Mein Aufstieg zum Aconcagua – Teil 2
24.12.2013 – Day 13
After the first part of the ascent to the Aconcagua, it is now time to complete the last meters. The wind squeezes the tent. The stress and maybe the fear mixed with altitude are the perfect cocktail to make the night awful.
4 a.m.. Wake up call. The temperature inside the tent is around -10°C, on the outside between -20 and -30°C, depending on the wind. There is nothing that motivates you to leave your sleeping bag. I wear 4 layers on my legs, 5 on my chest, 4 on my hands and 2 pairs of mountain socks.
4:50 a.m. Everybody is outside, waiting in the dark. No words are exchanged. I imagine that we look like brothers in arms before a battle: silent, concentrated, anxious, but somehow willing to fight.
5 a.m. We start to walk in line behind our guard. The wind is already our worst enemy. Darkness is all around us. We see the sun coming, but we are climbing on the southern side of the Aconcagua for the next 3 hours, keeping us away from the sun. The 3 first team mates give up during the night.
8 a.m. Independancia, 6500m, the point where we reach the northern face. Here comes the sun. The physiological impact is magical. This is our first real break. 20 min. Altitude is again selecting. 2 team members want to go back. We now wear ski glasses and it is time to put crampons on.
11 a.m. Canaleta, 6700m. My legs start hurting. Breathing becomes more and more difficult. Every 20 meters I feel like after 1500m sprint. The break frees me from all this pain. We have 30 minutes before attempting the last 262m. I cannot move. I cannot eat or drink. I have the feeling that I will vomit automatically. My body is fighting a terrible battle.
I am obviously suffering, but enjoying where I am. It is beautiful. We see all the northern part of the Andes. The wind remains mild and the sun allows us to take off the down jacket.
Will I have enough energy? I feel that everything is possible. I suffer, but my brain remains quiet. My mind will drive my legs. 2 new team members surrender. The mountain has no mercy, even before Christmas.
11:30 a.m. Time to go. We are 4 and 2 guides to start the final ascent. Helmets are mandatory due to rock fall. The path is extremely steep. Every 50 centimeters are a battle.
We stop every 15 minutes. After 1 hour, I am unable to keep pace with the first two. I am reaching my limits . I am so afraid to surrender. I cannot come back to Germany without succeeding. At 2 p.m. I meet a group of 3 climbers who are going down. They tell me: “You can make it, mate. In 20 minutes you are there”. I cannot believe it. My mind leads my body. Our guide is 50 meter above. He waits.
2:30 p.m. After 9,5 hours I reach the summit. I cry. I hug Philipp and Diego who are already there. I warmly thank Mariano for leading us here. We see the Pacific, we see the Americas.
We take pictures. Mariano calls via radio the base camp to announce our success. We can even take off our gloves and stay for 45 minutes, enjoying the gift. We made it.
3:15 p.m. I thought that happiness and pleasure in having reached the summit would help me to go down. I was wrong. My legs are done. I used all my energy for climbing up. The worst physical moment of my life is not over yet.
I fall once. 3 meters in the snow. Mariano tells us several times that 80% of the accidents are occurring while going down. It takes me 5 hours to arrive at Colera.
7:15 p.m. Colera. I fall on the ground. I lay down with all my clothes enjoying the last minutes of the sun. I don’t know how I reached my sleeping bag. Despite our guides’ recommendation I don’t eat anything. I am too tired. I want to vomit, my body temperature is going up, I am cold. I am not feeling well. The night will be awful. My body is sending me the bill. The wind wants to take off our tents. It is so cold.
25.12.2013 – Day 14
Christmas. Only the small stars in our tent remind us the holy day. Of course my heart is with my family. I am far away but so close. My present has never been so big. My family offered me 3 weeks of holidays, a beautiful challenge, a summit and memories for the rest of my life. No one blamed me for being away for Christmas. My wife, Dorothée, though it was a chance worth taking. My kids had a mixed feeling between admiration (without really understanding what daddy was doing) and sadness. But I know that I will only have smiles and kisses at Frankfurt airport.
I feel better now. However, this is not the case of everybody. Hi, our Vietnamese friend, is not feeling well. We empty his bag and share his equipment. He is secured with ropes to avoid falling. Oxygen supply is open. After 6 hours (one hour after us) he is finally back at the base camp.
Our group mates who did not succeed hug us with love, energy and passion, as if we had brought them to the summit. The expedition organization celebrates us as champions while the new groups look at us with fear and envy, clapping their hands to cheer us and give themselves courage for the coming days.
3 days later, I am back in Germany. My family is waiting for me in the airport. Daddy’s return is a party.
Joy is all around me. Is it this the midlife crisis? I hope so! I am ready for my 40th birthday. My heart feels the fulfillment of the realized project, the pushed limits and the memories of fantastic sceneries. There are dreams that you need to realize to understand what happiness means.
Hier geht’s zurück zu:
Teil 1 – Aconcagua, ich komme!
Teil 2 – Die richtige Ausrüstung
Teil 3 – Sportliche Vorbereitungen
Teil 4 – Das Abenteuer startet
Teil 5 – Die ersten Tage
Teil 6 – Der Aufstieg Teil 1