Tuesday, 09.03.2010: Milestone reached!

9 Mar
Please… Don’t do it!

Sorry for those words, I just want to avoid any reader thinking: “let’s do the same!” Today was much different then all the others, with not only one risky part. So if you think you are as mad as I am, go for it. Just think: the path/road is getting worse every day, week, month… I whish I could turn time back and use the road when it was in good condition! :-))

So, back to what happened today:

I woke up “early”, calculating that I would arrive in the afternoon latest on the top – IF I would get it. When the alarm clock rang, I was thinking of sleeping longer: it was just to cold for me (only -2°C, I know) But I had my target, my milestone of that travel…the reason why I had chosen that region. So I cooked some porridge as every morning: Gérard introduced me to the “instant” version that is found here, so I just needed to boil water and add milk powder. It was so cold for me that I was doing it from the sleeping bag. Even while eating I let the stove burn a little to warm up the tent.
Finally I was set and could leave at 7h15, just before sunrise. I knew the first kilometer was quite steep and not worth burning my muscles. On the plateau at 5200m the ground was hard enough and so it was possible to cycle. I took the same way as two days before, cycling the first few turns in direction of the top. I was thenn stopped by the steepness mixed with loose sand. From there I had to push and pull the bike.
And it was lucky day: the snow from two days before was gone, the weather did not show any clouds. I arrived at the mountain station, from which I had to choose my way in a kind of yellow labyrinth. Interesting: someone have let a “newer” gas bottle in the station. I just hope that “he” did not need to sleep at that altitude (5890m!).
So I followed whatI was thinking of path…which was more and more covered by snow The grip of my shoes was really good so I could with some efforts even pass some difficult parts, where the snow have fill up the path. The more I continued, the more it did look like I would need to circle around the summit before reaching it. And again I arrived at a risky point where snow could habe come down.
Finally I reached the point where I had to decide, which summit is higher resp. Which one is the Aucanquilcha. I was quite surprised that they were so similar and that between them someone had let an old machine, which was used for sonding the terrain for new sulfure. I followed the GPS and f i n a l l y arrived at the summit – without headache, just feeling the poor oxygen concentration: after 20 steps I needed a short rest of 20s to breeze more deeply.
The Aucanquilcha is a mountain with four summit in parralelogram: east and west one, in the middle two. One the laddest is the higher point. And there are or was three “mines”: at the west side of the west summit, between the west and middle summit and between the middle and east summit.
So, of course I had to take some pictures – you can I think even see parts of the salar the Uyuni…and then search for another way down, as I did not want to take the same, risky way up. It was a little a weird feeling: standing on my first high mountain and not knowing how to get (safely) down. And finally I found another way, got back to the bike and went down: where it was possible on the bike (mainly depending if the snow was hard enough).
When I reached the serpentines which where mostly sandy, I decided to shortcut some of them as it was not funny to push the bike ont the small path. So I felt like my ski “students” when I was telling them: just go straight down and when it get to fast turn to the side. Well, when you see the steepness and when you are not used to such “sport”, something is braking your effort…
Then I reach the “road” and the flat sandy part like yesterday again and could enjoy the last kilometers.
I arrived in the middle of the afternoon the basecamp and did still not realize that I had done it…only later, when I looked again the pictures I felt like the pressure was releasing and my smile was getting larger and larger. I ate some lunch in the sun, just enjoying the moment…

It is not the first time I’m thinking of it: I had much issues (trailer, bike, stove, wallet, wrong map, tire etc.) for which I could complain or even have complained. And on the other hand, those are peanuts comparing to what other people are living. For sure, when one (me including) have a small trouble, then everything else is not in mind. And just in those moments it is important to relativilise it…not always look up, but down as well! I was today very lucky with the weather and with the nature: one could have encounter some rocks coming down, meet a small avalanche of wet snow which is enough to brake you a leg or stuck you there or just have a wrong step and fall some meters down.

Whoever: thanks for the Luck! :-)) on the other side: no risk, no fun…and I had muuuch of it!

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