tugs in sadness. However, I quickly stuff the flag into my jacket and try to hold up my ‘Julia and Ethan’ flag, for my beloved grandchildren. Unfortunately, the wind crumples it in response as Andrey snaps a quick picture for me.

Then I join the rest of the group for a group summit photo and just like that, it’s over.
It reminds me of a wedding – it takes so much time and preparation and you look forward to it with great anticipation, then it’s over so quickly. And today, there is no time to savor the moment.
It’s time to move on. Others are waiting to take our place and want us to move along.

However, I do have time to take a deep breath and look around in a 360 degree motion and memorize the true beauty that scourged us below. Peaks adoring the horizon around us, like a crown, as we stand on the top of Europe. Thank you God for allowing me to see this; to have this moment. Your mountain tops are truly awesome and You brought me here safely.

As we start our decent from the peak I feel disappointed I was not able to take more pictures and fly all my flags in celebration. But the goal of my trip was realized. I summited Mount Elbrus. Another successful climb and a resounding exclamation to the world that the stigma of mental health must change. That brings a smile. Now comes a well needed rest with my family before starting to prepare for Antarctica.

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How did it go? Mount Rainier Emmons route training seminar

“How did it go?”

This was the question I got asked over and over again, and I can’t blame my co-workers and family and friends.

“My training session was ok.” That is my short answer.

However, I learned quite a bit. I learned for example that I can totally sleep in a tent, on a snowy and icy surface and on a regular dirt ground surface. I can share a tent with two other women. I am aware that this would not stand out as the most important learning experience to the average person, however for someone as myself whom had never camped before, it was a great discovery to realize I can do this.

I also learned that even though I have enjoyed in the past other “women only camps” and learning environments, I did not enjoy this one as much.

Perhaps in the past I was only there to have fun, with other members of my gender, such as surfing in Costa Rica and Mexico.

Or perhaps I felt an unfairness of having someone’s backpack lighten, to make their climb easier, when I was carrying more than half of my own body weight.

Perhaps I was too anxious to learn and at the same time not hurt my recently broken ribs.

Whatever the reason, I was disappointed by my lack of enthusiasm … the lack of excitement I expected to feel training with a large group of women … where was the ‘women power’ that I expected to feel?

When I ran, I ran alone. The months I spent training I have trained alone. Having to accommodate the pace of getting ready to go, when others were incredibly slow and continue our journey and climb, at various different paces, was tiring and un-motivating for me.

I also felt a lack of trust with my fellow participants. I have always been a self-reliant person and trust with me needs to be earned. To be roped, connected, with complete strangers caused me some anxiety.

On a more positive note, I did learn that my boots were great and appropriate. My feet were always warm and I have no blisters, which I cannot say the same for some of my fellow group members. I learned that I can be warm and keep warm and valued the lectures of our trained guides. I learned to walk with crampons and to tighten them on properly.

I learned to use my ice axe! 🙂

I learned that what had occupied much of my previous anxiety at home, going to the bathroom – is actually a walk in the park. (A) if you need to pee, simply pull your pants down and (B), if number two is required, then you follow whatever protocols of the mountain you are climbing.

So, despite feeling and finding many shortcomings during this seminar, I was able to marvel at the beauty of one of many Gods creations – Mountains! Wow—the majesty!

And, another treasured memory, was listening to the silence and admiring the unobstructed views that extended for miles. Absolutely amazing …

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What can hinder a skills preparation climbing session? Qu’est ce qui peut vous empêcher de suivre une formation d’escalade de préparation?

(Le français suit)

Many things I suppose, but certainly slipping in the bathtub while taking a shower in your hotel room, and slamming your right side of your ribcage against the bathtub can be a problem.

Yup, especially if during impact you feel the air sucked out of your lungs. I can tell you that this is not a good thing!

That is what happened to me this past weekend. Results = 3 broken ribs.

Saturday morning finding it hard to breath from previously falling while taking a shower in my hotel room, I went to the front desk and I was able to get a bottle of Advil. I knew I had to be on-site for training at 8:45am and I took two Advils, then shortly after another two…. But the intense pain was still a little distracting.

I entered the address that had been provided to me for the location of the training incomplete on my car’s navigation system – which then led me to the opposite direction of where I had to be.

I was then about 30 minutes late for the first day of training with my fellow climbers for the Carstensz Pyramid summit. Not good.

I then mentioned to our guide when he came to get me at the parking lot that I had hurt my ribs taking a shower. I know he could not believe how dumb I was, even if he did not say it, and he sternly reminded me I needed to be careful now, especially so close to our trip.

I agreed and then the paramedic in him looked at my ribs, but I assured him it was really nothing, they were just bruised probably and I already had taken some Advil. I would be fine. I was fine I assured him. So he took my word for it – and in all fairness, I believed whole heartily myself that I was fine.

I am a confident and a strong person and he would have no reason to doubt me. We had a whole day of training ahead of us.

I was trying to feel my confident normal self, while every breath I was taking was hurting on the right side. So I took another Advil. I am at five now, in the span of a couple of hours.

