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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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Mount Elbrus Russia Climb Part 1 – The first few days

First few days…

I left Toronto on Friday July 20th early in the evening. That was day 1 and a necessary part of this adventure – long flights! I arrived at Moscow Airport late on Saturday afternoon, July 21st and instantly marveled at the sight of Russia. It didn’t look at all like it’s portrayed in the movies. It just looks like any other country. Clearly, the stereo type is not very correct. Incorrect stereotypes; hmm … where have I heard that concern before?

Having said that, the people DO seem different. They don’t smile a lot. They are polite and do their jobs, but there are no smiles offered.

As I met the group, I was relieved that everyone seems nice. Another part of this adventure – you have to make friends with and rely on all sorts of people. I am happy to see two other females in the group in addition to our guide Carole. She and her husband Vern are highly experienced and rank among the best in the mountaineering circles. Yet they exude politeness and happiness – like they really like their jobs.

The hotel is OK. It has a bed and a bathroom – just a functional space. No smiles here either.

Day 3. Sunday July 22nd. Heavy sigh. The jet-lag is affecting me. I had a very hard time sleeping beyond the hour I slept around 11:30pm local time. I fell asleep again around 3:30am, but it was not deep, just resting in a semi aware state.

Still, I was excited to be here. I am actually in Russia! The day was spent touring Moscow: Red Square, the Kremlin and the cemetery where politicians and famous Russian socialites are buried. I found the tombstones fascinating and disturbing, as well as quite pretentious. Statues serve as headstones for the deceased, for example Boris Yeltsin’s is an abstract piece of art.

The architecture is wonderful and fascinating. The details that show Persian, Portuguese and even Spanish influences were wonderful to see. The city is extremely clean, perhaps the cleanest city I have ever visited. Certainly, Moscow puts to shame the dirty, smelling streets of New York City.

I enjoyed seeing the changing of the guard, an English monarchy influence.

Still, the lack of smiles of Russian residents is something that I kept noticing. There was an emptiness to it. Though never rude to anyone, their presence is never inviting, warm or happy. It seems strange to me …

We believe that if one smiles to another person, and are polite and cheerful, it will evoke similar feelings in return. Not here. I have tried, but to no avail. No response. None.

Our team of fellow climbers seem like a wonderful group and we have been easily bonding. Our #AlpineAscents guides, Carole and Vern, are not only professional, but warm, caring and so far excellent hosts and guides. They share not only their guidance and leadership, but their own friendship and love for mountaineering.

I was privileged to learn from Carole that she and Vern actually got married on the summit of Vinson Massif in Antarctica. Vern proposed on their way to the summit, as they both were climbing alone, roped together, him shouting down to her – “So, do you want to get married?” and Carole simply answering back, “Sure!” Vern is not a man that waits to get things done. He saw another guide on his way down from the summit, guiding a client, that he knew was licensed to officiate marriages. On the spot he asked if he could marry him and Carole.

And so it was, with the other client in tow, the officiant guide turned around and married Vern and Carole at the top of the Summit. Both bride and groom wearing climate warming outfits and with routes and carrabiners hanging from their harnesses. Now THAT was a mountain top marriage! Haha.

That was a decade ago. However, as Carole told me the story, I can see in her eyes the love and romance of the gesture her husband made. Not many people can say they got proposed to and married in Antarctica and on the highest mountain of that continent! #Priceless.

For what would be our day 4, again, I managed to sleep only an hour and then around 1:30am I am wide awake. Not a problem if I didn’t have to wake up at 5:00am, shower, and get ready to get myself checked out to be ready in the hotel lobby at 5:50am, so we could head out to the airport. Some how I made it.
We were finally headed to Mineralyne Vody, on our way to Elbrus. The highest peak of Europe.

The flight was about 2 hours and then we a had a bus ride of over 3 ahead of us. Shortly after we landed, my first real test and my fear of huge bags and weight was presented to me. “Ok team!” Vern states. “We have about a kilometer to walk over to where our ride is. Put your duffels on your back and carry your backpacks on the front.” Easy. No really Ema, easy. I was trying to talk myself into it. I was quite nervous. There were 12 other team mates, 10 of them guys and let’s be realistic, even cutting down, my duffel still weighed 55 pounds! Fortunately, one of the guys helped me just with securing one of the straps as it slid down my arm. I walked awkwardly – mainly because the duffel bag was ¾ of my size – the weight did not bother me very much. ‘I can do this’, I kept silently telling myself. After about 100 meters we arrived at our location. I was happy! Phew. Test one – check.

After a few minutes we stopped for lunch and the group had chicken, lamb and beef. Myself, I had some salad, grilled vegetables, fresh bread with butter and tea. I learned that this part of Russia enjoys lots of Persian influences and the restaurant where we ate lunch reflected it.

After a 3 hour bus ride, we arrived in Tersol, which is at the base of Mt Elbrus. Here we are at last. The lodge where we stayed, was not luxurious, but clean and we were the only residents. There are 15 of us in total. Vern and Carole introduce us to two Angelas, who would be taking care of us during our stay.

The following day, which is day 5 in the itinerary, was our first acclimatization day. We hiked for about 5 to 6 hours. We hike up tall grass and a steep hill towards the Observatory.

It was on this first day that Vern and Carole taught us about pressure breathing. Some of my teammates seemed to have theirs already down pat, but I am always out of breath. When I had learned it in Mt Rainier, I found it complicated and it made me light headed and actually short of breath more. Breathing should not be complicated. And it isn’t. Their method was to blow the stale air out of your lungs, by filling your mouth with air until you get cheeks like a chipmunk and blow it out like to are exasperated with someone. Bingo! Feels great.

