Don't know if this is too long for this forum, but here it is. I wrote this after attempting the SW face of Churup in the Cordillera Blance of Peru, August 5-8 of this year.
Im not sure when God decided to start throwing us some hints that we should not attempt another peak on this trip. Perhaps it was the last outing we had. There were multiple subtleties that could have been construed as signs. Whenever it was, we were too dumb to see them for what they were. After trying Huamashraju, and after two out of the three of us summiting Artesonraju, we were pumped for a nice technical ascent. The problem was, which one? I had had my eye on the southwest ridge of Ranrapalca ever since we had arrived in Huaraz, back in mid July. That beautifully sculpted arete swept down out of the sky, beckoning me to climb every time I went out on the Hostal roof. It was like the stairway to heaven. Too bad Alex and Jung did not see the same simple elegance I did in the graceful curves of the ridge. Too bad they didnt see the technical possibilities in the rock bands that broke the sweep of the snow. Too bad they didnt see the steep and exposed climbing as the ridge neared the south summit.
Jung and Alex both had this annoying habit of not knowing anything about these mountains, and leaving it up to me to decide what to do. They seemed not concerned at all about the next trip, while I poured through the information in the guidebook, desperately seeking a route that would fit our ambitions. Any suggestion of a route or plan was met either with feigned interest or outright silence.
Our first day back from Artesonraju was mainly spent sleeping. For the other two and our new found friend Jim, it was more of an issue than it was for me. They were coming off of a marathon 28 hour climb and descent from Arteson, while I just had a long trip out in the mountains. For me, food was much more of an issue than pillow and blanket. We had not calculated our caloric requirements very well, and were left dreadfully hungry after five days. In fact, were it not for the British climbers who gave us some food before they left the moraine camp, I dont think we would have had enough energy to climb that day. As it was, I went two solid days without a full meal. I am not a rotund fellow to begin with, and any loss of body weight for me is a serious affair. No, my intentions this day were not about rest at all. They were about food, plain and simple.
I scoured Huaraz that day, hungrily searching for palatable dishes to eat. Like a zombie just awakened from the grave, I had no other purpose than to eat. Eyes glazed over, I walked the streets, mumbling my mantra...must have food...must have food. I stopped at every corner candy stand and bought chips and chocolate. I ate breakfast. I ate breakfast again, I ate lunch. Somewhere in between I managed to mail the rest of my postcards, but that is lost in a haze of pollo con arroz and pizza Americano.
Later on that evening I met up with Alex and Jung, and we ate dinner at Siam De Los Andes. Naresuan told us that a group would be going bouldering out at Huanchuk the next day. I didnt know about the others, but I was psyched to pull down on some nice granite. Eventually we decided that a day of relaxing bouldering would be fun. Indeed it was fun. There was a large group there, a potpourri of climbers from around the world. We did the whole circuit there, and I was feeling good. I on sighted a problem on the first boulder that I had eyed the last time we were here. It felt good, and put me in high spirits. Alex did some work on the video, and got some really nice shots. I felt a little sorry for Jung. He wanted badly to work the harder problems, but his dislocated shoulder dampened his mood. Poor Jim was still suffering from whatever intestinal problem he acquired the night before
It was evil. That is the only way I can describe it. When Jim woke up to go into the bathroom I just rolled over in bed. A few seconds later I heard a hideous noise. At first I didnt think it was Jim. Humans dont make noises like that. It was though, because a few seconds later it came again. It was as if he were throwing up snakes. I cringed when he started to heave, covering my ears in an effort to shield them from the unholy sound. I was afraid. Out at Huanchuk the next day he lay in a pitiful ball.
One by one I ticked off some really cool problems, and worked some of my own creations, the hardest of which I could not finish. It was a session of the finest magnitude for me, and I left that day with a complete satisfaction, totally at ease and happy. We walked back down to Huaraz, cutting through the fields, and being chased by dogs. I felt like a teenager again, going home after a day of smoking pot and playing handball, not a care in the world.
Tomorrow we would leave for Churup. I couldnt believe we were going to attempt that sick looking face that we had seen two weeks ago on our first acclimatization trip. When I first suggested it to Alex he simply said, cool, lets do it. And that was that. Jung quickly followed suit, and we had our next objective. It was all very laid back. On the way back to the Hosta we stopped off at the market and loaded up on food. Much better food than last time. Canned hams and tuna fish, soup, pasta. The loads would be heavy, but we all agreed it would be worth it to have decent food on this trip. We ate another meal at Naresuans, then packed up and went to bed. I slept excellently, which I felt was a good sign. Maybe I was becoming accustomed to this whole idea of climbing big mountains.