We went out to rock climb and left our backpacks at the bottom of one of the rock faces. I had fun at moments, I learned the best I could and I even challenged myself while blocking sharp pain. I was on-site to learn and train.

However by about 3:00pm when we came back to where we started, I was desperate for my Advil bottle, which I hungrily swallowed two and then a few minutes later another two. Within another thirty minutes I once again felt like I could manage the rest of the training and I was confident that the pain in my lungs and ribs was only bruising. I thought several times that when I got back home to Georgetown, I would go to my local hospital just to make sure my ribs were ok.

However it was not to happen.

At the end of the day when I reached my hotel room, breathing was harder and more painful and I started crying alone in fear. Well – NEVER cry when you have broken ribs… It makes it worse!

I texted my friend and our guide Emmanuel:

“Hey, Emmanuel it hurts when I breathe… I am scared’

He answers back:

‘It will hurt to breath you bruised your ribs…’

‘But I doubt they are broken or you wouldn’t move’

‘You can numb it with ice a little’

‘Try putting a tenser bandage’ – ok when I read this text, I thought to myself – but of course – if I had my first aid supplies with me, which I was suppose to pack and didn’t.  And I cried more.

Mercifully Emmanuel called me and I don’t know if it was my crying or perhaps he heard in my voice how scared I was, but certainly his medical training kicked in and he proceeded to calm me down over the phone, and then decided to come to my hotel room and drive me to a local hospital.

I was given a lecture though on of how I should have said my ribs where hurting, the numerous time I was asked if I was ok. I apologized profusely and honestly. But in my defence, I truly believed during the day I was ok and my ribs were only bruised and this skill training was important.

When we were told in the hospital that I had 3 broken ribs I was not surprised. Emmanuel was.

I have a high level of pain tolerance threshold and when I want to accomplish something, I like to believe I am strong, I just don’t see another option than just to move forward.

I have spent months training for both Mt Rainier and to climb Carstensz Pyramid. This training was important to me.

When Emmanuel said I could not climb Mt Rainier as I had 3 broken ribs, I felt all the air being sucked out of me. The anguish I felt in my heart was greater than the pain on my ribs. I have to – was my response, in between childlike sobs, which I think it should have scared him a bit, in retrospect. I have made a mental note to try to not cry again in front of my guide.

I have to be mountain ready! I have to, that is my determination.

I will rest and I will follow my Doctors orders and I have enlisted the help and support of my family. But on July 10, I am hoping Dr Downey says I can go and climb Mt Rainier, for my Denali Prep Course. Then when I return I plan to continue training for the Carstensz Pyramid climb in the Fall.

I will be careful, attentive and I am going to switch to stand up showers only.

Bathtubs are dangerous!  🙂

_______

Qu’est ce qui peut vous empêcher de suivre une formation d’escalade en préparation de l’ascension de la Pyramide de Carstensz?

Plusieurs choses je pense, mais le fait de glisser dans la baignoire de l’hôtel alors que vous prenez une douche, puis de vous cogner le côté droit de la cage thoracique contre la baignoire, posera certainement un problème.

En particulier si lors du choc, vous expirez l’air de vos poumons. Je peux vous assurer que ce n’est pas agréable!

C’est ce qui m’est arrivé au cours de la fin de semaine du 10-11 juin. Résultat : trois côtes cassées.

Samedi matin, je respirais difficilement à la suite de ma chute alors que je me douchais à l’hôtel. Je me suis rendue à la réception pour me procurer un flacon d’Advil. Je savais que je devais être sur le site à 8 h 45 pour suivre la formation; j’ai donc pris deux Advil, puis encore deux peu de temps après… Mais la douleur intense me dérangeait toujours.

Dans le système de navigation de ma voiture, j’ai entré l’adresse incomplète du lieu de formation que l’on m’avait fournie, ce qui m’a conduite dans la direction opposée.

Je suis donc arrivée avec environ 30 minutes de retard à la première journée de formation avec mes compagnons de cordée pour l’ascension de la Pyramide de Carstensz. Mauvais début.

Lorsque notre guide est venu me chercher au stationnement, je lui ai dit que je m’étais blessée aux côtes en prenant une douche. Je sais qu’il ne pouvait pas croire que je pouvais être aussi stupide, même s’il ne l’a pas dit. Il m’a fortement rappelée que je devais maintenant être prudente, en particulier à l’approche de notre expédition.

J’ai acquiescé, puis il a regardé mes côtes. Je lui ai assuré que ce n’était vraiment rien, qu’elles étaient sans doute juste couvertes de bleus et que j’avais déjà pris des Advil. Ça irait bien. Je lui ai affirmé que ça allait. Il m’a donc cru. En toute franchise, je croyais que j’allais tout à fait bien.

Je suis quelqu’un de confiant et de fort, et il n’avait aucune raison de douter de moi. Nous avions une journée entière de formation qui nous attendait.

J’essayais d’être dans mon état de confiance normal, même si mon côté droit me faisait souffrir à chaque inspiration. J’ai donc pris un autre Advil. En l’espace de quelques heures, j’en suis rendue à cinq.