On day 6 we climbed a different side of the valley. We went very close to the Georgian border and the majority of my team joke about crossing the border illegally- like the fact we were all going to attempt to climb Elbrus was not dangerous enough! We still needed the prospect of getting shot or detained either by Georgian authorities or the Russia police to be added in to the mix?! Fortunately, no casualties to report.

Each day we climbed up to more than 10,000 feet in altitude. We also learned to pace ourselves and I kept practicing my new breathing technique.
Both days we saw Mount Elbrus towering over the valley. Spectacular sight.

Day 7. We repack our duffel bags, leave what is not necessary in the mountain in our second small duffle bag, and lock it. It will be stored for us in a room, and will await our descent from the mountain.

We load our duffel bags, our backpacks and 40 litres of water – 4 bottles of 5 litres each per climber. From the van, which brings us to the tram, we go up to the last stop. Its official, there is no turning back and I am nervous. Again.

Basecamp at Mount Elbrus is a dirty place. Let me explain. There is garbage everywhere, the toilets are 3 walls and a door and a hole in the bottom, which means that each time anyone goes to use the ‘facilities’, urine and feces just free fall in the air and lands on rocks that lie underneath. Yuck.

Our accommodation is one of the nicer ones. Inside accommodation was hostel style – 8 of us shared one room, with 4 pairs of bunk beds. The staff was always washing the floors and our hiking boots were always contained to a designated area. But it is hard to clean inside, when no one cleans outside.

We were not there for a vacation and I set aside my dismissal of my surroundings and concentrate on training as directed. Vern and Carole don’t let us waste any time and right after lunch we go on a short hike on the glacier. They take the opportunity to teach us hiking roped as a group, as a review. Even though we would not be roped into to each other on summit day, this exercise is great to practice.

On day seven we take a longer hike, in altitude. We climb up to the
Pastukhov rocks area, even though on summit day, we take a ‘Cat’ up to this point and start our accent here. We use our crampons for the first time, get them properly fitted to our boots and I was pleased that Vern helped fit mine flawlessly, his experienced hands helping me with a couple of adjustments (stretching and bending). They now fit my #SportivaSpantik boots like a glove! Thank you Vern.

Our altitude gain was about 15,000 feet.

Later in the afternoon, we review the intricacies of anchor building. There are crevasses on the glacier and being armed with more knowledge and skills is nothing but a benefit.

Day 8. July 28th. This is supposed to be a rest day, as the following day we will attempt to summit the tallest Peak in Europe. However, we are athletes. We can’t just laze around all day and we need to practice our ice axe skills. Self confidence and readiness for emergencies, in case of an accidental fall or slip is crucial.

Therefore, we spend a couple of hours in the morning practicing just that. We replicate, on purpose, several ways we can fall and how to use our iced axe, to stop us from sliding down the glacier from the possible reach of our teammates. This is a potential life saving maneuver. Very important.

Although we did not anticipate traversing over any crevasses during our summit accent, Vern and Carole generously set up a couple of stations for self-extraction out of a crevasse, so we can refresh the theory and practice the skill, for other mountains. Learning from the man that currently holds the title of 70 Summits, meaning, he has climbed all 7 Summits, 10 times each, is a privilege and treat.

And we are then instructed to rest for the next day.

Rest is not easy. Several of our teammates are suffering from intestinal problems and lots of trips to the “facilities” are necessary. We all worry about what we are eating. The last thing we need on Summit day is to need to run to the bathroom with diarrhea or vomiting.

And as is the normal routine, we each take turns for privacy during the afternoon and put on our Summit day clothes we have packed for the occasion, and get our backpacks ready. The time has come. Here we go …

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Create a World in which everyone believes life is worth living.

Create a World in which everyone believes life is worth living.

These powerful words where part of the last sentence Mr Chown, the Director of Events for CAMH wrote in a thank you letter addressed to Peaks for Change in reference to our fundraising gala event we had on April 27 2018.

As I prepare to leave to Russia to climb Mt Elbrus, these words are hitting hard at home : ‘ A world in which everyone believes life is worth living.’ As I think of my Mom, Susan’s son Reid, and all those that just recently did not believe their life was worth living.

Yesterday, I had been speaking to my insurance advisor for our company benefits at Language Marketplace, and she mentioned that insurance companies have seen a rise in claims for anti-depression medications.

Are we as a society becoming more hopeless as we isolate ourselves more and more behind our social media profiles?

How can we tell if our friend, family member or neighbor is debating if ‘life is worth living’?

Openness. Understanding . Speaking out. Listening. Seeking help. That is what we all have to do when we feel or someone else is feeling that life is not worth living.

And this is the aspiration I will take with me as I try to summit Mt Elbrus in a few days. One step at a time. Together, we can ‘create a World in which everyone believes life is worth living’.

Ema Dantas

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Carstensz Pyramid Climb Part 5 –The Waiting Game!

(Click here to read previous Part 4) (Click here to read Part 1)

The following morning after our summit of Carstensz Pyramid, it was reported to Raymond that the weather in Timika was bad and there would be no helicopter that day.

I had woken with my face noticeably swollen and my left side, in my kidney area, painful to the slightest touch. I was desperate to leave the mountain.

But I accepted that tomorrow we would hopefully be leaving. I could manage for another day I told myself.

I texted Steve to let him know, as well as my family. However, when he responded that he read that a group took 6 days to get off the mountain, I silently started to panic. I was worried about my health and started to feel trapped. “What if I had to wait for a week?” “What if I started to get very ill?” I felt powerless and I didn’t know what to do. There was nothing I could do but wait.

