Snatching victory from the
jaws of defeat - that's what it felt like on Jan 20th. After an exhausting
climb and turnaround in strong winds at 6500m on Jan 18th, thoughts were
already on wrapping up the trip, and maybe salvaging a climb by doing a more
modest climb up to one of the Portazuela peaks near the mule rendezvous point.
But you know how it is -after a good night's sleep, some food in the stomach,
and the little inner voice is letting you know that you've managed to salvage
the climb in a similar situation before.
In 2000, my partner Wilfred
and I were also turned back at 6500m on the Polish side of Aconcagua. We
persevered, egged on by not accepting defeat after having traveled 11,000 km
to climb that pile off rocks. We summited on Feb 19th, 2000, the first
all-Singapore team to do it and the only SE-Asian team ever to do it in
But with two days left, the
game was still on. I reassessed the route, even took a walk to view it from
afar. The next morning, my motivation levels were elevated, waking up 10
minutes before my alarm at 1am went off. Some food, a gear check and I was off
once more. I retraced the east face route, climbing in a slight zig--zag
fashion, following stretches of hard windslab that allowed for efficient
Routefinding once on the face
was far easier than in the pre-dawn darkness, picking one's way across the
boulders, streams and penitentes fields. I avoided the rocks this time until
near the top of the 40 degree ice face, then made the traverse around two old
craters. This time, dawn broke with a benign bank of clouds far below in the
valleys. I was praying hard for strength in my legs and good weather. I
reached my previous turnaround point at about 0930hrs, but not before stopping
at the Shark's Tooth rock for a snack and a drink. Kept offering a
non-existent partner a piece of my cereal bar. Been walking in the desert
alone for too long, I mused.
I opted for the 45degree
climb straight up the large ,very fore-shortened summit pyramid and reached
the ridge. Slightly convex, I had to don crampons again as the windslab was
icy and there were many bulges of 50 degrees or more. One mis-step and it
would be quite a slide to the bottom. Cresting the Ramp, as I dubbed it, about
3- 4 hours later, I was really tried and doubly disappointed to see two more
headwalls of chossy scree before the easy slopes to the top. In front of me
was flat section on which there were a couple pieces of helicopter debris from
the well-known 1985 crash.
A tedious scramble, with the
odd stumble or two as loose rock gave way, I reached the final snow slopes to
greet the top. The Cesar Tejos metal pyramid was there, as was a clear view
across Chile and the impossibly blue Laguna Verde. Memories of the 2001 climb
came back as I struggled to stand and take some snapshots including some of
myself; and Bear, my stuffed bear companion.
The wind was about 70km/h and
hard to stand in. I talked through the day to God and Bear, and through the
dusk as we came down, overwhelmed by emotion that the job had been done. The
last hour was the longest as I raced (read: shuffled slowly ) the setting sun.
The yellow and blue tent, my sole shelter in 400 square kilometres. 2100hrs.
18 hours of climbing, 1.5 litres of water to drink. Had to lie down in the
tent for 20 minutes before I realised someone had to fix a drink and a meal
for me. Right, Dave's dehydrated - get moving - and so it was. The next day
was a shuffle with the 20 kgs of gear over 6 km of desert to my rendezvous
A day later, I crossed the
Laguna Negra pass I looked back for a final view at Ojos - a dream since 1997
had finally been realised. The only thing left to pull off were the tabs on
some cold beers and grilled steaks off the fire in Catamarca. Dave
Sport Everest Boot has made some minor changes by adding
more Kevlar. USES Expeditions / High
altitude / Mountaineering in extremely cold conditions / Isothermal to
-75°F Gore-Tex® Top dry / Evazote Reinforcements with aramid threads.
Avg. Weight: 5 lbs 13 oz Sizes: 5 - 14 DESCRIPTION Boot with semi-rigid
shell and built-in Gore-Tex® gaiter reinforced by aramid threads, and
removable inner slipper Automatic crampon attachment Non-compressive
fastening Double zip, so easier to put on Microcellular midsole to
increase insulation Removable inner slipper in aluminized alveolate
Fiberglass and carbon footbed Cordura + Evazote upper Elasticated
Expedition footwear for
mountaineering in conditions of extreme cold. NOTE US
SIZES LISTED. See more here.
weather, high altitude double boot for extreme conditions The Olympus
Mons is the perfect choice for 8000-meter peaks. This super lightweight
double boot has a PE thermal insulating inner boot that is coupled with
a thermo-reflective outer boot with an integrated gaiter. We used a
super insulating lightweight PE outsole to keep the weight down and the
TPU midsole is excellent for crampon compatibility and stability on
steep terrain. WEIGHT: 39.86 oz • 1130 g LAST: Olympus Mons
CONSTRUCTION: Inner: Slip lasted Outer: Board Lasted OUTER BOOT: Cordura®
upper lined with dual-density PE micro-cellular thermal insulating
closed cell foam and thermo-reflective aluminium facing/ Insulated
removable footbed/ Vibram® rubber rand
See more here.