Nous sommes allés faire de l’escalade sur rocher et avons laissés nos sacs à dos au pied de l’une des parois. J’ai aimé par moments, j’ai appris du mieux que je pouvais et me suis même lancée un défi tout en ignorant la douleur aiguë. J’étais ici pour apprendre et me préparer.

Cependant, vers 15 h, lorsque nous sommes revenus à notre point de départ, il était urgent que je prenne des Advil. J’en ai avalé deux immédiatement, puis deux autres quelques minutes plus tard. Trente minutes après, j’ai pensé que je pourrais profiter du reste de la formation et j’étais certaine que la douleur aux poumons et sur mes côtes n’était due qu’aux hématomes. J’ai à plusieurs reprises pensé qu’une fois de retour à Georgetown, j’irai à l’hôpital simplement pour m’assurer que tout allait bien.

Cependant, cela ne devait pas arriver.

À la fin de la journée, lorsque j’ai regagné ma chambre à l’hôtel, je respirais difficilement et je ressentais des douleurs. Je me suis mise à pleurer de peur. En fait, ne pleurez JAMAIS lorsque vous avez des côtes cassées; c’est pire!

J’ai envoyé un message texte à mon ami Emmanuel, qui était aussi notre guide :

« Salut Emmanuel, j’ai mal lorsque je respire… J’ai peur »

Il me répond :

« Ce sera douloureux de respirer. Tu t’es blessée aux côtes…

Mais je doute qu’elles soient cassées, sinon tu ne pourrais pas bouger.

Tu peux calmer la douleur en mettant de la glace.

Essaye de mettre un bandage serré » Très bien, en lisant ce texte, j’ai pensé que, bien entendu, si seulement j’avais ma trousse de premiers soins, que j’étais censée avoir dans mon sac et que je n’avais pas. Et j’ai pleuré encore plus.

Par chance, Emmanuel m’a appelée, et je ne sais pas si je pleurais toujours ou s’il a entendu dans ma voix que j’avais peur, mais certainement que ses compétences médicales ont pris le dessus. Il a commencé par me calmer au téléphone avant de venir à mon hôtel pour me conduire dans un hôpital local.

On m’a fait la leçon sur le fait que j’aurais dû dire que j’avais mal aux côtes, le nombre de fois où l’on m’a demandé si j’allais bien. Je me suis profondément excusée. Cependant, pour ma défense, j’ai vraiment cru que j’allais bien au cours de la journée et que je n’avais que des bleus. Et cette formation était importante.

Lorsqu’à l’hôpital on nous a annoncé que j’avais trois côtes cassées, je n’ai pas été surprise. Emmanuel l’a été.

Mon seuil de tolérance à la douleur est élevé et lorsque je veux accomplir quelque chose, j’aime penser que je suis résistante; je n’envisage rien d’autre que d’avancer.

J’ai passé des mois à m’entraîner pour l’ascension du Mont Rainier et de la Pyramide de Carstensz. C’était une formation importante pour moi.

Quand Emmanuel m’a dit que je ne pourrais pas faire l’ascension du Mont Rainier à cause de mes trois côtes cassées, je me suis sentie étouffer. Le pincement au cœur était plus douloureux que mes côtes. Entrecoupée de sanglots, ma réponse fut « Je dois y aller », ce qui, j’imagine, a dû l’effrayer un peu, quand j’y repense. Mentalement, je me suis promis de me souvenir de ne pas pleurer devant mon guide.

Je dois être prête pour la montagne! Je le dois et j’y suis déterminée.

Je vais me reposer et suivre les prescriptions de mon médecin. J’ai également demandé le soutien de ma famille. J’espère cependant que le 10 juillet, le docteur Downey me dira que je peux faire l’ascension du Mont Rainier, ma préparation pour l’ascension du Denali. Lorsque je rentrerai, je prévois de poursuivre ma formation pour l’ascension de la Pyramide de Carstensz en automne.

Je serai prudente et attentive, et je vais adopter les douches, les baignoires étant dangereuses! 🙂

Ema

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Old Ad for Expeditions to the Antarctic sparks my interest.

Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton was born in Ireland and between February 15, 1874 to January 5, 1922, he led three British expeditions to the Antarctic.

Mountaineering has held the allure of men for centuries. But of course, also for women!

For example, Elizabeth Hawkins-Whiteshed (1860 – 27 July 1934), also known as Mrs Aubrey Le Blond, or as Lizzie Le Bond as she was known to her climbing friends, was a British pioneer of mountaineering in a time when it was almost unheard of for a woman to climb mountains.

Elizabeth moved to Switzerland, where she climbed mountains in her skirt. In 1907, she took the lead in forming the Ladies’ Alpine Club and became its first president. She wrote seven books on mountain climbing and over her lifetime made twenty first ascents, conquering peaks that no one had climbed before.‘ *

Well, I am not going to be climbing in any of my skirts, however I am looking forward to my first ascents this Summer and Fall. I can only hope to follow in the steps of many brave women that precede me.

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Hawkins-Whitshed
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