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Monday, April 23, 2007

The Air Up There.

I would like to extend my solemnest regrets that this blog has laid dormant for so long. Sorry to my avid reader (Hi mom).

The truth is that I have been really busy. This compounded with the fact that I felt like a latency period for reflection was in order.

I will start from the beginning. It was a few days after my last entry that I attempted to tackle the hardest physical challenge I have ever faced. The stage was perfectly set: The closest point to the sun on earth on the day when the sun was the closest to the earth. Mount Chimborazo´s Summit.

In the afternoon of the 20th of March, Brenden and I made the journey to the first refuge of Chimborazo, at 4800 meters. Since the morning, Brenden had been feeling rotten. He vomited multiple times throughout the day and his face had a color that I had never seen before in a human being. I was very preoccupied.

We were to begin our clime at approximately midnight. As I lie in my bed, watching my breath dissipate into the air above me, my stomach starts to churn. At first, I embrace the feeling because I assume that it is the altitude and this means that if Brenden is experiencing it as well, and not vomiting, he has surely overcome his grippe. As the departure time approaches, my ache gets worse and worse. At 11:35 pm, I can no longer maintain my illusion. I make my way outside into the dark moonscape that encompasses the refuge and vomit for about five minutes until my stomach is in a retched knot. 12:00 am. I have decide that despite my illness, there is no F´n way I am going to loose my payment with out a solid shot. As we start to walk, I begin to question myself. I am essentially bent double at this point and fighting back nausea.

Despite this, I just concentrate on following the footsteps in front of me. The rocks turn to snow and the snow to ice.

A strange thing happens to the human body when you remove it from the climactic equilibrium to which it is so accustomed. Altitude. Your hands and feet swell and tingle. Your respiration increases to a constant pant at rest. You body revolts. The mind functions at about 50% capacity. Some people say that it is like being drunk, but I have never felt so helpless in my life. The dizziness incapacitates. The delirium tries to steal what sense of reality you have left. The lack of coherent though makes you take risks that you otherwise never would. All of the comforts that are afforded by you natural internal balance of chemicals and metabolic processes are stripped of you when you need them the most.

We press on.

The darkness cloaks and laps at us when we are not looking. I move my head lamp every once and a while to try to fight it off. To my right and left are drop offs. The light provides just and five meter taste of the 200 more that lie beneath.

Every sound cuts through the air. We can hear the mountain taunt us with avalanches off in the distance. The thin air allows them to travel to our ears, un-muffled, uncensored from the placed of origin.

5500 meters - Each step burns. I struggle to lift one leg after another, supporting myself with my ice axe. My breathing intensifies to the point where during my brakes I cannot catch my breath. My eyes roll back in my head and I just lie there.

5600 meters -. I am essentially crawling; my arms don’t leave the ground for a second. I dare not or I will topple down.

5700 meters - I sit down to take a rest, and by an account from our guide pass out and go into a dreamy, euphoric state.

I have a moment of clarity in which I decide that I can go no further.

I rest for a few minutes and try to let it all sink in. We begin our decent. This is not as easy as I had hoped; in fact it is in some ways harder than the incline and takes much more concentration.

On the way down, Brenden´s crampons lock together and he falls onto a sharp rock. He is in a similar state to my own and does not realize the injury that he has suffered. Upon returning to the refuge, he pulls up his pant leg to reveal a cut on his shin about two inches wide to the bone. Hospital here we come.

I walk away from this experience with a valuable lesson. I can confidently say that Mount Chimborazo afforded me two of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Make it as far as I did and accept defeat.

1 comment:

missing_vic said...

Ive been following your guys' story for a little while now and just wanted to say that it's very inspiring. It is amazing what you all have done and the fact that you have decided to just get up and make a difference is so commendable. I recently decided to change up my life by moving to a new place but looking at your story has really made me think that a better type of change is one that focuses on others. Hope I can find something equally productive to accomplish...