Meanwhile, we had decided to move from our basecamp to the other basecamp (Yellow Valley), so we would a) be with Philippe, our other teammate and b) we would be on site when the helicopter came. Also, it would be less challenging for the pilot to only have to make one stop.  The pilot was new, as the 3-month switch over had just occurred. Raymond wanted to spare us his worries, but we later found out first hand how inexperienced the new pilot was.

The following day, the weather in Timika was reportedly good, however, we waited for 3 hours for the clouds to clear in Carstensz. They did not. All helicopter rides were cancelled at 9:30 am and I was crushed. We had summited two days ago and we were still waiting. I turned on my InReach GSP and sent a quick text to Steve and my family: “Weather bad. No helicopter. I am OK. Turning GSP off.  Little battery. Love you.” I turn the InReach off because we couldn’t recharge our devices since we hadn’t had enough sun to charge them.  I felt stranded.

Emmanuel had started monitoring my water intake the day before and had me on antibiotics, but my hands were very swollen, my face was swollen, and my left kidney was screaming in pain. He had borrowed the satellite phone from our local guides and had called a Toronto hospital and asked for additional advice on how to treat me. I felt like a nuisance, alone and sick. I tried not to cry but I did. I am the only female in the entire camp and I am crying – for some reason crying made me feel even worse.

However, my teammates don’t judge me, actually, they were all very attentive and even taught me how to play poker and presidents. We played many card games to pass the time since we were essentially trapped. We also listened to music and were surprised that Philippe had an amazing music collection on his phone!

As I lay in the general tent the second day, inside my sleeping bag, the guys relaxed by taking turns playing various card games. Suddenly, we heard a commotion outside. But it’s nothing of consequence. Fifteen volunteers from Freeport Mine have arrived at basecamp to clean up the garbage. They secured the bags together and afterward the helicopter, from the mine, would do a flyby and pick up the bags. It’s a volunteer group of workers. Heavy sigh.  I silently wished they had come to rescue me.

Emmanuel went outside to talk to them. Unknowingly to me at that point, it seemed that morning I looked really bad – perhaps as bad as I felt, and my teammates were worried. I should have figured it out when Emmanuel called Toronto from the base camp. He also had moved me from my private tent into the main group tent, where he, Adam and JP had slept the previous night. Manu had said it was easier to keep an eye on me there. So, JP took my tent and I took JP’s spot. I was grateful to be monitored.

He spoke with the leader of the volunteer group and explained he had a Canadian client who was very ill. Together they determined that if our helicopter did not come the next day, I would activate my SOS button on my InReach GPS device, which then, in turn, would be picked up in Jakarta, and then sent to Freeport Mine. I would be picked up by mine emergency personnel, taken to the mines medical facility and accessed by their medical team. I would then be transferred to Timika, depending on my situation, either by air or car. Well, I am thank-full for my Canadian passport and also for Manu’s ex-girlfriend! Some name dropping to the pit mine leader helped immensely!

Freeport Mine operates the Grasberg Mine in Papua, near Puncak Jaya, Carstensz Pyramid. Freeport Mine employs 30,000 local Indonesians.  It is the largest gold mine and the second largest copper mine in the world. Thus, their resources for dealing with medical emergencies was well established. For that, I was pleased!

At the end of the day Juan brings us our dinner, but it is very little. Juan apologizes, and we tell him not to worry. Juan sounds and seems sick. When we ask him if he is okay, he smiles and assures us that he his, but one look at him and we all could see he was ill. O dear, not another one…The small amount of food doesn’t bother us; no one feels like eating anyway. We just want to get out of the mountain. Fortunately, we didn’t know, but we had run out of food as well.

That evening, Raymond came into our common tent and said that Denny had messaged him to say the next day’s weather forecast looked good in Timika and hopefully the mountain would be clear as well. Flight time down the mountain is 30 minutes.

Denny had given instructions that the first 3 off the mountain would be me, JP and Philippe. The second team to come off the mountain would be Adam, Manu and Hata. Then followed by Raymond and Juan on another flight.

As Raymond spoke those words, I saw Adams’ heart drop. He was as desperate as I was to get out of basecamp. The only difference between us was that I was puffed up like a balloon! Plus I had signs of severe edema in my lower legs and feet, hands and face.

Manu hesitated and then told Raymond that he might need to change the plan, depending on my condition, as he or Adam would need to go with me to a private hospital.  He was adamant that he would not leave any client behind, so it would have to be Adam. That had been the original plan.

Then it was Philippe’s turn to worry. Adam jokingly commented to Emmanuel, how easy it was to get him off the flight.  Manu answered firmly, “Well, I can’t play favoritism”.

I realized then how hard the past few days had been for him. He is Adam’s good friend and a fellow paramedic but now was his guide. He is my friend and fellow board member, but now my guide and I was his sick client.

Emmanuel asked for Raymond’s reassurance regarding the next day’s weather, and as Raymond got up from his seat, as he was exiting the tent, said, “Well Eman, you better pray to God the weather is good tomorrow, and pray hard!”

I woke up in the middle of the night to use the washroom. Outside the sky above is clear and the stars are bright. I knew this meant nothing, as in the morning clouds could move in quickly. I had been begging Jesus to provide help; to bring the helicopter. And not just begging- crying, pleading, praying, over and over. I simply wanted to close my eyes and hear my husband’s voice. I wanted to be home with him and my family more deeply than I can ever remember. Please, Lord …

As I lay down again, Emmanuel stirs from his sleeping bag and asks me how the weather looked outside. I told him it was clear and he replied, “Good, I had been wanting to check, but I was just too afraid”.

As morning approaches I can’t stop myself from pleading more and begging Jesus in my head. “Please”, “please”, “please” I repeated the word like a mantra.