The next hint from God came early next morning. Alex emerged from the john with a sullen look on his face.
Well boys, Im shitting water again, and there was a war in my stomach last night. Im not sure Ill be able to go.
With that Alex started packing, and Jung and I assumed it was just Alex being his typical melodramatic self. With alarming speed for the three of us, we were finished packing, and walking out of the door. My pack wasnt too bad, about forty-five pounds. We walked down the main street looking for a place to eat breakfast. The proprietor of the establishment we had chosen seemed delighted to see us, and hopped to accompany our needs. In non-Peruvian fashion, we had our huevos and pan in short order.
About two minutes after finishing breakfast Alex stood up and curtly asked for the most accessible roll of toilet paper we had. In a flash he was off to the john again. When he came back I saw the completely serious look on his face. There was no way he was going up to the mountains like this. He felt like shit. Now, I had the runs this whole time as well, but not nearly as bad as Alex. We sat around the table, pondering our options. Suddenly, all the motivation was gone, and I really just wanted to go home. I wasnt sure if the others felt the same way, but it they had suggested leaving early, I would have gladly seconded the motion. Finally we agreed that Jung and I would attempt to go up, and Alex would wait in Huaraz for us to come back. This meant going back to the Hostal and taking the gear Alex had into our packs. This was not an idea I enjoyed thinking about. My pack was heavy enough. Now Jung and I had to split the tent, Alexs third of the rack, and some extra food.
We started walking back to the Hostal, but as soon as it came in sight Alex changed his mind.
You know what, fuck this. Im not going to wait around the Hostal for four days for you guys. Im going to be sick anyway. Im gonna go up. At least I can get some video footage.
And then we were a team again. It was fairly certain Alex would not climb, but at least the three of us would all go up to the base of the south west face. Hurriedly we found a collectivo to take us up to Pitec. We were going to camp in the field at Pitec, then have a casual hike up to the moraine camp the next day. Not too ambitious. On the ride up Alexs optimism wavered on and off with the waves of nausea and diahhrea. Upon arrival at Pitec both Alex and I burst out of the collectivo to find a boulder to shit behind. Apparently, this was the final one for Alex. He had now made up his mind to go back to Huaraz. He was just too sick, and staying up here might put him in the same predicament he was in on Huamashraju.
Alex and I returned to the collectivo and we informed Jung of the decision. Jung must have thought Alex crazy, what with all this mind changing. But Jung had not had the pleasure of being afflicted with these evil intestinal denizens. Agents of the devil they were. He had had a hard time even sympathizing with us. We split Alexs gear up between us, and made an arrangement with the collectivo driver to meet us back here on Monday, at three oclock. He told us that he would be here at two, just in case we got down early. Alex caught a ride back down with him, and Jung and I set off for the camping spot I had eyed while squatting behind a boulder.
I wasnt in a particularly good mood at this point. My intestines kept grumbling. It was cold and cloudy out, and we were about to set up camp in a cow pasture. Huge brown patties decorated the field like pastry flowers on a cake. I was not happy. We set up the tent and broke out some food. Our plan was to eat the heaviest stuff tonight, so we wouldnt have to carry it up tomorrow. We nibbled on some crackers and chocolate paste, our appetizer for this evenings dinner of ramen noodle mixed with Peruvian chicken soup, and sliced canned ham. Halfway through the appetizers it started raining.
This is just great! What the hell are we doing here? Its not supposed to rain!! I said this more to the world in general than to Jung, but he just looked at me with a crooked grin. We crawled into the tent and dozed off for an afternoon siesta. A few hours later we awoke to the last rays of daylight disappearing behind the western mountains. It was still raining out!! Even harder now. This put a new light on the trip. Jung grabbed the toilet paper and headed out. When he came back I saw the look on his face and immediately knew what it was from. He had finally been afflicted with the Peruvian curse. I know, because it is the same look Alex and I had on our faces every time we came back from the bathroom. Now Jung understood why Alex did not want to be up here.
Dude, if I feel like this tomorrow morning, we are going down. Jung was sullen. Combined with the rain, it was really a gloomy situation. We fell asleep for a bit again, Im not sure how long, but it was long enough for the clouds to dissipate, and the stars to come out. We emerged from the tent and quickly prepared dinner. It was a good dinner, and the ham was the best part. More so because we abolished the weight of the can than anything else. I wasnt feeling too bad. I had gotten used to the weird feeling in my bowels, and Jungs spirits had improved with the clearing of the sky. I sat outside after dinner, smoking a cigarette.
