July 23, 2009

French Direct on Alpamayo

Looking back at a busy Alpamayo High Camp (5400 meters). The yellow specks on the far looker's right are our tents. Last time I guided the peak in 2006, we were the only team on the mountain. If you look close, you can see a member of the German Team doing his business in the snow toilet on the extreme looker's right.

In just over 24 hours, I'll be back on board an Air Canada Jet heading for home. Man, the time goes fast. Admittedly, I feel a little stupid for not scheduling some extra time for personal climbing. Whenever I plan a work trip, I usually think that I'll be ready to go home when the work is done. Of course, this is never the case and I always wish that I'd given myself extra time.

But time is a funny thing. As fast as it may seem to go in the big picture, it also tends to move like the continental drift when discomfort or suffering is involved. Take summit days for example. When the alarm shocks me in to low-grade consciousness at 11:45 pm (like it did on Alpamayo a few days ago), I'll be damned if I don't find myself repeating the words, "This too shall pass. This too shall pass." At this point, I would pay many Nuevo Sols for time to speed up and for the day to be almost over (with everyone having reached the summit of course!). But no, time plods on and we are all forced to deal with it's untimely nature (sometimes too fast, other times too slow) in our own way.

The correct question at this point would be "Why in God's name were you waking up at 11:45 pm to climb Alpamayo?" I guess there are two answers to this question. 1) The Local Guide I was working with totally sandbagged me and set his alarm 15 minutes ahead of schedule (We were supposed to wake up at midnight). For this infraction he shall never be forgiven. 2) At exactly 2 am, there would be a group of about 12 hard, vey severe, Germanic Mountaineers gang-banging Alpamayo via fixed ropes. In order to avoid the melee, we opted to out-start them. I am still undecided whether or not we would have been better off getting shelled by falling ice than waking up at 11:45 pm.

As usual, the Southern Hemisphere has been a good time. I'm sad to leave, but stoked to thrash around at The Back of The Lake in 48 hours.

This photo was taken in 2006 and shows the Basque-French Route (orange) that is commonly mistaken as the Ferrari Route, and the French Direct Route (red) that we climbed in 2009.

Approaching Alpamayo Base Camp (4350 meters).

Moraine Camp (5000 meters).

Approaching High Camp. Notice the spacing of this team's rope. This short-roping method insures that should a snow-bridge collapse, all members of the team will plummet into the same creavasse. This is the ultimate expression of a team's commitment to one another.

Preparing for war at Campo Alto (5400 meters).

Although the weather was relatively stable, there was a fair bit of precip for Peru. Of course, like all major events on the planet, the Locals related this entirely to the Lunar Cycle.

Belaying the fnal pitch of the French Direct. 6:30 am. Light snow. And a whole bunch of pissed off German climbers to my immediate left.

Me and Anne on Alpamayo's summit.

Laguna Ayuacocha (Lake of Shadows) that sits just above Base Camp. This is an excellent spot to recite poetry, have a picnic, and attempt to woo an unsuspecting mate. The Lake's beauty, combined with the dizzying effects of altitude, will almost certainly impair the judgement of the opposite sex.

If the scenery in the last photo doesn't work, try turning 180 degrees and gazing out upon Artesonraju.

If you can't score with this backdrop, the love was not meant to be.

As a last resort, you might want to try going black and white. This lighting tends to lessen the effects of age.

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