Yesterday, Kristin and I reached another high point in our relationship - 6075 meters (19,931 feet). It was an accomplishment that brought us both to tears. It also marks our the second anniversary of when we started dating.
As great as that all is, the day mostly sucked. We were above 5500 meters (16500 feet) for more than nine hours. We were dizzy and tired and wind-burnt and eating dust. The trail was a mix of solid rock, ice and mostly loose scree. There was only one other group on the mountain, so we had the summit to ourselves. Even that, though, lacked amazing views as there weren't many other high mountains around. Instead, we looked out upon the dusty, dry desert surrounding Arequipa.
So why did we climb Chachani? Well, in the famous response from Sir Edmund Hillary on why he climbed Everest: "Because it is there." Actually, the truth is we wanted to celebrate our anniversary. Chachani is very close to Arequipa and is one of the easier 6,000 meter peaks to climb. We thought it would be a good test of our physical abilities.
And it was. I have spent most of the day in bed, trying to recover. As soon as we took off our crampons, Kristin stopped whimpering, and seems to be perfectly fine today. I do not think she will try mountaineering again after this trip, unless there are skis involved.
I feel like mountaineering has a very steep learning curve. Until you get good at it, each trip is just a long sufferfest. My first trip up Shasta in 2006 was that way. I was completely stressed, uncomfortable, tired, and dehydrated. I couldn't wait for it to be over. I distinctly remember saying that mountaineering was not for me.
Two years later I climbed Shasta in a day. It was freezing cold and windy at top, but I still enjoyed it more than my first trip. Particularly the ski descent.
With more training and more trips, I eventually felt comfortable on that mountain. Shasta is about 4300 meters. Jumping up in altitude was the biggest challenge on Chachani. We hiked to the top of Illiniza Norte, in Ecuador, which stands at over 5100 meters. We hiked over half a dozen passes in the Huayhash that were higher than 5000m. On Chachani, though, we were above 5500 meters for so long that the altitude really had a debilitating effect on us. This trip has reminded me how to appreciate the first mountaineering experience for climbers that I guided up Shasta last summer with Shasta Mountain Guides.
Tomorrow we head to Lake Titicaca, which we will explore for a few days before meeting up with our friend Brady in La Paz, Bolivia!
Scrambling on ice-covered rocks with a steep cliff below us. Good vantage point for the sunrise!
All smiles at the top. Remember, the summit is only half way there.
Oh, the barren landscape. Most of Peru seems to be a very dry and desolate, even in places where people live.
My amazing wife, seemingly floating in the heavens yet firmly planted on the ground. Thank you Kristin for the last two years. This is just the beginning . . . but next year, let's plan something FUN on our anniversary.