Then it becomes official that the helicopter will take off from Timika, with 3 passengers from Alpine Accents that had been waiting to come up to base-camp to climb. And myself, JP and Philippe would go back down. Raymond said the helicopter would arrive in 20 minutes. We packed up in 5. The sense of relief was overwhelming. At last, I was going home.

The helicopter arrived at about 6:30 am. We were ready to go, more than ready!  As the helicopter landed, three guys, who dressed and looked like they all belonged in a GQ magazine, came out and immediately turned their gaze up to Carstensz. As soon as I got over the fact that they looked like models, it occurred to me that they were in shorts and t-shirts, and it was at least minus 10 at base-camp! They were in for a rude awakening! I was wearing three layers of clothing and my Gortex jacket over them. I had slept with long johns and two layers of clothing and two hot water bottles. I shook my head.  I noticed an expensive camera around one of the guy’s necks and his gaze transfixed on the beautiful Carstensz Pyramid. Suddenly it occurred to me, yes, it was indeed a beautiful mountain. But now I was desperate to get away from it as quickly as possible.

I was delighted and relieved to finally be sitting in the helicopter. Then I realized that our pilot was very nervous. It was the co-pilot that gave instructions to the pilot on speed, how to turn around, so I assumed he was an instructor.  Philippe had commented that the pilot that brought him and Hata up, was nervous and was constantly asking for oxygen. We had the same pilot. Philippe was right. This new pilot was visibly anxious. For some reason, I didn’t care.  I was going home.

The view during the ride was amazing. We got to see the mountains and the Freeport Mine. The sky was blue and we were surrounded by soft white clouds.

Yes, the Chinese guys, back at the airport 11 days ago had been right. Why trek, when you can fly?! But I must say, the waiting game for the helicopter and dependence on the ever-changing weather, can be more maddening and demoralizing then trekking in deep mud. At least trekking you are doing something, moving and feel somewhat in control!

Sitting in basecamp, cold, hungry, and very ill, after a successful summit can crush you. It crushed me … and my spirit. I felt vacuum empty of hope.

This particular pilot did not like flying… and he couldn’t drive much better. For unknown reasons when we landed in Timika, the pilot decided to chauffeur us to the terminal and made the car driver walk across the tarmac. The pilot was wasting time. So much, that he was only able to do one more trip and drop off 3 more climbers, and pick up Emmanuel, Adam, and Hata.  By the time they returned to Timika, the weather in Carstensz had turned and no more flights were attempted.

Climbers waiting to go up remained in Timika and those waiting to come down, remained in Carstensz, stranded. I worried about Juan and Raymond.

Denny booked a flight for the five of us the same afternoon (1:00 pm) to return to Denpasar, Bali.

We arrived in Bali, on October 15th,2017 around 6:00 pm and checked again into the Ramada, our groups’ hotel and had a celebratory dinner. It all felt surreal.

I left Bali on October 16th, 2017, on KLM, at 8:40 pm local time, headed for home, anxious to see my family and be in my own bed, next to my husband.

As I sat on the plane headed for home, my feet were pounding. I feel the pressure in my legs. I can actually feel the swelling. My hands are no longer swollen or my face, but my legs are. I need to figure this out, and see if this is due to altitude because Kilimanjaro is higher…

But, I will be with Steve, and no matter what happens, he will be with me –  help me figure things out or just be there to hold me in his arms.  And after that, only five more mountains to go!

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Carstensz Pyramid Climb Part 4 – Reaching the Summit!

Part 4 of 4 –  Reaching the Summit!!!
(Click here to read previous Part 3) (Click here to read Part 5)

(Le français suit)

“A summit is a point on a surface that is higher in elevation than all points immediately adjacent to it. “

The night is clear and we take off again from our basecamp and trek to the first rope. My stomach is nervous and my body is fighting back – and like an angry child, it chooses the worst time possible to throw a tantrum. I had to make two stops during the trek to urgently relieve myself. Some things you would rather not do while tied into the rope with a gentleman, at close quarters, on Carstensz’s rock face – but I will skip the details.

The climb is hard, but more than hard, it is long. We climb up aided by our jumars clipped into fixed ropes that have been put in place – There are two sets of ropes on some sections; one its integrity is questionable so a second was added. Each member of our group has a dedicated guide. One member, Adam, is an expert and strong rock climber; he has climbed several several rock faces with a 5.12 grade difficulty. He is assigned to Raymond, our head local guide. Raymond has climbed Carstensz more than forty times. They are the fastest duo and will be in front. Philippe is climbing with Hata, and they had started before us, since they were already at a closer basecamp. However, once Adam and Raymond catch up to them, they went ahead and took the lead as planned.  JP has been partnered with Juan and then Manu, our guide from Terra Ultima took on the challenge of guiding me up. Manu, short for Emmanuel, is my friend and colleague on our Board of Directors for the Peaks for Change Foundation. He was our expedition leader.  In his role, I must say, he was very patient and helped me diligently, as needed.  A couple of times he offered his leg as a prop for me to climb over a rock face – being short has its pitfalls! We are a team today – tied to the same rope and our safety and success requires we work as a team. I listened closely to him, as I know he was not doing this selfishly for himself to summit Carstensz, but to ensure I had the best chance of succeeding myself, as his client. He encourages me several times during our climb, stating how great I am doing and that we were making excellent time. I don’t quite believe him, but I needed to hear this and appreciated his kinds words. So I move on.

I later learned, as he was telling Adam about our climb, that he had doubts that we would summit – because of my fear of heights. Manu had a great poker face on the mountain!

During the hike up using the jumar, he had me reciting – “jumar”, “step up”, “jumar”, “step up”, “jumar”, “step up”.  Oh yeah, and he reminded me several times to breath!

