Saturday, March 22, 2003

Aconcagua diary, continued:

Part 5 of 7

March 22nd: The day continues clear, and the wind has dropped slightly, for the plume is smaller. We start our ascent immediately. Everybody is excited - today we conquer Aconcagua.

5:45: I sit on a pyramid of snow and rock. A pyramid 22,800 feet tall. We have made it! A non-oxygen assisted ascent, with a team of six. A great achievement. We are all sitting in a circle on the summit, facing outwards, looking at six different worlds. No one is saying much, but there is a definite twinkle in everyone's eyes. We sit for a while, but we know we must soon return the way we have come, to face a different kind of climb - the climb down.

18:00: We have made it further down than we climbed yesterday. We are better climbers now, as Aconcagua has added our names to those who know its top. We sleep now.

I lie in the warmth. The warmth that is generated by the feeling of victory. I have defeated the summit. All that remains is the descent. But the descent cannot be ignored, for it is just as difficult, if not more difficult than the ascent. On ascent, there is a different type of goal than simply that of security; there is also zeal. The descent is often treated lightly, and it would be easier if our heads were near our feet, to more clearly see what one was trusting, as rocks tended to give way at the most awkward moments. I drifted into a deep sleep, regaining some of the sleep I had lost during the storm. I dreamt that all the snow had melted, and that there was a sticky slush all around in which it was very difficult to walk. Alberto VĂ©lez shook me from the dream, and light streamed in the tent. The 23rd had begun.