Ecuador Andes Climb - December 1 - 11, 2007 - Kurtiss Stecker, Gerry Siegfried, and Ramon Ebert climbers.
*** View the full gallery here! ***
Cotopaxi is 19,347, Cayambe is 18,999 and is the highest point from the center of the Earth because it is right on
the Equator. This was an amazing trip of a lifetime for me. Below I've copied pieces of my blog as I posted while in Ecuador. I blogged extensively about the whole process of preparing for this
trip and then attempting the mountains themselves here
Okay, we´re here! The flight was uneventful. I met Gerry in Houston and we had a quick lunch. While we were waiting at the gate for the flight to Quito it started to sink in that we were leaving the country... Primarily because I could feel my personal space shrinking....
The flight was not full and Gerry and I had an empty seat between us, pretty nice. I read the whole way down, I think gerry watched the movie.
I´m going to stop using capitals because í´m using a difficult keyboard...
we landed and had to go find our bags, but before that we had to stand in line for imigration. of course neither of us brought a pen so we had to find one to borrow to fill out the papers first. while we were doing that 2 more planes landed and completely filled the queue to the officials! took about 45 minutes to get through that then we had to sort through all the bags strewn about the floor to find ours. after my second round through i found mine. then through customs which was just an xray of our bags.
we met the guides and the rest of the team right away and hustled out to the waiting van. we briefly met the other guys, there are 7 climbers and 2US guides and a local guide.
since we came in on friday night there was quite a party going on everywhere. buses with people on top playing horns and whistles and yelling. it was interesting. the streets are very small and cobblestone. (a party bus just went by...) our hotel is pretty nice. my roomie is a guy from phillie named jim. there are, in addition to us, chris from new jersey, pete from mississippi, and cylis from california. i went to my room, met jim and headed to bed. it was midnight but only 9pm for me.
saturday morning we woke for a group breakfast where we officially met everyone. food is good. everything is cheap.
yesterday was a mellow day. we walked to old quito and saw two very old churches. one we went all the way up to the bell tower. something you could never do in the US. we went to the national museum and then had lunch in front of a 16th century mission called mission de san francisco. again, food was great and cheap.
after lunch we decided to climb the hill of the virgin of ecuador. it was about 1000 steps. we are at 9300´ here... it hurt a bit. after that we came down, caught a trolly back to near the hotel and split up. a few of us wanted to go to an outdoor market to shop. i went with pete and chris to the market. we found some fun things to buy. bartering is the norm but i don´t think i´m very good at it. i never paid their first price but usually paid their second...
after shopping we thought a beer sounded good. there is an outdoor cafe across the street from the hotel where we went for ONE beer. but then it was good so we had another. then we shared two more. about that time we saw kurtiss and gerry crossing the street and we called them over. we already had our check but we couldn´t be rude and leave now. so we stayed for a few more...
by the time we met the guides in the hotel lobbby for dinner we were quite, uh, happy...
dinner was amazing! i had a filet mignon wrapped around asparigas and ham with smashed taters. it was $7.80.
we picked up a couple things in a market on the way back to the hotel.
today we got up early, had breakfast and were in the van at 7.30 (no colon on keyboard) we headed up to pasochoa and climbed that peak to 13605´ it took about 3 hours. good hard hike and everyone did well. the hike down was easy and we all chatted away like girls.
tomorrow we head to the first hacienda but before we do that we´ll detour to the illiniza sur to climed to around 16000´, higher than i´ve ever been! then we´ll go to the hacienda.
i have to head back to the hotel for dinner in a bit so that is my story so far. I hope those of you who made your requests are getting your gps updates.
a few quick observations - $20´s are nearly useless here because nothing is more than a few dollars and nobody has change except the big grocery stores. gas is $1.45 a gallon. thats right! road laws don´t exist. they may have some suggestions though. Ecuadorians are a hansome people. ladies stand on corners selling their wares wearing fidora type hats. children come running up to you selling candy, hawking show shines, or just asking for money. they are very persistant! we have been warned numerous times about picpockets and we often wear our backpacks backwards.
next time i have internet í´ll post again. that may not be until next sunday. (if that is the case then my posting also depends on how i feel and how my legs are working....)
12/7/2007 - Cotopaxi
Okay, im not sure in what order everthing has happened and Im sure ill forget something, but here goes...
