Friday, September 24, 2004

This is not a story, just an update...

Last weekend added another mountain to my repetoire - El Misti, at 5,825 metres. Quite different from Chachani, no snow or ice, but you start at 3200 metres, so it's quite a climb. Misti is a perfect volcanic cone mainly comprised of sand and ash, but is ascended by a zig-zag path up one of the rocky ridges running up the mountainside. Five hours walking the first day to base camp at 4500 metres; at 2:00 am the next morning we started the painstaking ascent to the summit. There's more time to get used to the altitude, but you're still very high and it's very cold.
I and John, a trekking guide from Colorado who also lives in Arequipa, made it the summit while the other four - two American girls and a British couple - got to the crater. The crater is only 100 metres lower than the summit, but the last climb to the big iron cross at the summit is a killer. We saw the others arrive at the turn off to the crater while we were taking photos by the cross, then later went down and joined them. The crater is active, and quite fascinating, with smoking vents and big crusty sulphur desposits. One of the American girls was a volcanologist, so was in seventh heaven.
The views from the summit were outstanding - a panorama taking in Chachani, Picchu Picchu, Lago Salinas to the the north, the ranges to the west and all of Arequipa.
We went back down to base camp across the thick ashy sand, which was brilliant - running and sliding we descended within one hour the distance it had taken us six hours to climb. By 3:30 we were back in Arequipa and this time, despite being rather burnt and a bit coldy, I was more or less in one piece. By Sunday afternoon I was well recovered and enjoying a cigarette.

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