Monday, November 22, 2010

NHESP 2010 Update 10

Leaving Muerte Pungo

It’s crazy how our group has grown throughout our time together. There are actions that have just become innate, such as setting up our expedition tents and taking full responsibility of our chores; ranging from digging poop holes to keeping our eyes peeled in search of scarce firewood.

            This is officially the final countdown, with no more than 3 weeks left.  We have to really step back and lovingly appreciate each other and cherish the ups and downs of each day.

Now for our mountain adventures:

            Before reaching the base of Antisana volcano, we trekked 10 hours a day for three days from Palugo. The first night, we slept in the Paramo.  The following night, we slept next to Laguna Muertepungo (Place of Death Lake).  Then, after a 13 hour day, ascending and descending the many hills of the Andes cordillera, and meeting a white-tailed doe, we reached the foot of the beautiful Antisana.

Our base camp at the foot of Antisana
            The next day Davicho, a friend of Michael and Marcela, welcomed us. He is an experienced rock climber and is on his way to becoming a licensed mountaineering guide. He brings much energy, laughter, and wisdom to the group. He saved Marcela from being the singleton of the pack in terms of nationalities - we now have two spirited Columbians. Davicho brought with him gear, clothing, and a resupply of food. Our food and kitchen managers, Shiram and Julia, organized all the food for the next few days, while our gear manager, Connor, suited us all with helmets, harnesses, carabiners, ice axes, and crampons. The next day, we would head up, another vertical hour and a half, to glacier school.

            We said our goodbyes to the Andean starlight hummingbirds, llamas, wild horses, and Andean
A snowy day in the Paramo
wolves, and headed out. We knew our base camp would become their new abode. On the glacier, Michael and Davicho taught us so much. First, we started getting comfortable walking on the snow with our crampons. We then learned how to wield our ice axes and use them as sensors, testing the strength of the layered snow, and how to properly self-arrest (digging the blade into the ice in case you or your rope team fell into a crevasse). We then learned more about the layers of snow and how to read and test for avalanches. Next, we put our recently attained knowledge to the test. We roped up in fours and trekked, crossed crevasses, and practiced self-arresting. We could not spend too much time on the glacier because there was more than 7 feet of snow.

Trek from Palugo to Antisana
            Right now, we are preparing for our 3-day group solo. We will trek around lakes and through hills and finally reach Cotopaxi, our last hurrah.

We cannot wait to fill you in on the remaining week of the expedition filled with snowball fights, wildlife, and sharing time with each other.

If you have to take a long journey, you just carry very little. If you want to climb to a great height you must travel light.

Hasta Luego! The NHESP 2010 Semester!

Connor, Marcela, Carina, Tupac and Hannah

Pedro trekking in the Paramo
Packing up

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