FROM THROWING UP TO THE TEARS OF HAPPINESS AT THE SUMMIT
18. 01. 2019
It has been quite a rush before leaving my work here in the UK. I had to prepare everything for over forty employees in Slovakia that I am in charge of. All of them wished me good luck on my expedition, the goal is clear: the Aconcagua summit (6 962 m), the highest peak of Southern America!
We started our expedition at the Gatwick Airport in London, from where we flew directly to Buenos Aires. Before that, we visited our expedition leader, Nims, a former member of SBS (Special Boat Services), who had climbed Mt. Everest four times. At the moment he is trying to conquer fourteen 8000-metre peaks within 7 months. At the airport, we checked the weight of our luggage, the numbers were enormous, as you can see for yourselves: 24 kg, 23 kg, 16 kg, 9 kg a 5 kg. Kind of fun to carry it with us whilst travelling.
In Buenos Aires, we transferred on to the flight to Mendoza in Argentina. Even now, I cannot express my opinion about the country. Parts of the city filled with clean green parks alternated with streets with burned cars and buses and buildings with bars on the windows and doors only a few blocks away.
I remember thinking: “I can’t wait until we are climbing the mountain.”
In the arrival hall, Argentinian taxi driver welcomed us with a name tag “Sam and Daniela”. The following day, we met the other members of the expedition. Members of our team came from Mexico, Nepal, Peru, the United States, Great Britain, Italy and Australia. Many of them were such interesting people, for example Deeya with Nepal Nationality, despite being a quiet and calm girl, she is also a film star. Sam from Texas was another interesting person. A famous singer of the Sam Riggs country band. Currently one of my most favourite bands. His voice is just perfect. Besides that, he is also a pilot. Over the time his lifestyle had worsened and he also experimented with drugs, and the Aconcagua expedition was a way to get all of those black thought he had out of his head.
It started by throwing up
Another great person was an Italian guy, Leonardo, who takes photographs for the National Geographic and the photos are simply breathtaking. Our guide was Victor from Peru. He was not very talkative and did not seem friendly at all. But he is a great mountaineer, who has climbed Mt. Everest countless times. Right on the following day, the expedition started. In my case, it was an absolute unpleasant start though. I woke up around 2 a.m. and threw up. I felt so bad that the only thought which ran through my head was that this is the end of my expedition, totally exhausted. The following day I slowly got better.
The very beginning of the ascent was just walking in the snow. Even though it was cold there and we were walking through a snowstorm, we were sweating all over our clothes. I could barely breathe, I felt terrible. The flu was coming so I was getting rid of the layers one after the other. Eventually, me and my partner, Sam, were walking in shirts only.
We had soup and pizza for dinner. Delicious! However, after few first mouthfuls, I rushed outside and vomited again. Oh, boy! At that time I just thought: “I need to get better by the morning!” And I did, much sooner than expected. We continued our expedition through the dessert. I grabbed my Recovery H2 Inside, which is molecular hydrogen, to get even better. It worked extremely fast and so when we came to the camp I immediately jumped into my sleeping bag. I knew there is a difficult eight-hour walk the following day coming so I need to gain as much energy as possible over the night.
My heart felt like it nearly went to my throat.
The next morning I am still not feeling well. I lacked energy, my immunity was completely gone. After five hours, a snowstorm came so we struggled to find the base camp. Eventually, we did. I still did not feel entirely well. In the base camp, our oxygen content of blood was measured. Also, our pulse was checked. We were between 88 %, pulse 99 to 67 %, pulse 108 (which was me, of course). Sam was at 80 % oxygen and pulse 112. After the check, we swallowed clove of garlic which we sliced into hot water. It is supposed to help us. At night, temperatures attacked minus 28 °C. I was woken up by the cold. My pulse was still high, my heart was literally racing. That was also a reason why we had to have proper acclimatization.
After a few days, I felt better. I even started enjoying the ascent. My energy was back. Paradoxically enough, climbing with crampons was a real joy for me. Then, Sam’s unlucky moment came. His crampon got stuck and he fell down on the ground! After several seconds, he got up and waved showing that he was OK. At first, I thought I lost him for good…
Starts all over the sky!
Stars all over the sky!
Sam from Texas, who had to descend due to frost bites fell down as well. He hurt his knee so badly that he had to leave the expedition. The following day he must have caught helicopter back to Mendoza. Sam is a charity supporter so he wanted to take its flag to the summit. It meant a lot to him and he was extremely happy when we offered him to take it along with us.
… At night, we were woken up by a huge wind storm, which torn a part of our tent. It was impossible to fix it at that moment so we slept in a strong breeze. I was even afraid to go to the toilet because of the danger of being thrown down from the cliff by the wind. It was something! Once the weather got a bit better, I found the courage to get out of the tent and go to the toilet. Similarly to the previous Elbrus expedition, the night sky was studded with stars. It was stunning. I have never seen as many stars in my life. Getting out of the sleeping bag was totally worth it.
For several days, we had been waiting for the right weather to set off for the summit climb. Everybody was annoyed but eager to get to the top. When the weather seemed suitable for climbing, the guide came and said that the ascent was postponed due to strong wind. We were running out of time. Some members of the expedition had problems to get along with each other. Tiredness and the lack of sleep took its toll.
The day we eagerly waited for, eventually came. I set my alarm for 1:55. I hoped everything would go smooth. It was windy but not that cold. Or I just thought so as I was still half asleep. We were ready to go at 3 a.m. being equipped with flashlights and thermos flasks full of hot water. From the very beginning, it was a steep climb so we had problems t breathe properly. The air was too thin.
We met lots of people with headtorches going down. Giving it up. Majority of us started to be unsure whether we can make it. However, we carried on. We all clamped to the rope because of the wind which literally knocked us to our knees. I did not like being tied to the others because I had to drag those slower ones behind me. Those in front of me, on the other hand, were complaining that it was me who slower them down… Everybody was angry, the exhaustion and annoyance was in the air. Meantime the weather was getting worse again.
The summit… Finally!
It was a consultation time. We all agreed to keep on climbing. Eventually, the sun started to shine. I had to take a hydrogen shot (Recovery H2 Inside) again because my knees started to bend. At that time, we had the last three hours ahead. We will not give it up! But around an hour and a half before the summit, another snow storm came so we literally had to scramble up to the top. Some of the members of the expeditions gave up...because of frostbites on their face.
This was clearly the biggest challenge I had ever undertaken. I was extremely exhausted when I stumbled to a stone and...THE SUMMIT! I sat down and started crying. Even though I did not see anything, the atmosphere was amazing. We all took out flags of our sponsors. In my case, it was a jersey of Davos, a KILPI flag and the flag of my employer called Hortor. I would like to thank everyone for their support, it wouldn’t be possible without them.
After 16 days without having a shower, in extreme cold, with heavy rucksacks, in storms… it was worth it! We spent in about twenty minutes there at the highest peak of Southern America. A six-hour journey to the camp was ahead of us. The exhaustion was obvious on each of us. I walked very slow, not to fall down, since I did not see a thing through my frozen snow goggles. Once we reached the base camp, people applauded to us as everybody got worried about us. But we did it.
Hurray, the expedition successfully accomplished! After Elbrus, I conquered my second summit in 7 summit challenge so there are “only” five more to attempt!