The hair of the dog
Acclimatising for climbing at altitude was our main concern on this trip. It was the first time either Matt or I had climbed over 4,000m. We had talked to as many people as we could, read books, bought the diamox, we thought we were ready and raring to go. Our first experience proved us wrong, very wrong. Our second third and fourth trips into the mountains continued to knock us around.
They say you should try to do everthing right when trying to acclimatise. Get a good sleep, stay hydrated, don’t exert yourself, climb high/sleep low, and gain sleeping height gradually. Well, whether it was due to a serendipitous chain of events or (more likely) our own stupidity, we managed to do none of the above things. Subsequently, we really struggled in getting acclimatised.
Our first mistake occured before leaving Australia, somehow a delicious doublewood scotch found it’s way into our carry on luggage. The next 24 hour layover in Buenas Aires was spent experiencing the nightlife, not combating our brutal jet lag.
After a seemlessly endless flight to Lima, we arrived and got a taxi to Miraflores. With jet lag still in full swing we crawled the night and entertained ourselves with some local food and beer. Wanting desperately to get to the mountains as quick as possible we got an overnight bus to Huaraz, our base for the next month. Luckily there were some cama seats left. They fully recline into a bed, sweet might get over this jet lag on the trip. No. The seats are made for the average height of a Peruvian, 5 ft. Not our 6’3. Another sleepless night.
Arriving in Huaraz made the last 72 hours worthwhile. The Cordillera Blanca stretches out right behind the city. Hundreds of big mountains were staring down on us, through the crisp, blue sky. Stoked, epic mountains! And the big twin peaked Huascaran dominates the local skyline, hopefully we get our stuff together enough to have a crack.
Arriving at 5.30am gives us a full day to roam Huaraz. A little different to Newy, but as we would find out, awesome in it’s own way. The first thing that struck were the dogs. Dogs everywhere, roaming the streets, wandering into shops, cafes and restaraunts, rumaging through rubbish and generally just hanging out. They weren’t malnourished or boney, but they were everywhere. They became the butt of our jokes when we began taunting each other about who would get food poisoning first. Suddenly all the food in Huaraz was seasoned with the hair of street dogs. Of course it wasn’t, and actually in all our time spent in Huaraz we never got sick, the food is great!
Our first hike to acclimatise was to take us through some farming villages and up onto a ridge with a highpoint of 4,111m. In our mind it would only take 3 hours, we wouldn’t exert ourselves and we would be back in Huaraz early to relax. In reality, we had another sleepless night, walked for 8 hours, got lost, got extremely dehydrated, got splitting head aches and came back to Huaraz in a bad way. Acclimatisation fail.
We were then up till midnight packing for first foray into the mountains the next day. One more jet lag ridden, sleepless night and we found ourselves winding up a dirt road towards the Quilcayhuanca valley in a rattly taxi.
Then, finally we made it, we were walking in, there were big mountains in front of us, big packs on our backs. Climbing soon.