I think the last time I posted was when we were getting ready to leave Quito. The next day we took an acclimatizing hike to Illiniza Norte. We hiked to a sub-peak at about 15,800´. It was cold and we popped into the hut there which wasn´t the nicest Ive seen. We hustled back to the van for our ride out to the Hacienda. This hacienda was like a ranch house. it was very cool, lots of character. Only one shower but the beds were very comfy and had 3 heavy blankets on each. The food was wonderful!
Leaving there the next morning we drove along a very bumpy road to Cotopaxi Parque de National. Its a huge park with no paved roads. We drove quite a ways till we got to the parking lot below the Jose Ribas Refugio. We needed to take all our gear plus team gear up the 800´ hike, about 45 minutes. I decided to be a good team mate so I loaded a 5 liter bottle in the top of my pack plus a 10 pound bag of food and carried another 5 liter bottle in my hand. This little walk was a butt kicker. It was only 800 feet but at 15,000 feet carrying an 80 pound pack is a chore...
So we got there and moved in for a few days. Its a 30ish bed affair laid out like a barracks. Racks 3 high and in two large rooms. When we got there, there were only a few people in the place so we had our pick of beds. I chose a bottom unit on the end. We were asked to make a small footprint but we, being typical Americans, took all the room we needed...
The Refugio: its basically a climbers hut, but a darn nice one. There is a full kitchen, a store where you can buy beer, water, gatoraid, and other sundries. However it is unheated. It was 40 inside when we got there and it only got colder. Within an hour of getting there I had on every piece of clothing Id brought including my down jacket!
So we basically kicked it there. everyone goes to bed because climbers attempting the summit each night usually start between 11 and 1am. Plus its so cold the only place you can get really warm is in your sleeping bag. I did not sleep well though. Never more than an hour at a time. I would get to sleep then wake up panting as if Id stopped breathing. Weird. I asked the guides and they said that was a common thing... Nice.
The next day I felt horrible! Headache, neasua, fatigue, I didnt want to eat.... I went outside, walked around and did a lot of pressure breathing. that helped. Then I started drinking water every minute or so and started to feel better. We had a mini snow school that day and walked roped without crampons on up to 16,440´ ugh... The summit was another 3000´ feet higher...
Okay, early dinner of yummy burritos, makes for a musical refugio, then to bed at 6pm. We woke at 11pm, got ready and were on the trail by 12am. The sky was beautifully clear. you could see all the stars! All of them!
After an hour on the trail we got to the glacier where we put on crampons and roped up. I also turned on the tracking feature of the spot. Up we went. Here´s the gist of this mountain. the walking distance from the hut to the summit is probably 2 miles, maybe a little less. In this distance you go from 15,800 to 19,347! 3500 feet in 2 miles = STEEP! The first main face took us 3 hours to get up and you can see that entire face from the hut. Above that it eased up for only a few dozen meters then back up it goes. One team mate puked at about 18,000´, I thought about it but decided not to. We kept going. At about 18,500´ we hit a particularly steep section. We cruised up it but at the top I was nearly hyper-ventilating. Jake, the guide helped my get my breathing under control but I told him if there was another section like that that I could not make it. He coached me some more on my breathing pattern and said lets give it a try. So we did.
I checked the tempature, it was 25f. Every time I went to get a drink of water it was frozen inside my backpack. I would shiver at every break, but had on appropriate clothes for the climb...
So we kept trying. I got to 19,000´. I felt like my legs could go on. In fact I felt rather strong. But I could not breath. I tried my hardest to pressure breath but air didn´t seem to be coming in. At this break it was determined that Gerry should go down. He was coughing very hard. With a guide going down with Gerry I decided to turn around too. Given all the time in the world I probably could have gotten to the summit, but it simply wasn´t safe. With not being able to take in O2 i was seeing stars. Literally. It was a smart decision to go down there because when we started down I kept falling down. Not from fatigue but from my inability to get my legs to listen to my head. I was fuzzy to say the least.
So Gerry, Jake and I took our time and headed down. As we went I felt better but I still couldn´t breath well. there was just more oxygen in the air. We finally got back to the refugio and I laid down for about 1/2 an hour. I woke up weezing and coughing. The others all summited, congratulations to them all! When they got back we packed up our gear and made that 800 foot descent to the parking lot. What a long walk that was...
Back in the fan we drove on another long, bumpy and dusty dirt road. Eventually we ended up at Hosteria La Cienaga. The place was wonderful. I took the longest hottest shower in a long time! After that Gerry, Chris and I had some lunch and some beer then took a little walk around the place.
