Last weekend I climbed Misti, a 5800 meter volcano visible from anywhere in Arequipa. At 5822 m (19,100 ft), it’s one of the highest points in Peru.
The guides’ fees were 35 soles ($11) per person. Our group of thirty met in Plaza de Armas at 7:30 am on Saturday. From there the guides contracted a bus to drive us as close to the mountain as it could along the unpaved road. At that point we got off and started our journey. Stuff to carry includes warm clothes, food, water, a tent, and sleeping bag. Climbing Misti is a two-day affair and requires spending the night at the halfway point.
The first day’s walk isn’t very steep until the second half of the five hour climb. On the second day there are many parts where you have to literally climb. The incline isn’t 90° as if straight up a wall, but you’re using both hands and feet to climb over boulders. Most people agree the first day is more difficult. However there are opportunities for breaks and you’re in no rush to get to camp. I was among the first to arrive with three or four hours of sunlight to spare. Other groups took the first leg slowly and still set up their tents in time for bed.
We woke up at 2 am on Sunday. The early start is meant to leave enough time to complete the second leg of the climb, an hour or so on top, the entire descent, and bus ride back to the city in time for dinner. So we started out in the pitch black guided by the half dozen or so trekkers who brought flashlights. The sun comes up faster than expected. In the altitude it’s very cold. My fingers and toes were numb for hours. My nose ran non-stop.
While most people say the first day is more difficult, I felt the second day was. It entailed more “climbing.” However you leave most of your things (sleeping bag, tent, food already eaten) at camp so you’re carrying less weight.
Did I mention how FUCKING COLD it is up there? There isn’t much oxygen up that high. Towards the end we took breaks every five minutes, and those couldn’t come quick enough. We’d walk twenty meters and sit down for a break. There’s just not enough oxygen getting to the muscles to go much longer.
Before arriving at the top, you have to decide whether you want to go to the cross or the crater. El Misti is a dormant volcano with a large crater. But the apex is 100 meters higher and features a cross. You could probably go to both if you had determination and moved quick enough.
After arriving at the cross, we felt we could see inside the crater well enough from where we were so there was no reason in hell to descend 200 meters and ascend a different trail for 100 meters to the tip of the crater. At the summit the view was the last thing on my mind. I laid down in the sun and took a nap. I took a fucking nap! Others did too.
After waking up I wasn’t as impressed with the view so much as the satisfaction of having made it to the top. When you’re that high the view is like from an airplane. You can’t see shit. Arequipa, a city of 800,000, looked like a city of 80,000. It was cool, but the view from Mirador Sachaca is better.
Thursday night I sprained my ankle in basketball practice. I couldn’t walk. I spent the whole day on the couch, except for a couple times hopping to the bathroom. I was limping Saturday morning. I decided to make an attempt at Misti despite my sprained ankle.
To be completely honest, this vile cunt named Laura provided the inspiration to attempt Misti with the sprained ankle. That week at the office someone was offering advice in how to successfully summit Misti. That vile cunt said I should have trained for Misti. She added you have to be in shape to make it.
It’s true. Of the thirty people from the bus, ten or so made it to the top. Some dropped off the first day before arriving at camp. Others woke at 2 am and couldn’t go on. I was insulted on the inside by this vile cunt. Idiot bitch doubted I could climb Misti, which was difficult but I climbed that shit with a sprained ankle. BITCH.
My secret was taking a pain pill and wrapping the ankle. I was worried I wouldn’t keep up but figured the worst to happen would be quitting, setting up my tent, and sleeping alone. The guides tried to talk me out of it. I ignored them. I set a goal before starting to just arrive at camp. After thirty minutes of walking my ankle warmed up and the pain went away. After a few hours, I knew I was fine. By the time I made it to camp, I knew I’d make it to the top.
Another key was following the coworker’s advice to bring mate de coca. Coca tea. Or as I like to call it, cocaine tea. It doesn’t get you high or even wake you up like coffee, but it has a mechanism that provides energy while negating the effects of high altitudes. Hence its common use in Peru and Bolivia. Nicolas, my Swiss roommate who’s climbed several mountains in the Alps, fell victim to altitude sickness at camp on Saturday night and couldn’t go on in the morning. I may have suffered the same fate if hadn’t had a big ass 2 liter of precious cocaine tea.
While easier for everybody else, the descent was harder for me. Pressure on the ankle is heavier going down. But the ankle pain wasn’t the worst I got, and my muscles weren’t sore at all. SUNBURN kicked my ass. It didn’t occur to me to put on sunblock while my fingers were numb, I couldn’t feel my toes, and I was wiping my nose raw. It was cold up there, but the sun shines harder than anywhere else I’ve been. It doesn’t take long. It hurts the most when the lips gets sunburned. They peeled orange a week later.
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