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  Dave Lim: Reflections from Summit Day


 

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 alpine-style.

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 cramponing.

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 point.

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

Dave Lim, Everest Climber, author and motivational speaker. To book David e-mail
Millet One 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 collar.

Expedition footwear for mountaineering in conditions of extreme cold.  NOTE US SIZES LISTED. See more here.

A cold 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.

 






 

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