“Life is brought down to the basics: if you are warm, regular, healthy, not thirsty or hungry, then you are not on a mountain. . . . Climbing at altitude is like hitting your head against a brick wall – it’s great when you stop.” – Chris Darwin ,The Social Climbers
How true that is. I’ve been hitting my head against the wall not once but 3 times in a row. Maybe what he didn’t mention is that the feel good factor only lasts moments after you stop hitting your head against the wall and that you need to keep going at it to keep feeling good. I keep wondering why I am doing this all the time. Pushing myself to my limit with my lungs expanding and collapsing till they seem to be bursting, with my diaphragm having spams from the extreme contractions, with my nose dripping away from the cold dry air, with the lactic acid building up in my legs without having a chance to drain, without having a moment to eat or drink anything for 6h straight, with my body eating away itself for energy in the intense burst, with myself wondering why am I doing this just to reach the top so as to take a few meagrely photos and come down just as fast as I went up. Well, that’s mountaineering… And I am doing it for training for the big one – Everest! That’s enough motivation to carry on, don’t you think? It has been tough but really worthwhile thus far.
I reached home on the 1st of Feb and have been resting since. It’s nice to be warm and have basic facilities around the place you stay for once. I can’t believe that I’ve completed all 4 of my training climbs and its time for the big one real soon. More than half a year as flown by and the best part is that everything has been completed according to the initial plans I set out to accomplish from the start. 6 mountains, 5 countries, 4 months climbing, 3 successful climbs, 2 continents, 1 goal… Haha. Sounds too cliché…
Now, I’m in full swing peeps for the big one. I just booked my silk air flight tickets a few days ago and will be leaving on the 11th of march. There’s is just too much to do within this 1 month. Preparations for the climb, training, seeking sponsors (still!), preparations for the medical clinic that I hope to set up in Phortse, trying to manage all the freight to lug to Nepal and maybe helping out in a school in another village called Gorkha in Nepal after my climb and of course not to mention the 101 weddings, receptions and gatherings of friends that I have to attend. I wish I had a little bit more time and a little bit more help.
This trip to South America has been very interesting. Some after thoughts follows.
I didn’t know anything about Spanish except for uno, dos, dres, quadros. Thanks for pitbull’s wonderful song, 1 2 3 4, I know you want me. Only when I got to Argentina did I realise that my comprehensive vocabulary of 1-4 and my finger to point at objects that I wanted to buy just wasn’t going to be enough. We learnt the hard way of nodding at everything the locals were saying and always getting the things that we didn’t want. Then we came up with a theory that adding an ‘o’ to every English word would make it Spanish. Finito, Perfecto, Excellento, Minuto, Wineo, Beero, Beefo. The problem was that it only worked for half the words. So we realised that we had no way but to commit some of the words to memory. So we learnt the most important words. Commedos – food, Ceverza – Beer, Wino – Wine, Carnes – Beef, Aqua – water, La Quenta – Bill (which isn’t that important as they always seemed to give to us regardless of whether we asked for it or just pretended to walk away), Montana – Mountain, Cinto minuto – 5 minutes (when we needed more rest during the climb) and when it was given Gracious – Thank you and Por Favor – Please when it was not given. Spanish is something like Malay. U can put the verb behind or in front of adjective and it doesn’t matter. Actually I’m not sure if we invented our own grammar. What ever the case, we survived South America learning a lot more and realised that if u know English, Mandrin and Spanish, one could probably communicate with at least 80% of the world’s population.
I have never eaten beef before in my life… till I got to Argentina. There have been many times when I went hungry on the mountains as I would refuse eating all the freeze dried food which almost always contained some form of beef in it. I realised that if I went to a country where beef is almost like their staple diet and refuse to eat it, I would starve. So I made an exception that I would eat beef only during this trip. For a non beef eater, what can I say about Argentinian beef? Its probably the best meat out there. Further more everyone kept saying that the Argentinian steaks were the best they have ever tried. Everyone was appalled that I had never eaten beef before due to the sheer quantity I was eating during each meal. Each portion of beef there comes no less than 0.5kg. Apparently that’s a lot but I had no problem finishing and savouring every fibre of it. I’m not proud but have tried well done, medium, medium rare, rare and probably know all the cuts that can be made from a cow in Spanish – ribs, tenderloin, sirloin, platysma, external intercoastal muscles, brisket, shank, flank. My best pick is medium done bbqed ribs marinated only with salt and pepper made in Gaucho (the traditional cowboys of Argentina) style. Just thinking about it now is making my mouth water. I think the biggest challenge would be to resist the temptation of consuming beef hence forth, now that I’m back home. However, I’ll always remember and fantasise about the romantic moments I had with the only meat of all that I’ve tried that I could call real meat. Sigh…
The dusty cow boy town of Fiambala is known for its hot springs and its mountains. People from all over Argentina and Chile come over to the town for its attractions. When we finished Ojos and were wondering what to do, our guides suggested that we recharge in the hot springs before heading up another mountain. I’m so glad we agreed as well. We had a bbq and wine by the hot springs and stayed overnight at the place. Wonderful experience indeed. Dipping into the waters of different temperatures (that u can choose from) at midnight and coming out for roast beef when it was ready and sipping a glass of wine while you chilled out (more like heated up) in the pool. And snuggling up in our cosy tents when we were full and warm finally after an absolutely exhausting week at Ojos. We were definitely ready to take on San Francisco.
After San Francisco, we had another family bbq organised by the Jonson family (the guy who is the climbing boss in the town). This guy nearly owns the whole town. All the vineyards in and around the town are his and the whole tourism industry is under his control. He was the 1st Argentinian (and 5th person in the world) and his daughter Ruth (now 33) was the 1st female in the world to have climbed Ojos. We were in the hands of such great company receiving such great hospitality sipping the freshest of wines. What more could we ask for as an after party and conclusion to our great trip.
This was supposed to be a climbing blog and why have I wondered off to talking about the decadence of life? Lets get back to the suffering. The Puna is such a wonderful place with so many 6000m peaks dispersed around all over the place. There are so many unclimbed peaks as well. It’s a sanctuary for climbers. I think one can spend a few months in the Atacama region alone. Swee Chiow is making plans for his next trip there and I know I will definitely come back again one day. When, is the biggest question.
Now that I’m finally back home, its time to maintain/increase my fitness again and do all the preparations for the next climb which is going to be the BIG ONE – Everest. Will be uploading photos and videos very shortly.