Getting to the top, we were one of the 1st groups to arrive. Phil and Paul were about 10 mins if that in front of us and other than one other group of three we were next on the top 🙂 It was 0615 and having left around 0105, we reckon it took us about 5hrs 10min. Nice one. We obviously timed it perfectly as the sun began to rise and quickly taking lots of photos – of the view, of ourselves, of us with Marcelo etc… we started making our descent, we knew well enough it would be another hour before it warmed up and even then the wind chill would probably stay so no need to hang around. The sunrise was awesome and well worth the effort!
On the way back down we passed lots of wreckage. Florian and Petr were on the Arête and contemplating giving up. Partly our encouragement and partly not wanting to be beaten by a girl we are sure, they reluctantly crawled past us. We think they should have carried more water and that was their main problem, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Our remaining water was now frozen in our camelbak and we´d need to descend quite a bit to render it drinkable again.
We also passed the scared Norwegian who was huddled out of the wind shaking and looking very much out of his comfort zone. A guide had darted past us only moments earlier, obviously having given up trying to get him to the top and now letting his fellow guides know he was resigned to going back down.
Happy in the knowledge that stamina and determination won through, that we made it to the top was only sweetened by the added bonus that we beat most of the others who started off at a race pace and double bonus that Bernice was the only girl today to make it (the other girl retired probably about 5/600m from the summit) 🙂 Oh Yeah!
As suspected the descent was pretty tricky and not to be under estimated. You´d be forgiven for thinking the reason for the night hike was to hide the danger in a vale of darkness, a fact that it did indeed do, however this was not the reason. The reason was much more basic than this. We needed to walk up and preferably back down before the sun had time to melt the ice and make the journey altogether unachievable.
Back at base camp we had soup for what was effectively our breakfast and we relaxed in the now warm sun as we waited on the others arrive. Phil and Paul had caught us up just before we reached the refugio, but Florian and Petr were quite a while and disappeared upstairs as soon as they did to have a snooze! Or so they thought… we still had to hike back off the hill.
Everyone is exhausted but equally elated. It goes to show the statistics aren´t lying where this beast of a mountain is concerned. If you are following behind us and are tempted to give it a try, bear in mind: We did the 3 day trek, taking in the ice-climbing on day 1 – and we all reached the top. Those who only did the 2 day hike – the other girl for instance – never made it. So our advice?! Do the 3 dayer! Its great fun and the acclimatisation is necessary!!! You´ll only be mega disappointed if you fail at the last.
Once we´re all rested (Florian and Petr really wanted more rest) we move on down to the bottom refugio, they follow us when they get their butts in gear. The only rush is meeting the transport back to La Paz. It´ll arrive with a new load of hikers where it dropped us off around 1215 and we have to be there to meet it having unloaded all the hiking gear 1st. So sleeping up at the high refugio all morning is not an option.
Funnily Huw makes a comment at the lower camp that it was supposed to snow today and that the weather website he uses has been really reliable up until now (www.mountain-forecast.com), when suddenly without a word of a lie it changes from sunbathing weather to a hail storm right before our eyes. Thankfully the boys had arrived and we were able to get down meeting the transport in the nick of time so as not to get drenched.
Another spooky thing happens, as the new group arriving get off the minibuses we hear our names being called – Joe and Ellie, the English couple we met in Valparaiso are here. They left us way back to hurry to Peru to see Machupicchu and do a month’s voluntary work, we never expected to see them again, let alone here… They have indeed done these things and are intending dong the 2 day climb of Hauyna Potosi, danger danger, we say… but having trekked Machupicchu they are reasonably confident in doing this, we wish them luck and suggest meeting up back in La Paz when they return.
We get back to La Paz around 1500 and the guides insist we go back to the office to collect our victory tee-shirts. The girl who didn’t make it to the summit is with us, but we don´t think anything of it, I mean they were quite adamant on their forms that only those who succeeded could have a tee-shirt.
Very very very tired we all head to our respective hostels for a well-earned sleep, and realising how tired we all are we don´t even try and make a plan for later, just suggest getting in touch tomorrow for sure and later maybe. As it happens we sleep till about 1930 and then order pizza to be delivered to the hostel, eat this and then sleep till morning.