Aconcagua – HeadSpace

December 11, 2017

Aconcagua Diary: 12 December 2017

In less than eight weeks we will be on the mountain. The training continues its regular beat and we were back out on the Berowra escarpments on the weekend, this time with fellow trekkers who are our regular walking companions (and fellow Kilimanjaro veterans). The mental game associated with the climb started some time back, mainly with visualising the climb and the summit, though this has been through a ‘glass darkly’. Last night we finally printed off some high resolution images of the mountain and pinned them to a wall in the kitchen. Each is marked with the camps and the appropriate altitudes of each of those. It helps to see equivalent altitudes and be able to say “That camp is the same as the summit of Kilimanjaro.” Or not! But it helps to see as much as you can before climbing. In the early days of this sport the best you had was a sketchy map and part of the adventure was the exploration of the routes and finding a way up these things. Visualisation was on the back of written notes from early, and perhaps unreliable travellers.

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Aconcagua Diary – It Starts Here

December 5, 2017


Aconcagua Diary: 2 December 2017

The climb out of Berowra Waters is so familiar I could it traverse it in the dark but today it feels a little tougher than usual. The humid air drapes its wet blanket over us and slows us down. We are barely begun and the sweat slicks off my arms, and salts my eyes. The cicadas are out for the first time this season, and the orchestra that is the Australian summer thrumbs deeper and harder the higher we climb. There are moments when we pass between one on each side of the track, both vibrating at the same time and their chorus feels like it’s resonating in your head. It makes my ears hurt until I step on and up. Is it my imagination or are there less and less cicadas each year? There are certainly less Christmas Beetles. Where have they all gone? Once upon a time thousands would inhabit the bush at this time of the year. Last weekend I saw one lonely sample who had come inside – and came perilously close to being killed by those he startled. Read more

Ama Dablam Diary – Clearing Town

October 10, 2014

Ama dablam Diary 2906 October 2014. I am looking at a pack that is not as tightly or comprehensively loaded as it could be , and at two smaller bags which I hope will withstand the rigours of yak travel for a month. Those two bags look deflated as well. I run the checklist again and, despite my misgivings figure I have everything packed which I need. And all that I can get my hands on in Kabul. Surely there should be more? Tomorrow I head to Nepal with a view to climb Ama Dablam. It’s no big deal for the hard core climbing folks but I remind myself that only 26 months ago I was in Nepal looking at those inspiring Himalayan peaks and thinking I should climb one of them. Read more

Don’t Step on the Crack (Chance of Injury or Death. Or a Laugh)

February 20, 2014

tasman290Apparently the prospect, memory or concept of sex crosses the male mind every eight minutes on average. (Who measures these things? And how?) If ever there is a cure for the wandering mind it’s a four hour walk down a glacier in summertime, when crevasses are open, icy maws with white flecked palates and blue throats that drop into deep dark throats, the bottom of some being invisible. No mind, not even a male one, wanders off when the next step into soft snow might have you crashing into empty space. It happened on numerous occasions this morning. Despite being VERY focused on where I was placing my feet. Read more

Hochstetter Traverse

February 19, 2014

crevasse290I woke at first light, snuck out in the icey slap your face cold to the latrine, then snuggled back into the sleeping bag only to be told ten minutes later it was time to get up. Arrgghh. Read more

Storm Warning – Ignored

February 15, 2014

storm 290The ink does not want to flow, while my hands are barely able to grip the pen. It’s zero degrees in the hut at the moment and snow drift has been blasted in and sits on the sill. Water in pots inside is frozen. Vapour blows from mouth and nostrils as I eat a breakfast of ham and eggs. Thanks Carolyn. She is having a crack at  pancakes  as well. They taste great but she regrets the state of their delivery. I tell her I am ‘eating for effect’ and what they look like doesn’t matter. Besides, the effort and thought counts for much more and I am grateful for her cooking. I slept well, though as the temperature dropped I woke, chilled a little around my exposed shoulders. A quick adjustment of the bag liner, pulling on the Nepalese cap, and I was cosy again. My sleeping bag is not rated for these conditions but the liner should allow me to handle -10 if it comes to that.  I am betting on that not happening. Read more

Inside an Elysium Fridge

February 5, 2014

storm290A storm smashes the hut an hour before our colleagues arrive back from the top of the Tasman Glacier where they have been doing crevasse and ice work. We are surprised that they were  able to find their way in such a white out and had half expected them to make for the Tasman Saddle Hut. As I sit down to fill in the journal they are stomping snow and ice off themselves in the foyer, a neutral air lock of sorts between the kitchen and the outdoors. They stagger in one by one, eying off the steaming kettle, disheveled and wooly and looking mildly surprised at their own arrival in this haven – and possibly survival. Read more

Mt Alymer

February 3, 2014

alymer290We climbed to the top of Mt Alymer (2699m) today and sat up there and had lunch lodged in a rocky eyrie. (That’s the peak curving away to the right of the picture). Having scribbled that note I realize it makes the ascent more prosaic than I felt at the time of doing it. It was a nice steep warm up exercise and in the scheme of things it’s a pimple. But I should never detract from any accomplishment since it represents one step towards even bigger feats. Read more

What Goes Up Must Come Down – Until Next Time

December 2, 2012

The previous evening the snow started in just before six thirty, and just as three others hove into view in the saddle below the hut. They struggle through the knee deep snow and we symapthise and put the kettle on then start into our own dinner. Wolfgang cooks up a mean stir fry but as he is quick to admit alpine climbers are not fussy eaters and at the end of a hard day will almost anything without complaining. He sells himself short because it’s actually quite tasty, helped of course by a fine Pinot Gris which washes it all down. Two Belgians and their Welsh/Kiwi guide bustle in. They are looking a little worse for wear but are very friendly and they fit straight in. They seem to appreciate the hot coffee. And a gingernut biscuit helps revive them. Once settled they pore over maps of the ranges. We wonder at the lack of technical kit given we know what is ahead of us. Have I mentioned knife edges? Read more

Taking a Step when You Shouldn’t

December 2, 2012

Fear is in the pit of my gut fed by tidbits of “What ifs” that are impossible to repel. What if I lose my footing? My balance? What if the snow slope gives way (the avalanches on Middle Peak crack and rumble across the valley from us and we watch the snow and rock cascade in to the glacier below us) What if I can’t self arrest? How far is it to the valley floor below me that I cannot even see? (Okay, that was not a “what if” but it fuels the fear nonetheless).  And then I surprise myself and lift a foot and move it forward with conviction so the crampon bites and off I go towards a lip of snow over which I have no idea what exists. Read more

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