Friday, October 31, 2003

15,000 Feet of Altitude and Wet

Hey all,
Time keeps flying by and we keep getting into more than we bargained for with our adventures. Here is the latest from Geoff’s journal on Oct. 29
We are 3 days into a 5 day hike near the town of Huaraz in Peru. Right now it is raining again. Our tent leaks very badly. We rented it in town for $6 a day with the guarantee that it was a 3 season tent and that it would handle the rain just fine. We have entered the rainy season for this area so the weather is a crap shoot. For the last day and half it’s been the crap part of the shoot.
We wanted to take this trek to help get acclimatized the altitude and to get into shape for trekking the Inca Trail outside of Cusco. Huaraz is about 10,000 feet. If we decide to climb the pass tomorrow we will get to 15,400 feet.
We are having a great time. The first day kicked our asses with a 2,000 ft. climb in just a few miles. We started at 9,500 ft or so. We only got about half as far as we thought we were going to go. We were just so damn tired and light-headed. The guide book says to fully acclimatize for a few days or more in Huaraz before attempting the trek, but of course we did not. We took a night bus there, got situated, bought all the food, (the lightweight just add hot water, oh your vegetarian, we have only vegetable risotto and muesli kind), rented this crappy tent, a headlamp (yes I still have not replaced the one lost in a panic in the cave), a stove and a pot to cook in. We went for a short hike the next day up to 12,000 ft. and called it good. We were ready for 5 days and 4 nights of abuse. Truthfully I don’t think I have ever been out backpacking this long before. Let’s just say that Advil has been very very good to me.
So as I was saying, today is day 3 and we are only at the campsite we thought we would be at on day 2. When I first put on my backpack back in town I thought, “Wow, this isn’t so bad. I will be able to do this no problem.” Well it was damn heavy on day 1, still damn heavy on day 2, and just a bit less than damn heavy on day 3. The tent is a complete pig and weighs a ton. It’s a 3 man tent and we thought that it was a bit of overkill but could not find a lighter one.
The first night it only rained a very little bit in the middle of the night and a little in the morning. No problem for said tent. Last night it started to rain just as we were setting it up at about 4:30 in the afternoon. By 6:00 the water had soaked through the rain fly and was dripping on the tent itself. Cindy lost at rocks, paper, scissors and went out in the rain to attempt to dig a trench around the uphill side of the tent to stop us from getting completely soaked. While she did a great job, it was no match for the amount of rain we were getting and soon water was starting to run under the tent as well. With the bottom of the tent completely soaked, we realized that we could use the square rain ponchos as a false bottom on the floor. We could then put our therma-rest pads on top of that (yes Jonathan we have needed them), and then the sleeping bags. It worked out great and we stayed dry as a bone, at least from the bottom for the rest of the night. The rain continued on and off until 7 this morning. Being true Portlanders, we took it all in stride. By 10:00 this morning we were on the trail again, having dried everything out. The rain started again as we walked. We are smarter this evening and started out with the ponchos on the floor and the trenches dug before the big rain hit this evening.
We keep looking at each other and laughing about what a great time we are having. The food has been good (actually better than most of the crap we have been eating for some time), we are quickly becoming used to the altitude, and we are getting in better shape. Tomorrow we decide if we are going to tackle the pass or just head back down the valley. Either way it’s been well worth the trip. Of course, when we get back, we will ask for a refund for this lovely tent.
Oh yes, one more thing. I am starting to get used to wearing wonderful color of royal purple. I lost my fleece the other day on and the only thing I could find that fit me in this town was that color. I think I look quite regal

Rain and Donkey crap dont mix

Well the next morning started out as a beautiful clear day and we decided to go for the summit after a coin toss said that we should. I had my reservations, but the coin does not lie. The campground had filled up the night before with a few other groups of guided trekkers. You know, the ones smart enough to not carry all there gear up the side of a mountain themselves and the ones whose tents probably don’t leak. The trail started straight up the mountain and then got worse. We were very quickly fatigued and had not gone very far. To say it delicately, Cindy was not at her best because of a certain reoccurring visit from a friend of hers who was sapping all her energy. I toyed with the idea of turning back but Cindy would have none of it. We walked up and up only to see more switchbacks and no end in sight. We finally crested the pass 3 hours later in the snow and mud. Our shoes are light weight hiking shoes, not water proof and were soaked. But we were higher than either of us had ever been without the use of chemicals.
The clouds where so dense that we could barely see the path down the other side of the pass. Lucky for us the weather turned evil and started to hail. Cindy did not believe me when I said that at least it was better than rain. The rest of the hike down was pretty uneventful. Slipping and sliding down a wet hail covered rocky moraine. It got better once we got to the valley floor and were able to walk on the trail / river. Did I mention that our shoes are not water proof? The mixture of mud, rain, donkey, and cow shit was treacherous. Falling and landing in the muck was not an option. After a brief lunch of more vegetable risotto, we walked on endlessly for 3 more hours until we had had enough. The tent was pitched, ponchos laid out and ditches dug. It was a good day. Or at least now that it is over and I have my rose colored glasses on it was. Later that night listening to a cows tail swish up against the tent we were happy. I thought it was Cindy making the noise and she thought it was I. We poked our heads out of the tent and saw Betsy happily chewing her cud and attempting to crap at our front door.
We were not sure how long the last day of hiking would be but knew that the hike ended on an uphill somewhere down the valley. What we did not know was that the end was another 1,000 to 1,500 ft. straight up from the valley floor. When we got to the top, all of the hikers were there waiting for a bus that never showed. Some had been there for three hours. When a mini bus finally did show, we crammed the prerequisite 20 people into a vehicle designed for 12 or less and headed home.
Tonight we take a night bus to Lima and then are off to Cusco for more abuse. Let you all know how it goes.