Ascending three miles above sea level
22.04.2008 - 25.04.2008 2 °C
Out of Trujillo, Frank and I ascended into the Peruvian Andes, making our way into Huaraz. Immediately as we got off our night bus we came upon people leading us to hostels and givingus deals for the Santa Cruz trek. We found out fast that the bus terminal was in a new location and quite far off from anyone, so we latched on to one happy Huarazian who directed us to a place to eat. He was offering us an all inclusive trip along the Santa Cruz trek for a whopping $100. He toyed with him getting him down to $80, but ultimately sent him off. We would go up to Punta Union and back for a measley S/120 which was less than half of his offering price. We pulled into Caraz, a pristine little mountain town that reminded me of those in Colorado for the night and found a perfect colonial hostal with someone who helped us plan out our trip up to Punta Union and back so as not to pay a S/65 fee to take the trek. In the morning we got out early to catch a collectivo driven by a hell-bent teenager who sped on the dirt roat past the many points of plunging off the mountain at 90km/hr. Getting out, Frank and I kissed the ground before even taking notice of our surroundings. In front of us was a steep canyon, much to our displeasure, after all climbing at over 3000m high after being at sea level only 35 hours earlier was hellish. It took us awhile, but our youth took over. We cruised through the first camp and off to the second that was recommended for us to stay. But upon getting to French couple going down, they encouraged us to go on farther. Well, what the hell, we made it this far and it's only 2:30. So we kept going... and going... and going... Where was the path anyway? But the scenery was nice. Waterfalls crashing down the steep slopes of mountains seemingly coming from the heavens. We were completely alone with only donkeys and cattle. In front of us were snow capped peaks of over 5000m high. On more than one occation we had to stop and recharge with sugar and some food, leaking already light supply of food supposedly for four days. By the time we saw the tents of others camped at the base of punta union it was 5ish and we were beat. We climbed 20km uphill on limited food. We were already down to just eight fruit and a loaf of bread and some bad andean cheese. I couldn't even sleep at night I was so tired. The morning was very slow coming. At one point I was just impelled to get back outside and stand for a second, and the brilliant stars hung up above. I would have stayed outside, except I was freezing! It had to have been single digits, celcius. Finally the morning did come, and the group camping near us invited us over for mate de coca. It gave us enough of a boost to start early on the hike up to Punta Union, 500m higher than we had slept. We were getting close, at least we hoped, because I was needing to take a break at every switch back to keep my heart from racing like that of a hummingbird's. Then it started to hail on us. I was just about to turn around and go back down. Afterall the pass was not even in sight. But pushed further by looking at a stunning glacier lake, it finally slowed enough to see in front of us. We then saw the sign to signify the top. When we got there, it was not as gratifying with the hail, but every once in a while it would break and the peak ajoining the ridge we topped was in clear view. It was so close, only 1000m higher. I wasn't even thinking about it. I was just proud to say I climbed three miles high in less than three days. Pretty shocking. At 4750m high, or 15675ft, higher than any point in the continental United States, it probably is the highest I will ever be above sea level.