There is something to be said for an evening smoke in situations like this. My bodies craving for food is satiated, and the whole world seemed to have stopped just for me. The sky was crystal clear, and the Milky Way was shining brightly. Not a wisp of a breeze. Occasionally, the light from a lantern would shine through one of the windows of the mud houses down in Pitec. But they were just far enough away to give this a sense of isolation. I sat there on my rock, slowly puffing my cigarette, and staring up at the sky. Some shooting stars shot through the sky, and suddenly I had that feeling back. That same feeling I had when I stared up at the Washbowl Face in the Adirondacks on that foggy dawn. The same feeling I had when Franz and I were rapelling off of Skytop in the Gunks on a February night, and I was left standing alone at the top, staring at the twinkling lights of New Paltz through the calm winter air. This is why I do this. For exactly these moments. These moments dont come when you sit in front of the tv at night. They come when I have found a sense of being in this world. When I find peace with my surroundings, and I am totally at ease with myself. Its not for the climbing that I am here, its for this feeling. It comes in a fleeting moment. I realize it, absorb it, and it is gone. It stays with me forever though, and I can picture the moments perfectly in my head.
The next morning dawned clear and bright. Its amazing how weather can completely affect the mood of any situation. We were happy, even with the evil intestinal denizens. In a short time we were packed and walking up the ridge trail to Laguna Churup. Our pace was slow, but we wanted it that way. I didnt want to expend any more energy than I had to, and we had all day to make it to the high laguna above Laguna Churup. Several van loads of tourists arrived down at the bottom of the ridge, and quickly caught up to us. Tourists, with cute little day packs. I felt as if I couldnt understand why they were here. How can you visit these mountains and not climb them? It isnt a feeling of superiority, just a weird question. They are lucky I guess. Lucky not to be afflicted with this climbing bug. The need to scale things vertical. The more verticality, the bigger the need. They must have thought we were mad. Our packs were bigger than our torsos, and we moved with the speed of an injured turtle.
There were no less than five stops for pooping on the way up to the laguna. I had quickly learned how to conserve toilet paper in the most miserly fashion. At the lake we rested a while, and nibbled on snack food. Every time we ate we thought not of the nutrition, but of the four or five ounces that were deleted from our loads. The laguna is the destination of all the tourists. For us it was only a way point to a bigger goal, and the trail from here on up had a serious feel to it. One did not continue on this trail unless one were attempting to climb this mountain. The trail skirted the north side of the lake to the bottom of the moraines on the far side. Jung stopped here for a long bowel brake. I was feeling really good. I had not gotten terribly tired thus far, and there was no trace of a headache. The pace we had set seemed to be working. The hike up the moraine was surprisingly easy, so long as we kept the pace.
When we crested the moraine we saw the lake, and the campsites on the far side. Clouds started pouring over the summit of Churup, giving us a sense of urgency. We both made a bee line for the campsite, each of us knowing what the other was thinking. Those were not happy clouds, and we would not be happy climbers if they broke loose before we had a tent up. With every step over the boulders our pace quickened. The last three or four hundred feet was a veritable sprint, and we could see tiny flakes coming down. The wind had picked up as well, creating small dust clouds wherever there were no boulders. No sooner had we stepped foot on the campsite did the heavens let loose. It was a blur of motion. We were a finely tuned camping machine. We each knew what we had to do to get out of this storm, and we did it with precision. The snowflakes turned into small balls of hail, pelting our shell jackets with that familiar sound.
I unrolled the tent and quickly crawled inside to set the poles up, while Jung organized gear outside. The lightning started at this point. We had heard no rumbles previously, only this first one slicing the air with a crisp jolt. It was close, very close, and it sent Jung in the air with surprise. He turned to me with wide eyes, easily two shades whiter than a few moments before.
Jesus Christ!, was all he said, which was exactly what I was thinking. Again and again bolts of lightning pounded the rocky ridges above us, sending rocks down the slopes. I did not know how big the rocks were, or how close they were, but we could here them rolling all the way down, cutting loose others on their descent. I was definitely afraid. Thoughts of being buried in the tent by a truck sized boulder ran through my head as I finished setting up the poles. Jung had pulled all the gear we would need inside the tent out of our packs, and threw it in as soon as I finished. It took no longer than five minutes to do all this, which was impressive for us. I guess necessity begets precision. We laid on our mats, and Jung opened up a bag of pizza flavored combos. With every crunch of our tasty snack, a bolt of lightning would connect somewhere above us. The rocks rolled, and we crunched, not saying a word. Again we were tent bound. This was the next hint from God, but by this time we had committed ourselves.