When we approached the Tyrolean Traverse, I was literally terrified. Walking on a steel cable suspended thousands of feet in the air and only held by two security lines from my harness, each attached to a carabiner, I started to have a panic attack. I had promised to “communicate” this climb since breaking my three ribs during training at Mount Tremblant and climbing all day back in May without saying a word… remember? So I told Emmanuel I was having a panic attack and I could feel my throat tighten. He quickly helped me by responding with a calming tone of voice – sure helps having a Toronto Paramedic for a guide! We stopped for a moment, then he instructed me to slow down my breathing. Once I accomplished that, he gently explained how to walk on the rope and where to focus my attention and emphasized the magic words that I would not fall. He assured me I was secure on the ropes and then finally firmly told me I could do it! I wanted and needed to cross this and summit. With my heart stuck in my throat, I followed his instructions and started self talking to myself- ‘duck feet, duck feet’, and I moved one foot at a time on the steel cable. Suddenly I had completed the whole traverse!  As happy as I was, and even though I heard Emmanuel’s praises on the other end, I realized I would have to repeat it on the way back. Somehow, I cleared my mind enough to focus on the rocks and narrow path ahead.

We did stop at some point in time, I can’t quite remember exactly where, and looked around us – the view was incredible! At 16,000 feet up in the air, the sunrise was amazing and the clean crispness of the various rock faces was breathtaking. It’s amazing what God creates for us. Even through my anxiety, I could see and finally understood why mountaineers climb! It was surreal in it’s beauty…

Walking, secured on the rope, but without the jumar was easier and faster, and we were able to do this in some sections. There are two literal ‘leaps of faith’ that we are required to jump before reaching the summit – meaning you need to jump from one rock point to another with open air below. Yes, you hook a carabiner from your lanyard attached to your harness as a security onto a few fixed ropes, but let’s be honest, the rock is hard and sharp. If you miss the jump, you may not fall to the bottom, but it is going to hurt hitting your body against either rock!  I could imagine my face getting cut – and it’s not like I am not accident-prone! I am the one that broke 3 ribs on a bathtub just before a training day in Canada a few months ago! AND I have short legs and jumps are a greater challenge for me! I really, really didn’t think I could do it.

Again, my anxiety was so high, all I can remember is Emmanuel telling me to breathe. “Calm down Ema!”. He went first. He explained to me what I needed to do, how I had my back-up line, and then he added that he would be there to catch me if I needed it. Even though he was working as our guide, this was his first time in Carstensz as well. I did not want to be responsible for him not reaching the summit because he got assigned to me. This thought motivated me. So, I followed his instructions that he was repeating from the other side, and just when my hand was falling short of reaching the last handhold on the rock, he grabbed my hand, and pulled me up. Phew – he caught me! Ditto for the second gap. Talk about feeling like your life is in someone else’s hands!

Suddenly came music to our ears… our colleagues’ ecstatic screams of happiness at reaching the top of Carstensz Pyramid!  We cheered with them! They were at the summit point. The sky was blue, but clouds were moving fast towards the mountain. This is a daily occurrence and predictable weather pattern; its why we start so early. The summit point still seemed far for us. But a few minutes later, as Adam and Raymond start descending, Adam assures us we are only minutes away! Climbing and descending Carstensz is rope dependant and only one person can pass on a rope at each point, and we were eight in our group, therefore Raymond did not want to waste time hanging around the Summit point.

We continued excitedly and as we see Filipe waiting for the others, just a few feet down from the summit point, we pushed up and reached the Summit ourselves. I cried. Emmanuel screamed in happiness, and laughed – and Hata and Juan still on the summit point, helped us take many pictures. Juan captured our arrival to the summit point on video, which he sent to me. And the reason I am so glad he did is because in all honesty, it was all quite a blur. All I remember is being there. And being elated.  It was real; I had climbed my first mountain.

I fumbled with my InReach GSP device. I had it programmed with an automatic message, that would tell everyone we were on top of Carstensz. I couldn’t find it.  AHHHHHH! Emmanuel told me to breathe, relax and take 5 minutes and look. We had time. But I was shaking and I was only able to share our location, and hoped anyone following us could see we were on top of Carstensz Payramid, the highest point in Oceania. We were at the summit. We were actually at the summit. Then it was time to come down. Same route, same way. JP, guided by Juan and Philippe, guided by Hata were in front of us.

Again I listened to Emmanuel’s instructions on the two leaps of faith, because when I saw JP having difficulty with one of them, I panicked a little, but then Emmanuel said I had it! And with his help I did.

We had about 600 feet of rappels to do. We were using our ACT’s, as we normally do in Canada, even though our Indonesian guides use a figure 8 device even though it may not be so foolproof, for the type of ropes on Carstensz, it was supposedly easier. However, the ropes get so wet and therefore harden, I don’t know if it mattered. Trust me, the descent was hard.

Then it started to snow. Yup!  Snow. After the snow and I guess because we were descending in altitude, it began to rain. And I started thinking about hyperthermia, as just a few days prior to us reaching base-camp, a climber had died. The blue tarp was still in the side of the mountain, where his body had been found. “Try to think positively Ema.”  “It’s okay.” “You’ll be okay.” I try to manage my thoughts.

The rope was hard to insert into our ACT’s. Emmanuel helped me with many of mine. He would secure himself at each transfer point, get the rope on his ACT, then I would secure my line, on the transfer point, and we would secure the same rope on my ACT device. This allowed us to be faster; as soon as he was done with that rope, I would be ready to go. He always double checked our set-up. Safety was a priority.

