Practice Run No.2: Trip Wrap Up

In Practice Run No.2by Steve

That’s Practice Run No.2 Done and Dusted

Arrived back home yesterday, and after one day, it’s like I never left.

When I set out for Peru 4 weeks ago, my goal was to climb 3 Peaks:

  • Yanapaccha (5460m),
  • Chopicalqui (6354m)
  • Alpamayo (5947m).

There were the usual ups and downs with weather, health, fatigue, etc, but overall everything went very well, better than I could have hoped for. We were successful in reaching the summit of the three peaks I initially set out to do. Unfortunately I came up short on the fourth one we attempted, Quitaraju (6040m), but you can’t win them all. Attached are a few photos on which I have marked the route we took on each hill. And also one showing how far we got up the last hill (where the red line ends).

I was initially quite disappointed at the failure on Quitaraju and in having to turn back. I questioned whether we should have pushed harder and kept going. But now with time to reflect, I know we made the right decision (and the safe decision) and I am extremely pleased with how everything went. Plus what do they say, “you learn more from your failures than you do than from your successes”. Well, at least I can say I gave it a solid crack, and I leave with no regrets.

I have subsequently shared notes with another group I met while over there. They summited Quitaraju about a week before we attempted. When we were about three quarters of the way up the main face, we veered left crossing a side ridge and continued up on a side face. That is where conditions on the hill turned to shit and we floundered around for a while before deciding to call it a day and descend. The other group I spoke with said they continued straight up the main face all the way to the top ridge line, then traversed the top ridge to the summit and by all reports had good snow/ice conditions all the way. Anyway, like I said before, you win some, you lose some.

While over there, I guess I did stand out a bit, and was often asked, “what is a guy from Australia doing travelling to Peru by himself trying to climb mountains, don’t you live at sea level and surf?” It was probably a fair point. I was a bit out of place and well and truly out of my depth, but I have learnt from prior experiences that I am not really that good at surfing so might as well try something different. And as it turns out, I am not that bad at mountaineering.

As a practice run, I did get a lot out of this trip and tested myself in the areas I wanted to:

  • I acclimatised and adapted to the altitude reasonably well. Some people genetically just can’t acclimatise to altitude, and I wanted to make sure I was not one of them. I probably should have had a few more acclimatisation days on my way to +6000m the first time and it may have lessened some of the headaches I was experiencing. But once I descended after Chopicalqui and then ascended back up for Alpamayo I felt fine so that was a good sign.
  • I felt I managed the technical climbing pretty well, for a complete novice that is. While we were always setting anchors and using ropes for safety, I managed all the climbs with zero reliance on the rope or any other artificial aids which I was pleased with. I went very close a couple of times to being 100% reliant on the rope, but managed to hold on.
  • My physical endurance was no problem at all, although that has always been a strong suit of mine. My physical strength, which I have tried to focus on a lot more while training over the past year was adequate, but still plenty of room for improvement.
  • I felt I managed the mountain environment and the cold pretty well. If (when) I am going to go higher and / or colder in the future, I will probably need to put on a few extra reserves, a few extra Big Macs before departure for some extra inbuilt insulation, but for this trip was ok, borderline, but ok (except a new pair of gloves wouldn’t have gone astray).
  • My wrist, which for a long time after surgery earlier this year I doubted would come good in time, was actually very good and caused me very few issues, although I was being very conscious to go easy on it. My neck did get stiff and sore, which I find it does do when I stop swimming and stop my daily exercises for a while, but it is just something I need to learn to manage.
  • I probably need to improve my hygiene and/or watch what I eat when travelling to developing countries in the future. Getting sick twice on the one trip was not much fun.
  • I learnt (the hard way) the need to adjust climbing position when climbing with a full pack, compared to climbing only with a day pack. The change in centre of gravity with 20kg hanging off your back can throw you out very quickly, and makes it much harder to recover.
  • All my gear, which I spent a lot of time researching and procuring in the lead up to the trip worked well and was a worthy investment. A few items I’d swap out if (when) I am to do it again but pretty happy with it all.

Overall, this trip has been an amazing experience. New Zealand last year was a nice taster in a more controlled environment, but this trip was another world again and I have definitely taken a lot away from it. It’s left me hungry to get back out in the mountains again soon. An environment which I love.

Thank you to all the support and individual words of encouragement throughout this trip. It really does mean a lot to me.

And finally, I hope you enjoyed these updates. I will leave you in peace now, but stay tuned for Practice Run No.3.

Until next time…..