We got back to the room and I read for a bit but was having trouble focusing so I laid down, as chris was doing. We got up at 7 for dinner. Dinner was average but after dinner we went back to our rooms and went to bed. With the exception of one wakeup at about 3am I slept all night! That was the first full night of sleep I´ve gotten since I´ve been down here! I feel so much better today!
Today we came to Hacienda De Guachala, this place was first built in 1580 and is very cool! I´m rooming with Kurtiss and Gerry. We have a fireplace in our room, and the grounds are beautiful! Dinner is at 6:30 and we´re getting up early to go see an Equator monument, then we´re going to a major farmers market. After the market we head up to the refugio at Cayambe for our attempt on that mountain. Three of our team went back to the states today so we´re down to 4 climbers and 2 guides.
I may not feel like updating this on Sunday because we´ll be walking off Cayambe and heading back to Quito for our flights the next morning...
12/7/2007 - Cayambe
The final few days in Ecuador began with a visit to the 0.0.0/0.0.0 point on the face of the earth. That is 0 latitude, 0 longitude. Pretty cool, but our compasses and GPS' still worked fine... We took a few pictures and headed to Otavalo.
Otavalo is a small town with a huge market. We first went to the livestock section. Basically people standing around with their animals waiting for people to come up and make an offer. There were goats, cows, pigs, sheep, I think that was about it. You needed to be careful where you walked... I wanted to buy a goat but I wasn't sure where I would keep it so I skipped that this time.
We then headed over to the street market section. Basically dozens of blocks of people selling their wares. I believe this area was affectionately called the Gringo Market. I picked up a few items and had fun in bargaining. Bartering is certainly expected, and sometimes it's kind of done for you.
Take the blankets I bought for example: I really wanted to find these heavy wool, Alpaca?, blankets we had used at Hacienda El Porviner. The were so warm and comfy! I'd found some in the Quito market but the dude wanted $45. That might have actually been a deal in the US, but we weren't in the US! So when I found some I pulled Gerry over and asked the lady, Quantos?. She told me Trente(30). I asked her to show me how big the blanket was so we pulled it open. Then before I could say anything else she said - Vente! (20). Well, okay that sounds like a deal to me, I'll take it! Bueno! Then I asked Gerry if he wanted to get in on this deal of a lifetime? He said sure. So I asked - Quantos para dos? She said Vente quatro (24). I'm sorry??? Vente para uno e vente quatro para dos??? SI! Woot! We scored! We were happy, and when we looked back the two ladys selling the blankets were laughing. It seemed like they felt they'd gotten the better of the deal. I remarked to Gerry that perhaps this was the definition of a good deal, all parties are satisfied... We shopped a bit more and I picked up some other sundries and some Pan Dulce.
We met everyone back at the van and headed out to Cayambe Refugio which meant another long, bumpy road. However since the road was pretty wet at least it wasn't dusty. After a few hours the van had gotten as far as it could go. The gear would now be brought the rest of the way by Jaime in the Land Cruiser. However climbers now start hiking. It was a pleasant walk up the road to the Refugio. Jaime passed us on the way up and we met him at the Refugio a little while later.
By now we all understood the deal. We moved in, hydrated, rested and prepped our gear for our attempt tonight. I read, wrote in my journal, drank water and breathed. I also decided to check my pulse. At Jose Ribas Refugio on Cotopaxi my heart rate while seated was over 100 (my normal resting heart rate is in the low 50's). While sitting on Cayambe at 15,000' I was now registering 70. Hmmm, seems some physiology is occurring inside Ray... Strangely I would from time to time forget to breath. I don't mean forget ABOUT breathing. I mean forget completely. I'd suddenly gasp and breath deep a few times to catch up. Man! Altitude is weird stuff!
Our scheduled wake up time of midnight came and I heard Dave get up and go outside. He came back a short time later and said it was raining and lightning outside so we were going to wait 1 hour and check again. Didn't matter to me since I'd been up since 9PM anyway...
At 1am, he came back and said the lightning was still going off so we'd wait some more.
I checked my watch at 2AM and figured since we hadn't gotten the GO we weren't going, I think I might have started to relax a bit...
Two minutes later Dave came in and said weather looks good, lets go! OKAY! Lets go! :|
I packed up with the others in the dark and cold, got our plastics and gaiters on. Downstairs we had some oatmeal and tea to warm up and hydrate a bit. I took some caffeine pills so I wouldn't get a headache later. The route up Cayambe starts with about 1000' of Class 2 scrambling. For the neophytes out there, that's basic rock climbing. Facil! I did fall at one point because the rock I was standing on moved. I remember thinking how funny it was that i was on my back and my feet were way over my head. Dave didn't think it was so funny and pointed out that we were just a few feet from a cliff. FINE Mr. Reality! Burst my bubble! ;)
So after an hour of scrambling, slipping, lurching, and traversing we topped out on the rock and were on flat snow. I remarked on my preference for this kind of terrain. With no reply I started to think people weren't appreciating my dry humor around here...