I was getting cold and wet. We had JP and Philippe in front of us, so at each new rope section I would start to get cold as we stood still, waiting for the line to be free. I felt my body was unreasonably chilly and when I checked why, I realized my Gortex pants were not secured properly. The only thing holding them from falling down my waist was my harness. I had not secured them properly when I had needed a bathroom break earlier on the mountain and I had not realized it. I tried to secure them properly, however, it was too late – I was already wet. Ugh.

After a few rappels, I started to feel short of breath. Each time I leaned back on my harness while on the line, I felt like the air was being sucked out of me. My left side hurt. It was like someone had punched me. After trying to adjust myself on each new rappel to see if the pain would ease and breathing would be better, I finally told Emmanuel, and he immediately requested my backpack. I did not think that was the problem, but I gave it to him and he put it inside his.

Removing my backpack changed nothing. My left side continued to constrict my breathing with each rappel. But I knew I needed to move and to move fast when the rope was free. Waiting for the rope allowed me to breathe, even though I just wanted to move and get down, I suppressed my urge to ask Manu for us to go ahead of Philippe. However, he was ‘our’ guide as a group, and he was instructing and encouraging Philippe at the same time. We were a team after all, and teams work together and are there for each other. Emmanuel’s leadership impressed me. I realized Francois-Xavier had sent Terra Ultima’s best guide, for their first expedition to Carstensz Pyramid.

Finally we were on the very last rope. Emmanuel secured himself, then called out to me to come secure myself on the line next to his as we would repel side by side and get off the mountain at the same time. I was a little puzzled, but he said – “Let’s have some fun!” Then once I was ready on the second line, which we had determined was solid, we started rappelling in parallel on the rock. Wet, tired – we had been on the mountain for more than 12 hours – my friend Emmanuel said, “Ready?” I signaled yes and we did a last jump and landed off the mountain at the same time.

My first summit. I was grateful to our team, and I am indebted to my guide, Manu, as he is known at Terra Ultima.

I have become the first Portuguese woman to climb Carstensz Pyramid and summit! And yes, I did this to try to bring awareness that stigma on mental health needs to end.

I look now at the summit pictures and my face is puffy. I don’t look like myself.

We summited without a lunch break but just sipped water. We ascended and descending the mountain for 12 hours straight.

I know I became dehydrated. We had been expecting a celebratory meal when we reached the tents at Yellow Valley (the base camp close to the first rope on Carstensz), but when we arrived, we only rested briefly and made our way to our base camp. It was another 90-minute trek to my tent. I was exhausted, but was happy to be able to change into dry clothes. It was my last pair of everything. My teammates were looking concerned as they gazed at my swollen face and squinting eyes.  Something was wrong.

But we were leaving the next morning to Timika, as the helicopter was picking us up – that had been the plan.

It was not what happened.

 

« Un sommet est un point sur une surface, plus élevé que tous les points se trouvant dans son voisinage immédiat. »

La nuit est claire lorsque nous quittons encore une fois notre camp de base en direction de la première corde. Je suis stressée et mon organisme se défend, et comme un enfant énervé, c’est au pire moment qu’il pique une colère. Au cours de la marche, j’ai dû m’arrêter deux fois en urgence pour me soulager. Des choses que vous ne préféreriez pas faire encordée avec un homme sur la face rocheuse de Carstensz. Mais je vous épargnerai les détails.

Si l’ascension est difficile, elle est également longue. Nous montons aidés de nos jumars attachés aux cordes fixes qui ont été installées. Certaines portions sont équipées de deux cordes, la fiabilité de l’une étant douteuse. Chacun des membres de notre groupe a son propre guide. Adam est un grimpeur expérimenté en rocher. Il a fait l’ascension de plusieurs faces rocheuses cotées 5.12. Il appuie Raymond, notre guide chef local. Raymond a fait l’ascension de la pyramide de Carstensz plus de quarante fois. Ce sont les plus rapides, ils seront devant. Philippe grimpe avec Hata. Ils sont partis avant nous, car ils étaient déjà à un camp de base avancé. Cependant, une fois qu’Adam et Raymond les ont rattrapés, ils sont passés devant et ont donné le rythme comme prévu. JP a été associé à Juan. Enfin, Manu, notre guide de Terra Ultima, a relevé le défi de me guider jusqu’au sommet. Manu, diminutif d’Emmanuel, est mon ami et collaborateur au conseil d’administration de la Fondation Peaks for Change. Il a été notre chef d’expédition. Je dois dire qu’il a été très patient et m’a constamment aidée, quand c’était nécessaire. Plusieurs fois, il m’a aidée à l’aide de sa jambe pour franchir un passage rocheux – ne pas être grande a des inconvénients! Aujourd’hui, nous formons une équipe. Encordés ensemble, nous savons que notre sécurité et notre réussite exigent un travail d’équipe. Je l’écoute, car je sais qu’il ne fait pas l’ascension de la pyramide de Carstensz que pour lui, égoïstement, mais pour s’assurer que j’ai toutes les chances de réussir, comme cliente. Au cours de l’ascension, il m’encourage plusieurs fois en me disant que je me débrouille très bien et que nous progressons rapidement. Je ne le crois pas vraiment, mais j’ai besoin d’entendre cela et je suis reconnaissante de ses paroles réconfortantes. Je continue donc à avancer.

Plus tard, alors qu’il discute de notre ascension avec Adam, j’apprends qu’il doutait que nous irions au sommet, en raison de ma peur du vide. En montagne, Manu est vraiment impassible!

Pendant la montée au jumar, il me demande de répéter « jumar », « un pas en avant », « jumar », « un pas en avant », « jumar », « un pas en avant ». Parfaitement, et plusieurs fois, il me rappelle que je dois respirer!

