Pisco

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I watched the bad weather roll out across Huaraz for 5 days. In the back of my mind I pictured the growing hostal bill. One good thing was that I got to meet some lovely people. I managed to convince two of them to come on a mountaineering trip.

Convincee 1: Ashley Atkins
Nationality: Confused American or wannabe Canadian.
Age: 20
Hair: Blonde.
Special Talents: Good looking, had used crampons before, takes up less space in the tent than a man, good at cooking, knows some card games, owns a large rucksack.
Weakness: Bit slow.

Convincee 2: Sam Stephens
Nationality: Cornish, English.
Age:24
Hair: Curly tangled mop.
Special Talents: Banter, homebrew knowledge, tent making knowledge, boundless enthuaism.
Weakness: Not aclimatized, might have eaten something dodgy.
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Our target was Pisco. Not to be confussed with the drink or the coastal town, this 5760m peak is a Cordillera Blanca classic. It was to be a DIY trip. No guides, no donkey, no cook, no idea what we were letting ourselves in for.
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First stop: rental shop. Ricardo sorted us out with a photocopied A4 map and a bunch of rental equipment. Ice axes, crampons, harnesses, rope, snow pants, etc.

Then, supermercado, bed, bus, another bus, walk, and bed again. Only this time it is in base camp. We wern't able to afford the plush refuggio with its delightful toilets with seats, soft beds and tasty nosh. Instead we used a squat toilet, squeezed 3 people into a 2-man tent, and ate pasta and sauce.
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Let's rewind. Three people in a tent, at best, suited to half that number. It required either tetris like organisation or spooning.
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Day two. Not a lot to do today except play cards. Ashley taught us a game called Egyptian Rat Screw. Like climbing it required quick reflexes, good judgement, and a keen eye. I lacked any of these skills and went out very fast each time we played. After lunch, which Sam couldn't face, we crossed a luna-landscape of glacial moraines. Not easy as the path is hard to make out. We set up the tent and squeezed in. Alarm set for 11:45pm.
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Day Three.We woke. I unzipped the flap and pulled in some oats, powdered milk and granola. We mixed it up with some icey water in a pan and ate. Sam had one spoonfull before unzipping his side of the tent and spraying vommit on my flysheet. We got out and got dressed for the occasion. Then, roped up, we got on the glacier. The first 20m were a steepish climb if you've never used an ice axe in anger before and Ashley slipped. Fortunately I had her on a body belay and I was brased in a bucket seat I had kicked into the snow. The going got easier.

Sam's condition was not good. We were taking very frequent rests. He hadn't eaten properly for 3 meals now. He tried some biscuits which he managed to keep down. At least for about 10 minutes when he threw up again. We continued. We got slower and slower. Sam was in a bad way leaving a trail of little orange sick stains in the snow behind us. Eventually he stopped, lay down on the snow. I asked him if he was ok and he said he was exhausted and had no energy. It was inevitable we had to turn back.

Down happened a bit quicker with the only real problem being the steep section. Here Sam managed to negociate the hard part, with a progressively dimming head-torch, only to bag himself in the eye with his ice-axe. Poor guy. Ashley and Sam scampered off back to bed. I turned around and, in the breaking dawn, headed up to the top alone.

After passing our turn-around point I headed up several snowy slopes, all walking but with progressively more dangerous outcomes if you slipped. Fantastic snow formations, crevases and icicles.

Further up the snow became more powdery and the trail more blown out. It was very windy. I climbed a seemingly never-ending slope right beside a 3000m drop. Then the slope eased and I just plodded upwards. Very little air up there and I had to breathe hard and walk slow. Eventually I reached another steep section and the summit. My third mountain above 5000m and in the most adventurous style yet.


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