So today we had planned on doing a carry to Camp 2, known as Helicopter Camp, at 17,500ft. Unfortunately when having breakfast and Peter asking how everyone was feeling, three of us (I was one) weren’t feeling 100%. As a result of this, Peter decided that it would do everyone good if we took the opportunity to have a rest day. There were four contingency days built into the programme (three meant for summit day), so we could afford the time. Everyone would be better and stronger for the climb with an extra day anyway, so that was that.
Guides will normally always ask at the start and end end of a day how people are doing. Generally they will ask if you slept, how your head is, and if everything else is ok. The questions are designed to make sure no-one has, or is likely to develop, AMS. No-one today was sick at all, just not 100% raring to go. The best ‘cure’ for potential AMS is prevention, and not going higher, so good calls are made in these circumstances.
The day was extremely windy, and so any time out of the tent had to be kept to a minimum. As such everyone just hung around and dozed or read. There were a couple of other groups around us who did go up for their carry during the day, and told us that the conditions were brutally windy at Camp 2. We’d had a forecast that told us that December 31st and 1st January would be the two worst days, and so we’d hit the bad conditions somewhere around Camp 2 as well.
At Camp 1 we no longer had amenities. Water had to be retrieved form the glacier and treated (thankfully the guides did the bulk of this), food had to be reconstituted/heated on a camping stove for all of us and put into bowls that we had with us, and there were no longer toilet facilities. Human waste has to be ‘done’ in plastic sacks, and then tied up and left to be taken down the mountain later by porters – thankfully it would freeze, and the bags also had what amounted to cat litter inside to absorb everything. Not a pleasant subject I know, but ‘just saying’ in case you are curious. It is good that guide companies and the Aconcagua park take these things seriously – I remember my time on Kilimanjaro where I have never seen so much human waste in my life!
During the afternoon in the tent, I thought at times it was going to blow away, this despite what was probably 200kg or more of rocks holding it down, and us inside it. It can be quite an intimidating time, and not as restful as it should be. It is certainly also frustrating, as time drags, and you don’t want to sleep too much as otherwise you won’t sleep in the night, when you will spend a minimum of another 12 hours inside your sleeping bag.
The guides brought us dinner of burritos in our tents at about 6pm, which was great, and that was the end of the day really. The fact that I had staved off sleep during the day proved a bad choice, as the winds were so high in the night that a box of sleeping pills wouldn’t have got me to sleep. It reminded me of the infamous ‘flappy roof’ night on Elbrus where similar winds had the same result. Those if any reading who were there will know just what I mean!
The next day, regardless of conditions (unless really extreme) would see our carry up to Camp 2. We were ready, or so we thought……