Eventually the hail and lightning did stop, although I was certain it, or the rocks, would bury us alive. When all was done we had several inches of new snow on the ground. We cooked dinner, and packed our bags for the climb the next day. Neither of us mentioned the fact that the fresh snow would make the climbing hard at the very least, and dangerous at the most. We both knew the situation, but I think we also both wanted to at least have a look at the face. I did not come through all of this only to turn around and walk out the next morning.
I slept well, and Four-thirty came upon us all too soon. We were ready to go in thirty minutes, our headlamps cutting the night air and shining off of the talus. We skirted a large section of rock slabs, aiming for a tongue of snow that would lead us to the first ice ramp. We hit the snow easily enough, and were soon switch backing up the firmly packed snow. We had thought the snow led right to the ice ramp. It did, but we had to go way out right and then traverse back into it. We decided to climb a small ice flow over the first rock band. The angle was easy, and we did not rope up. Finally, after two and a half weeks, my tools bit into solid ice. The dull vibration of the shaft with the first good stick put a smile on my face, and soon we were front pointing up the flow. The familiar rhythm of the climbing made it feel a bit like home. It took some of the intimidation out of it. The only thing that didnt feel like home was the altitude. I kept trying to remind myself that I was at over sixteen thousand feet, not at two thousand. I did not want to push it too hard while soloing.
Eventually the ice turned right and got a lot steeper and thinner. Jung was eyeing it, but I thought it would be much easier to go back out to the snow and up. He agreed, and all we had to do was climb left over a little bulge. We still had not roped up. I tried hooking my tools in the rock in order to get over the thin ice at the bulge, with no luck. After a minute I committed to a leap of faith, hoping my crampons would bite firmly in the ice when I landed on the other side. I didnt think much about the fall. We had climbed up about a hundred feet of ice, and another three hundred of forty degree snow. I jumped and made it, albeit ungracefully, and Jung gave me his look. The you are fucking stupid look. He quickly followed suit however, and now we were moving much faster up the snow on the left edge of the rock band.
After a few minutes we noticed that we were walking on a talus field of sorts. The talus was ice, not rock. Then we noticed the huge seracs perched above us, and the feeling of being back home flew from my head. We moved quickly through this section, and took a break underneath a rock band. The ice ramp lay a hundred feet above us. The ramp was the right side of a large section of seracs. They looked stable, and did not appear to have much fresh snow on them, so I was not too worried about them coming down. In a few minutes we were at the base of the ramp, getting into the swing, swing, kick, kick mode again. The ice was awesome. Perfect plastic. Every swing sent the picks into the ice to the hilt. It was like a dream. The angle was steep, but not bad. Jung let out a big YAHOOO!!! and fired up the ramp. He was climbing like he was at sea level.
I was starting to feel the altitude at this point, and the repetitive motion of swinging and kicking slowed. I enjoyed the hell out of the climbing, but I could not find a good rhythm with my breathing, and found myself seriously short on oxygen. I would climb sixty or seventy feet, then have to tie off to my tools to rest. I looked up at Jung, who was now at least a hundred feet above me, and just shook my head. The boy is strong, no doubts there. Slowly I made my way up. Jung disappeared over the lip to the snowfield. He climbed the whole five hundred feet of this ramp in rapid time. Soon a rope appeared and was lowered from above. I was not in trouble at any point, just moving slow, but I figured having the rope would do no harm, so I traversed over and tied in to it.
Eventually I did make it to the top of the ramp, to see Jungs evil smirk sitting there in the snow.
That was awesome, just intense!!!, he said, and let out another cowboy yell. We had a short brake here as the sky lightened quickly around us. Above was a section of low angled snow. If anything would slow us down, it would be me, or this snow. Jung led off up the snow, crossing a small crevasse en route. Surprisingly he had found firmly packed snow almost all the way up the pitch. I followed in my methodical pace, and set off for the next pitch. I sunk immediately up to my waist in powder. It was like Jung knew exactly where to stop. I wallowed straight up for a bit, quickly tiring. Then I tried traversing over to find a harder section of snow. Everywhere I went it was the same, it was awful. I would bring my foot up as high as possible and pack the snow down, but as soon as I put my weight on it, I would wind up slightly lower than my last step, It was infuriating, not to mention extremely tiring. At one point I had flopped around in the same hole for ten minutes, only to wind up a touch lower. There was only one thing to say, and I said it loud...FUCK!!!
