SUMMIT DAY

The summit morning begins around 5am and the cold makes you get your gear together quickly. I have the habit of sleeping almost completely dressed so i'm warm and ready to go. The route rises up from Camp 4 (see the fifth and sixth pictures) to Independencia Hut. This doesn't take too much energy and the wind was very mild since the mountain cuts it off during this part of the ascent. Once we arrived at the Hut, (not much of a hut - more the size of a tattered dog house - sorry but true) we took a break ate and took water. The traverse was short but brutally cold with winds of at least 80-90 km/h. Honestly I felt like I would be thrown down yet falling is difficult because the path is wide and the wind comes up from the valley pushing you up the slope. All skin has to be covered here because it will freeze very fast with these winds and more so because the traverse takes place around daybreak and it is very cold. Once the traverse is complete we start up the scree at the very base of the Canaleta. Here we took another break and my feet were getting very cold. I took off my boots and tried to warm my feet but the problem was the boots were tied too tight. After retying and wiggling them constantly my feet warmed up. We went on and I could see the point where the sun was breaking over the Canaleta and I knew if I could get there the warmth would return to my feet. It is a constant game on these climbs because it's all those little goals you constantly make with yourself which eventually get you to the top. Looking to the summit beginning to end just doesn't work for me. Looking back I can see each section in my mind because each section was a goal created subconsciously to get me past what was in between. Memories of what goes on between these points are sparse. The Canaleta was rumored to be dreaded but it is your typical scree slope. Very loose rock and gravel which needs to be traversed slowly and diligently and eventually the top is achieved. On our trip the last half hour was snow and ice and crampons are needed. Try getting your crampons on at 20,000 plus feet. One of my crampons kept falling off and I just said to hell with it and climbed the rest of the Canaleta with one crampon on my foot the other in my left hand and my pole in my right hand. Mike the guide came back down to check on us and I asked him how much further and he said "it's just over that ridge" as he pointed up to the ridge you see me cresting below. To give you an understanding of the elation you feel you have to understand that you never really know when the climb will end because your always looking up and you are always going up so since it's not a route you have ever taken you just put that summit goal out of your head and all that keeps you going is the thought to just keep going and eventually, sometime, somehow you will get there. Hearing Mike tell me that I was basically at the top is the equivalent of a dam bursting and your mind finally accepts the rush of reality that you have made it. Its the release of that mental control over yourself that is so incredibly joyous.

In summary the route I took was not technical since the originally planned Polish Glacier summit route was canceled by the guides; yet non technical routes offer a great mental and physical challenge. The summit was a very sweet prize and it turned out to be very exhausting. The more I climb water consumption has always been a challenge for various reasons. This made my descent very long and very tiring - sliding down scree can be fun but also dangerous to those below and we all did our share of Jack and Jill impressions. It is a spectacular height to climb to.

Canaletta Midpoint

Canaletta Beginning

Canaleta

Canaleta View

Independencia Hut

Traverse Rest Stop

Traverse

Between Traverse & Canaleta

Summit Ridge

Traverse View