When the mountain speaks – you should really listen…
We packed up for high camp morning of Dec 11th and drove into Chimborazo Park. The weather was so favourable. Good hike up – view stunning (see yesterday’s blog). On the way we saw and heard a large rock slide – Maytag sized rocks tumbling down the mountain – so impressive! The summit campsite is 4 geodesic domes – 3 for sleeping and one for the kitchen/dining area. We had one dome to ourselves, mats on the ground, pretty darn cold but still kind of cosy.
When we got into camp we had hot drinks and popcorn in the food tent. The water source is no longer convenient and they have to walk barrels in from a ways to the north. We spent the time gathering our thoughts and visioning the midnight departure, everyone super excited to be in the moment. Then an unexpected team meeting….
Climate change and glacial recession have changed this mountain. Shaun was saying that rock slides, at least in Canada, often occur when the sun hits the rock slope and melts the snow/frost and dries the rock up making it more susceptible to sliding and falling. So in essence you can kind of predict when the rock slide might happen.
Here that isn’t the case. In fact, at the team meeting we found out that the rock slide we had witnessed on the way up went right across the traverse we need to take in order to do the climb. Scarier, there have been 4 rock slides in the prior 72 hrs, and an additional 2 happened while we were at camp. And to put the frighteners on us even more – the area of exposure on the traverse is an hour long, and of course that is going and returning, ie a 2 hr exposure. And it’s not like you can sprint at 5400m?? So in essence, an unpredictable, 2 hr exposure of fridge sized rocks, and killer rock slides; that have been increasing dramatically in particular over the last 72 hrs, due to the dry weather. What to do????
In essence this made for a pretty easy decision – we do not play roulette with our lives; so although we may have been able to squeak through, we couldn’t accurately predict or estimate the odds (and remember Farid’s expertise is in risk prediction). And as such we all chose, independently, the guides (all 3) and us (Dale, Farid and me) were unanimous NFW we were going to attempt this traverse and hence the summit. So we watched a most amazing sunset and then jumped in our bags to catch some shut eye. I have to say I spent a good bit of the night thinking about those rocks and their pulverizing ability. So on our descent today we boogied, non stop descent in < 1 hr (took 3 hrs to get up)……..A stark reminder of the power of the mountain awaited us at the trail head where there is a beautiful memorial for those that have lost their lives climbing Chimborazo.
Deep down I am not even slightly disappointed, as a team we have achieved 6 of 7 peaks attempted – which is bloody amazing. And yes, we had a turned ankle, a big knee laceration, a crampon puncture, some knee effusions, headaches and other altitude paraphernalia etc – but at the end of the day we are all safe, healthy, we had fun and we DEFINITELY tested our limits.