Wednesday, January 28, 2009

98 hours

There was something disconcerting about waking to a third day of fine weather. This is supposed to be Patagonia, the land of ferocious weather, extreme wind that pins climbers down for days and who´s incesant nature allows only for narrow windows in which to get things done. This was now the third great day, was it all talk? just skeptical yanks with an aversion to getting stuff done? or were we about to get smashed, made to pay for these last few great days?
Either way this day was going to be used to haul to yesterdays high point, over 200m above the normal bivi ledge, over 200m further back to the ground with a large pendulum that would prove to be very hard to reverse if forced back in bad weather. The day held and let us get up to our high point and then even a pitch higher, higher than anyone had ever tried to bivi on the route and as if on queue we set up the anchor about to pull the portaledge out and the wind began tearing up the cliff. The ledge and fly flapped wildly while we tried to set it up and anchor it down to prevent the updrafts lifting us then slamming us back into the wall.
Once set up we climbed in had some food and wondered whether we might get anything more done that day, after all I had a pitch to redpoint.
It was day 7 and more than 2 thirds of the route was done, we still had 7 more days worth of food, 8 maybe 9 at a stretch, Even if nothing could be done this arvo it had been a productive day and we were certainly getting up the thing.
What came next tested us in a way that is so easily avoided in modern life with its constant distractions. 4 days with nothing but our thoughts to keep us company. Our minds wandered through a range of thoughts and emotions, we find ourselves searching for meaning in the slightest change in the direction of the snow or the rise and the fall of the wind. ´The wind has slowed, do you think it is clearing or is it just setting in?´ ´The pee bottle contracted, is the pressure rising or is the contents just cooling?´ These were the questions we brought to the forefront of our minds maybe to prolong the onset of the inevitable, deeper, darker thoughts like are we going to be able to do it, why are we really here, what do we want from this route, if we can´t make it to the top will it matter, what is the damn meaning of life anyway?

98 hours ticked by at the pace you can only imagine it would when you are confined to a 2 by 1.5 meter rectangle that you share with 2 pee bottles and another guy who has not washed in 3 weeks.
By the end of the fourth day there was a definite change in the air, it hadn´t snowed for half a day and there were patch´s of blue sky racing through the sea of cloud overhead. It felt like we had just taken something very potent and injected it directly into our bloodstream. Immediatly the mood changed it was an action station. I went and took the first crap in 4 days in readiness for tomorrows climbing then began to melt snow to begin the rehydration process which I had been curbing in a big way to avoid filling the pee bottle which would no doubt result in a piss covered hand during the emptying process. Sleep never came that night, I´d had 4 days of drifting between sleeping, eating, thinking and listening hard to the weather with no stable pattern what so ever that the sudden injection of adrenalin made certain that my mind would not stop long enough to sleep.

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