The terrain eventually un-flattened so we roped up and put on the spikes. Where Cotopaxi starts with a sort of kick-in-the-crotch assault with 1800 feet of 55+ degree slope to negotiate, Cayambe is much more deceptive and crafty. The trail gradual steepened over a long time. It was so beautiful, we could see city light below us and some lightning to our east. There was a huge halo around the moon. The climbing was basic and straight forward and more than once I mentioned out loud how amazing this evening was! This was why I climbed! We transitioned onto a ridge line where Dave told Jake, who was leading, to stay toward the middle because this ridge is often corniced, huh?
As the sun started to come up around 5:30am we began to be able to see a bit more. My world became more than Kurtiss' boots in front of me and the crunch breath crunch breath of crampons and ice axe on glacier. But I could now start to also see how little visibility there was. We were in the clouds.
After the ridge we dropped into the crevasse fields below the upper headwall. We continued on above 17,000' and I was feeling good. This day was going to be my day. We could see crevasse's all around and Jake and Dave were diligent in testing for them with probes and ice axe. When they found one they'd enlarge it to get a feel for where it went and how big it was. I began to see how you could follow the snow bridges covering the crevasse's and I got more comfortable here. The snow was a bit flat over these bergschrunds, and perhaps not always but often you could see where not to step. Up we went and the terrain steepened closer to 40 degrees.
While I wouldn't say I was hurting I was starting to feel the affects of the altitude and the increasing difficulty of our path. After my problems on Cotopaxi I knew I needed to put in a concerted effort into my breathing. That means I had to forcefully pressure breath nearly every breath and above 17,000 certainly every breath. Pressure Breathing is basically breathing really hard in then out through pursed lips where by you create a bit of artificial pressure in your lungs and give them a chance to squeeze out just a little bit more oxygen from the oh so thin atmosphere. Now normal breathing for most people is at most an afterthought. It is a very low effort affair. At altitude this changes. As I found on Cotopaxi you MUST pressure breath. You MUST put effort into breathing. And this effort takes, well, effort.
As we neared 18 I knew I needed to put even more effort into my breathing, that this was imperative to my summiting. As you make your way up this mountain you must move your feet, each wearing 5 pounds of plastic boot and crampon; you must place your axe in a safe and defensive way so as to optimize your chances of self arrest should your feet or the ice fail; you must manage the rope to keep it out of your crampons and those of your team-mates; and you must put a substantial effort into breathing. In other words mountaineering is hard...
I had a chance to think about a few more things as we cruised through that crevasse field. I would check my watch not only for altitude checks but also to check our rate of ascent. On Mt. Baldy with 50 pounds I might make 25 feet per min (fpm). A very good pace on a mountain might be 12 to 15 fpm. When it gets really steep you might see 4 to 6 fpm. We were currently going 6fpm and I thought about that for a few minutes (I had nothing else to do but breath, and walk, and manage the rope and ice axe...). I was thinking in terms of the Spots 10 minute updates in the Track mode it was in. Six feet per minute is sixty feet in ten minutes. So I was thinking about my living room which is about 20 feet long. In 10 minutes we were walking 3 times the length of my living room. Here's a little piece of homework for you. Go outside, mark off 60 feet and then try to cover that distance in 10 minutes. You'll get my point... And we really couldn't have gone much faster.
As we got to a break point near 18,200 feet, we had been smelling sulfur for an hour from the Volcano, the visibility was getting really bad. At that point we had three more wands to mark our back trail and we had about 800 feet above to cover to get to the summit. The crevasse's were still all around us. Dave went forward to commiserate with Jake while the three of us, Kurtiss, Jim and my self, ate, drank and breathed. They came back to us and we had a discussion about the trail ahead, the visibility (we could not see more than 15 feet), what kind of terrain we were going to have to cover, and how long that was going to take.
We had 2 to 3 more hours to get to the summit and it had been snowing steadily for two hours. There were 2 tough sections above us; one a pitch of 55+ degrees and a 15 foot section of about 80 degrees to gain the summit itself. It seemed our fitness and pace were not being questioned, just the safety of going up into what we could not see and then coming back down again. As everyone knows the summit is only 1/2 way. Ed Viesturs says that summiting is optional, coming home is mandatory.