Lorsque nous arrivons au passage que nous devons traverser en tyrolienne, je suis littéralement terrifiée. À l’idée de marcher sur un câble en acier, d’être suspendue à des milliers de pieds dans les airs et seulement retenue par deux longes de sécurité attachées à mon baudrier et reliées à un mousqueton, je commence à faire une crise de panique. J’avais promis de communiquer depuis que je m’étais cassée trois cotes et avais continué de grimper toute la journée en mai sans dire un mot. Tu t’en souviens? Je dis donc à Emmanuel que je fais une crise de panique et que je sens ma gorge se serrer. Il m’aide rapidement en me répondant d’une voix calme. Nous nous arrêtons un moment, puis il me dit de respirer plus lentement. Cela fait, il m’explique tranquillement comment marcher sur la corde, où porter mon attention, et me dit que je dois me répéter que je ne tomberai pas. Il m’assure que les cordes sont sécuritaires puis me dit fermement que je peux le faire! Je veux et dois traverser pour parvenir au sommet. Le cœur battant fort, je suis ses instructions et commence à me parler – « marche en canard », « marche en canard ». Je mets un pied devant l’autre sur le câble en acier. Et puis tout à coup, j’ai fait toute la traversée! Comme je suis heureuse. J’entends même Emmanuel me féliciter de l’autre côté. Je me rends alors compte que je devrai le refaire au retour. Curieusement, je parviens à me concentrer sur les rochers et les passages étroits qui nous attendent.

De temps à autre, nous nous arrêtons – je ne me souviens pas vraiment où – et je regarde autour de nous. La vue est incroyable. À 16 000 pieds dans les airs, le lever de soleil est extraordinaire et la netteté des différentes faces rocheuses est à couper le souffle. Ce que dieu a créé pour nous est extraordinaire. Même si je suis nerveuse, je comprends enfin pourquoi les alpinistes grimpent! Cette beauté est irréelle…

Marcher encordé sans jumar est plus facile et rapide; nous avons pu le faire dans certains passages. Il y a littéralement deux « sauts courageux » à effectuer avant d’atteindre le sommet, ce qui signifie que vous devez sauter d’un rocher à l’autre dans les airs. Oui, vous fixez un mousqueton de votre longe de sécurité attachée à votre baudrier sur quelques cordes présentes, mais soyons honnête, la roche est dure et tranchante. Si vous manquez votre saut, vous ne tomberez pas forcément dans le vide, mais vous vous blesserez en frappant ces rochers! Je n’imagine pas mon visage coupé, et croyez-moi, j’ai eu ma part d’accidents! Je me suis cassée trois cotes dans une baignoire! En plus, je n’ai pas de grandes jambes et sauter représente un grand défi pour moi! Je ne pense vraiment pas, mais vraiment pas pouvoir le faire.

Encore une fois, je suis très nerveuse, et tout ce dont je me souviens est qu’Emmanuel me dit de respirer. « Calme-toi, Ema! ». Il passe le premier. Il m’explique ce que je dois faire et que j’ai ma longe de sécurité, avant d’ajouter qu’il me rattrapera s’il le faut. Même s’il est notre guide, c’est également la première fois qu’il gravit ce sommet. Je ne voulais pas qu’il n’atteigne pas le sommet à cause de moi, parce qu’il était mon guide. Cela m’a motivée. Je suis donc ses instructions qu’il me répétait de l’autre côté. Et juste quand j’ai failli ne pas attraper la dernière prise sur le rocher, il a saisi ma main et m’a arrêtée. Ouf! Il m’a rattrapée! Même chose pour le second saut. C’est cela le sentiment que votre vie est entre les mains de quelqu’un!

Et puis de la musique parvient à nos oreilles. Ce sont les cris de joie de nos compagnons qui viennent d’atteindre le sommet de la pyramide de Carstensz! Nous les applaudissons. Ils sont au sommet. Le ciel est bleu, même si des nuages approchent rapidement de la montagne. Cela se produit tous les jours et est une situation météorologique prévisible; c’est pourquoi nous sommes partis tôt. Le sommet nous semble encore loin. Mais quelques minutes plus tard, alors qu’Adam et Raymond redescendent, Adam nous assure que nous ne sommes qu’à quelques minutes du sommet! Ce n’est qu’à l’aide d’une corde que l’on atteint le sommet et que l’on en redescend. Et seule une personne à la fois peut être sur la corde. Nous formons un groupe de huit. Par conséquent, comme Raymond ne voulait pas perdre de temps au sommet, lui et Adam ont commencé à redescendre.

Nous continuons tout excités et quand nous voyons Filipe attendre les autres, juste à quelques pieds sous le sommet, nous poursuivons jusqu’au sommet. Je pleure et crie. Emmanuel crie de bonheur et rit. Hata et Juan toujours au sommet nous aident à prendre de nombreuses photos. Juan immortalise notre arrivée au sommet sur vidéo qu’il m’a envoyée. Voilà pourquoi je suis si contente qu’il l’ai fait, car en toute honnêteté, c’est passé en un éclair. Tout ce dont je me souviens est d’avoir été là. Et d’avoir été remplie de joie. C’est réel, j’ai gravi mon premier sommet.

Je tiens maladroitement mon appareil InReach GSP. J’avais programmé un message automatique pour annoncer à tout le monde que nous avions atteint le sommet de la pyramide de Carstensz. Je ne le retrouve pas. AHHHHHH! Emmanuel me dit de respirer et de prendre cinq minutes pour chercher. Nous avons le temps. Mais je tremble et partage simplement l’instant. J’espère que ceux qui suivent peuvent voir que nous sommes au sommet de la pyramide de Carstensz, le plus haut sommet de l’Océanie. Nous sommes au sommet. Nous sommes bien au sommet. Puis il est temps de redescendre. Même itinéraire, mêmes mouvements. JP, guidé par Juan, et Philippe, guidé par Hata, sont devant nous.