Jung yelled up that I should stop here and bring him up. I obliged, thankful to not have to wallow anymore. It had taken over an hour to climb some eighty feet or so. Jung came up and quickly took off again. He came up with a clever idea, using a combination of a snow stake and ice tools. He laid the stake horizontally in the snow, pushing it down until he had some purchase. Then he would hook the tools on the ends and do a sort of reverse dip on them. While holding himself up he would plant his feet at the same time, distributing his weight evenly. It worked quite well. It was a tiring and slow method, but much better than pure thrashing. He gained altitude, and crossed the last two crevasses before disappearing over a hump. I used his method to follow, and was amazed at how efficient it actually was.
While I was belaying Jung up that last pitch my stomach started giving me trouble. I had no signs of an altitude headache, but for some reason I was now feeling waves of nausea. I had gagged several times, but nothing came up. I passed it off and started climbing, feeling better as I did so. It had taken us three hours to get through the powder, effectively putting an end to our summit bid. We had not even gotten to the main climbing yet, and it was nearing ten thirty. My thoughts started switching to descent. I really wanted to summit this peak, but I knew if we tried we would wind up bivying on the face. I got to Jung, and took the rack for the next lead. Another two hundred feet should put us at the base of the main culoir we wanted to climb, and the bottom of the central rock band. From here we could make more of a direct rappel, and that was what my mind was focusing on. Jung desperately wanted to get inside that culoir, and I dont blame him. He was climbing strong, and by all rights should have been much higher.
I took off on the next lead. The snow and ice were now considerably steeper, and exposed. I had to traverse right and up to get to the rock band. The first forty feet was more powder snow, and I used Jungs technique to go across. I saw where the ice started, and placed the stake at the end of the snow. The ice was good again, and I found a good rhythm going up and across. I looked ahead and saw a steeper section, so I placed a screw. It was by far the easiest screw I had ever placed. There was no way in hell it was going to bottom out. The ice was smooth, and I just twisted it right in. It was faster than a lot of nut placements I have done! The good neve ice continued for another seventy five feet or so, then rapidly turned to sugary, evil ice. The pick placements kept shearing through, and the front pointing sucked. I was able to kick out platforms for my feet sideways though, and that helped a lot, even though it was very tiring. Slowly I kept getting further and further from that lone screw. Seventy, eighty, ninety. I was now in a race to get to the rock, about twenty feet above me.
I finally reached the rock, only to find an appalling lack of protection. I searched around for a few minutes, desperate to find an anchor. I tried to drive a lost arrow into a thin seam, but it only shattered the rock, sending little pieces skittering down the ice. Another twenty feet would put me into a small alcove, with a few nice cracks in it. I yelled down to Jung and asked him how much rope I had left.
Go for it man!, so I did. Gingerly I placed my tools, stabbing them down into the sugar instead of swinging them high. Halfway there I started to gag again. All I wanted was an anchor, and I kept mumbling that word while gagging and stabbing. I reached the alcove and no sooner did I clip off to my hammer did I proceed to vomit into the snow. Five minutes worth of gagging and vomiting left me with that curiously nice feeling just after you throw up. I found two bomber placements in the rock, equalized my tools, and was happy.
At this point I was ready to go down. I think it was implied before I started the pitch that we would go down after this. Jung started following up. It was a great scene. The sweep of the rope against the bright snow, linking two of us together. The sweep of the rocky ridge behind Jung was enough to take my breath away, but I also had the exposure of the ice field below me, and this ominous feeling from above. I sat there on my little snow perch, dangling my feet, about as happy as one could be given the situation. Jung reached me and decided to give a look around the corner, and up the culoir. I desperately wanted to keep going, but that feeling in my stomach was stronger. I get that feeling when I do a climb that is remote or challenging. Once I get a few pitches up this overwhelming desire to go down takes over. It feels like I will run into certain death if I continue. I know a lot of it is baseless, but I cant help feeling it anyway.