So for the second time in three days I turned around a few hundred feet below the summit if a 19,000 foot mountain. And for the second time in three days it was the right decision. We all agreed that going down was the right thing to do. It was only melancholy in that I felt strongly that today, given decent weather, the summit was within my reach. But it was not to be today.
Down we went with Jake leading the way. It snowed steadily until about 16,000 where it turned into more of a slushy rain. Going down the class 2 rocky section was just as un-fun as I thought it might be but not as hard as Disappointment Cleaver on Rainier.
Back at the hut Gerry and Jaime were outside waiting for us and had hot water for tea inside. I was tired and only mildly disappointed. In fact I was quite satisfied. In the last three days I'd touched 19,100 and 18,200 and I still felt pretty damn good.
We went up and packed our gear and loaded the Land Cruiser. But it was raining pretty good outside and we had a 1/2 hour walk to get to the van. Jaime told us he could fit three people in the SUV with him and 3 had to walk. Jake and Dave quickly volunteered to walk and so did Gerry. Cool - Jim, Kurtiss and I would ride.
At the van we loaded climbers and gear and headed back to Quito. Tired but pretty satisfied. It was again a long bumpy ride. I texted Mandi that we were off the mountain, safe and headed back to the hotel in Quito. She wrote back that she was glad I was safe...
A few hours later we get back to the Hotel Mercure Quito and we unload our gear. I go inside to find out which room I'm in and up walks Mandi in the lobby of the Hotel in Ecuador! It took several seconds for me to realize she was really there! In Ecuador! My mind was having trouble processing this... After hugs etcetera she started to tell me about her adventure, which I was amazed to find out had been in the planning stages since October! I'll let the readers get that story from her website and blog: New Heights
Wow, was my head spinning! First I'm breathing reasonably thick air and now my wife is standing in front of me in Ecuador. We went up to the room and I told her many brief stories and showed her some of my souvenirs. She told me some of her stories and showed me her souvenirs. We had some of the exact same pictures... Then she showed me a website she'd made and the guest-book she made so people could sign it and send me messages of encouragement or whatever. I can only say I was very touched by all those messages, thank you to all of you who partook in that little surprise!
Well, that evening we had a team farewell dinner at a place Jaime recommended in Gringo-town. Food and drinks were great and Mandi got to listen as we told stories about our adventures. Afterwards we were all obviously tired so we headed back to the hotel and hit the sack.
We woke early for our flight home the next morning and we got home last night about 7PM tired and happy.
12/17/2007 - Re-Assesment
Okay, I've been back a week and have had some time to reflect on some things. I imagine due to the scale of this trip I'll have some reflection for some time to come. However I've have found some things that I want to commit to bytes to remember in the future.
First I've thought about my two summit attempts. The second on Cayambe seems to make a lot of sense regarding turning around. The mountain dictates who will climb her and when. This day was simply not our day and I have complete peace with that decision.
Cotopaxi vexes me only slightly but let me explain why. I was suffering pretty hard on that climb, but so was everyone else. Though at the time it did seem like I was having more difficulty than some.
One point that gives me some contention is that the rope leading to the climber behind me went taught quite often on the 1800 foot initial face and then again often on the higher pitches that were even steeper. At the risk of calling someone out this was my situation: I was breathing incredibly hard, though not as technically efficient as I should have been. Each step was an effort often preceded by 3 and even 4 pressure breaths. I would physically and mentally prepare myself for my next step, galvanizing myself for the effort, then perform the act. And then, midway through this effort the rope would go taught and I could not complete my step. The effect of this was that I would make a sort of half step, and the rope in front of me would potentially also go taught. Further, since we were on 60 degree or so ice, foot placement was crucial.
On this type of terrain you must be very efficient with your effort, in this vain you look for the optimal place to put your foot. A spot that will allow you to be secure and stable while allowing minimal effort to hold yourself there. If you can't make a step like this it doesn't take but a few seconds for your calves and other leg muscles to start a major burn. Couple this with the fact that you are processing maybe half the oxygen you are at sea level and now you have a situation where you are incapable of processing and eliminating the lactic acid.