J’écoute encore une fois les instructions d’Emmanuel au moment d’effectuer les deux sauts, car quand je vois la difficulté qu’éprouve JP lors de l’un d’eux, je panique un peu. Mais Emmanuel me dit que je l’ai fait! Et grâce à lui, j’y arrive.

Nous devons descendre environ 600 pieds en rappel. Nous utilisons nos assureurs ATC, comme cela se fait normalement au Canada, même si nos guides indonésiens utilisent un descendeur 8. Même s’il n’existe pas de méthode infaillible, pour ce type de cordes sur la pyramide de Carstensz, cela est censé être plus simple. Cependant, comme les cordes deviennent si humides et rigides, je ne sais pas si cela importe. Croyez-moi, la descente est difficile.

Puis il commence à neiger. Génial! La neige. À mesure que nous perdons de l’altitude, la neige se transforme en pluie. Je commence à penser à l’hypothermie, car seulement quelques jours avant notre arrivée au camp de base, un grimpeur est mort. La bâche bleue se trouve toujours sur la montagne, là où son corps a été trouvé. « Essaie de penser positif, Ema. C’est bon. Tout va bien se passer. » J’essaie de gérer mes émotions.

Il est difficile d’insérer la corde dans nos ATC. Emmanuel m’aide souvent. Il doit se sécuriser à chaque point de transfert, mettre la corde sur son ATC, puis je m’assure sur le point de transfert, et nous mettons la même corde sur mon ATC. Cela nous permet d’être plus rapides. Dès qu’il en aura fini avec cette corde, je serai prête à partir. Il revérifie toujours notre encordement. Priorité à la sécurité.

J’ai froid et je suis mouillée. JP et Philippe sont devant nous, donc à chaque nouveau passage de corde, j’ai froid, car nous attendons debout que la corde se libère. Je sens que j’ai excessivement froid et lorsqu’à un moment je vérifie pourquoi, je m’aperçois que mon pantalon Gortex est mal mis. La seule chose qui le retient de tomber de ma taille est mon baudrier. Je n’ai pas remarqué que je ne l’avais pas fixé correctement lors de ma pause urgente plus tôt sur la montagne. J’essaie de bien le fixer, mais trop tard, je suis déjà mouillée. Quelle horreur!

Après quelques rappels, je suis essoufflée. Sur la corde, chaque fois que je me penche en arrière dans mon baudrier, c’est comme si l’air de mes poumons est aspiré. Mon côté gauche me fait mal, comme si quelqu’un m’avait donnée un coup. Après avoir essayé de me repositionner à chaque nouveau rappel pour voir si la douleur se calmait et si je respirais mieux, je finis par le signaler à Emmanuel qui me demande immédiatement de lui donner mon sac à dos. Je ne pense pas que c’est le problème, mais je lui donne et il le met dans le sien.

Avoir retiré mon sac à dos ne change rien. Mon côté gauche continue à gêner ma respiration à chaque rappel. Mais je sais que je dois avancer et que nous devons descendre rapidement lorsque la corde est libre. Attendre que la corde se libère me permet de respirer, même si je veux simplement avancer et descendre. Je résiste à l’envie de demander à Manu que nous passions devant Philippe. Toutefois, c’est le guide de notre groupe, et il guide et encourage Philippe en même temps. Nous formons une équipe après tout, et les membres d’une équipe travaillent ensemble et sont là pour les autres. La capacité de guide d’Emmanuel m’impressionne. Je prends conscience que Francois-Xavier a envoyé le meilleur guide de Terra Ultima pour la première expédition sur la pyramide de Carstensz.

Nous atteignons finalement la toute dernière corde. Emmanuel s’assure puis me demande de venir m’assurer sur la corde à côté de la sienne, car nous descendrons en rappel côte à côte pour quitter la montagne en même temps. Je suis un peu déconcertée, mais il me dit : « Amusons-nous un peu! » Alors, dès que je suis prête sur la seconde corde, dont nous avions vérifié la résistance, nous commençons le rappel côte à côte sur le rocher. Mouillé, fatigué – nous sommes sur la montagne depuis plus de 12 heures – mon ami Emmanuel me dit : « Prête? » Je lui fais signe que oui et nous faisons un dernier saut pour quitter la montagne, en même temps.

Mon premier sommet. Je suis reconnaissante envers notre équipe et suis redevable à mon guide, Manu, connu ainsi à Terra Ultima.

Je suis devenue la première portugaise à gravir la pyramide de Carstensz et à avoir atteint le sommet! Oui, je l’ai fait pour essayer de faire prendre conscience qu’il faut arrêter cette stigmatisation de la santé mentale.

En regardant maintenant les images du sommet, je vois que mon visage est bouffi. Ce n’est pas moi.

Nous sommes parvenus au sommet sans pause casse-croûte. Nous avons bu de l’eau. Nous avons réalisé l’ascension et la descente en 12 heures.

Je sais que je me suis déshydratée. Nous nous attendons à un repas de célébration en arrivant aux tentes de Yellow Valley (le camp de base proche de la première corde sur la pyramide de Carstensz), mais une fois aux tentes, nous nous reposons brièvement avant de poursuivre en direction de notre camp de base. Une autre marche de 90 minute pour gagner ma tente. Je suis épuisée, mais contente de pouvoir mettre des habits secs. C’est ma dernière paire de tous mes vêtements. Mes compagnons sont inquiets en observant mon visage gonflé et mes yeux plissés. Quelque chose ne va pas.

Seulement, nous partons le lendemain matin vers Timika, l’hélicoptère vient nous chercher. C’est ce qui est prévu.

Ça ne se passera pas ainsi.

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