When I climb with Jung he always tries to make me ignore such feelings. It was like that on Wallface in the Adirondacks a few years back. We were in way over heads, climbing on indescribably horrible verglassed rock. Jung just kept going, taking repeated falls, and really pushing the limit. Every fiber of my being wanted to go down, but seeing the determination in his face made me keep my mouth shut and just continue climbing. Now I knew that if he really pestered me into continuing, I would probably give in. A part of me hoped he would, and a part of me hoped he wouldnt. Its a strange game my mind plays, and that is what makes climbing so challenging, for me at least.
Jung disappeared around the corner for a few minutes, then returned. He simply said, Lets go down. I knew it must have been serious up there, because he really had no trouble deciding to go down, and I knew how badly he wanted to do this. When he got back to my cubby hole he said the initial section of the culoir was almost dead vertical, with a thin layer of snow plastered onto the verglassed rock. The sensible half of my brain was now happy, but the climber half was a little let down. Such is life. I made a few adjustments to the anchor, threaded the ropes, and we were ready to rappel. Before we left we decided to try calling Alex on the radio. I knew there was no way we would reach him, but we gave it a shot.
Alex, are you listening? A few brief moments of radio silence and then the receiver opened up crystal clear.
Yeah, Im right here. I was floored. I couldnt believe Alex, who was laying cozily in his bed down in Huaraz, was able to talk to us quite clearly up on our Airy position. We relayed that we were beginning to descend, and that we would be back in town the next day. Alex was full of questions, but we kept it short.
The descent was straightforward, a rappel down and over the bergschrund to the snow field, then we walked down to the top of the ice ramp we had soloed up. Three rappels down this, and we were glissading down the snow slopes to the left of the face. The scree at the bottom of the snow slopes, which was frozen in place this morning, was now wet and loose, making this portion of the descent a battle just to stay standing. We eventually gave into a combination of sliding on our heels, and falling backwards onto our packs, then repeating the process. Jung decided to go over onto a tongue of glacier ice to the right. He had put his tools away, and was walking with his trekking pole. I thought of warning him about descending the ice with no tool, but for some reason I didnt. Shortly thereafter I heard a garbled yell, and turned around just in time to see his white helmet zooming down the slope. For a second I thought he was gone for good. My mind flashed with visions of packing everything out myself. Its strange what one thinks about when faced with a disaster. Jung wound up taking a good fifty foot slide down the rock infested ice, precisely because he did not have a tool to arrest his slide. He hobbled back over to the talus, rubbing his ass and looking slightly pissed at himself.
The rest of the descent went pretty smooth, and soon I was back in camp, putting on dry clothes. We had a good evening after that, eating the rest of our food and lounging around. We were treated to a beautiful sunset that evening. The red clouds reflected perfectly off the mirror smooth water of the lake. The moraine above the lake was silhouetted in black, and also reflected off the lake. It was like there was two of everything, and if you turned me upside down the image would be identical. Churup glowed bright orange behind us.
The hike down the next day was filled with images of ice cream, and Pringles, and warm, soft pillows. We made it down quickly, and had to wait three hours for our rendezvous with the collectivo driver at three oclock. Something told me he wasnt going to show. Once again my instinct proved correct, and our driver never showed. Jung sat there leaning against the wall, grumbling to himself words like courtesy, and responsibility. Its pretty funny how Jung mumbles when he gets agitated. I think I will record him the next time he does it.
We managed to hitch a ride with a group of Brits who had hired a collectivo for the whole day. They were a lively bunch, and we recited lines from Monty Python on the ride down. We got back to the hostal to find Alex laying in bed, looking like a ghost. He apparently had been very sick while we were away, and it showed in his face. We were now all very ready to go home, and I spent that night packing my gear as best I could. The Chileans stopped by to say goodbye, and I wound up selling my leashes to one of them. Alex had sold some other gear while we were away, in an effort to make our loads somewhat lighter for the return trip home.
The games my mind plays with me while I climb are one of the most curious I have dealt with in my life. I was completely ready to go home. Sick of trying to be careful with food, and not even trying to imagine another trip into the mountains. I focused on the things I would do when I got home. Climbing was not on that list. Then, as the bus back to Lima passed by the Huayhuash, I immediately felt the pull of clmbing again. If only we had another week in Peru. If only, then we could pull off a daring ascent of one of those faces. I smiled as I thought about it. When I am up in the mountains I want to be down. And when I am down, I can do nothing but daydream about being up in the mountains. The pretty Peruvian girl next to me turned and looked at me.
Nevados es bonita she said, and smiled.
Si, nevados es muy bonita, was my response, and I offered her some pizza flavored combos.