This was my situation for most of the day on Cotopaxi and I was not strong enough to help get two people up that mountain. Now I can't say that this was the single cause of my need to turn around, but I doubt it helped my effort. I did not say anything to the guides, and perhaps I should have, but I didn't want to call anyone out on the mountain. However I think the root of my issues was simply a lack of acclimatization or lack of cardio-fitness, perhaps both. In retrospect I think Diamox might have helped the former, but the guides were adamant that I not take any. It seems that diamox is a good preemptive treatment and not so good at reactive treatment. In other words, if you are going to take it, it seems like the most benefit is during acclimatizing not after. I'll keep this nugget of knowledge put away for next time...
Now about that Cardio-Fitness issue. I knew all along that I wasn't sure whether stair climbing was Cardio-intensive enough for this climb. Here's how fitness played out. Basically I could not get my muscles enough oxygen to do their work. When I turned around on Cotopaxi I was not sore, or fatigued. I was dizzy and seeing stars. This wasn't the result of my muscles or my resolve or my energy giving out, it was the direct result of not having enough oxygen. I think the only way to prepare myself for that situation at sea level is to improve my cardio-fitness. I wasn't the only one coming from sea level so I wasn't the only one dealing with this situation.
After my 10 hour attempt on Cotopaxi going up 3500' and back down I was tired sure, I'd been up since 11PM, but I was not fatigued and the next day I was not sore anywhere. Muscles need fuel. That fuel is oxygen. My muscles were running on empty because I was incapable of providing that fuel. I was not diligent or efficient enough in my breathing methods, and perhaps my Cardio-fitness level was not where it needed to be.
On Cayambe I knew, and was coached repeatedly by Jake, that I needed to be completely focused on my breathing. I needed to put maximal effort into it. I did this. I was pressure breathing on every breath on summit day. There are varying levels of effort in pressure breathing and sitting around was one level, climbing up 50 degree ice was a whole other level. I stayed focused on this but putting this much effort into breathing can wear on you. I remember at one point on Cayambe that I was just so tired of breathing. My legs felt great, even my neck wasn't too sore from carrying a helmet and head lamp, but my head and breathing parts were very tired of the effort that absolutely had to be put into breathing. And I could feel the difference. If I forgot, or chose not, to breath with maximal effort I got tired quickly and when I'd start to pressure breath really hard my head and legs would feel better.
So the hardest part for me at these elevations was simply the act of breathing itself. Secondary to that was eating. At these elevations you simply don't want to eat. In fact some foods you scarf on at home actually seem revolting up there. I had a hard time eating Poptarts, Peanut butter, and I didn't want anywhere near the amount of candy I'd brought.
So in a nutshell I suffered primarily from lack of fuel, be it O's or Sugar.
Now I just got back from the gym a little while ago where I rode the bike for 20 minutes and ran on the treadmill for 20 minutes. Running on the treadmill was a revelation! I've been climbing thousands of stairs for months. My walking and stair climbing muscles are very strong and fit! Running is nearly purely a cardiovascular exercise. There is muscle involved but not the level of climbing stairs or riding a bike. When running you work your heart and you work your lungs. In my 20 minutes on the treadmill I could feel my lack of cardiovascular fitness. WOW! What a surprise! As I was running I thought to myself "Wow, just doing this 3 times a week after the stairs probably would have made the difference of my summiting or not...". I now think that is a true statement.
I know everyone is different and the way one's body responds to work will be different than another's. However way back when I put up my survey on cardio exercises, I probably knew the truth. I needed to make my lungs and heart stronger and while stairs whipped my lower body into shape it simply was not enough punishment for the these blood oxygenating tools I have.
Another discovery from my trip down south is that I lost 10 pounds. Despite all the beer and fats and hi-carb foods. That gives some indication to what we were doing to ourselves down there.
I feel I am a better climber now than before this trip and I think I have a better understanding what it takes to prepare for a trip like this. I did not have any HAPE, HACE, or AMS issues down there. So it would seem my body will accept life in these altitudes for at least a short duration. I think I improved on my stepping and breathing techniques due to an abundance of practice time... I also bugged the guides regularly about the terrain so I learned more about how some things look under certain conditions. I also learned some new knots so that was fun.
Overall the guides allow for a level of expertise that I very likely will not attain. Mountains of this size require respect. However local mountains in the lower 48, I feel many of them are now within my reach. I'm no pro mountaineer but I feel I have improved my competence somewhat, plus I've always been comfortable in a pack on my back or in a tent or on a trail...
So the future is bright. There are other mountains I want to climb and I DO still want to climb! I wasn't sure if my interest or drive would wane after this trip but if anything the opposite has happened! More than likely to the chagrin of Mandi...