Saturday, June 30, 2007

Arequipa, Peru: El Misti

Arequipa, known as the "white city" for the white volcanic stone used on all the buildings, really wiped me out. After 4 days hiking in the nearby Colca canyon I could barely walk, and then Ravioli convinced me to climbnearby Mt. Misti.

Known locally as El Misti, the active volcano is a Fuji-san shaped cone that shadows over the city in the morning and glows orange at dusk. At 5,822 meters (about one and a half Mt. Fujis) my guidebook says it is one of the easiest mountains in the world to climb at its height. Ravioli was gung-ho. "It is one the of easiest mountains in the world to climb!" he started coaxing me. "Of its height!" I reminded him, don't forget of its height, almost 6,000 meters...

Ravioli was supposed to climb Mt. Fuji with me last year but a typhoon delayed the climb to a day he had to work and he's felt left out ever since. 5,822 meters (what is that, 17,500 feet! Almost the same height as Mt. McKinley in Alaska!). This was his demented sort of revenge. He wanted to see if he could do it, and I couldn't say no.

We started the ascent at 9:30 Tuesday morning. It was going to be a two day gruelling climb and we had to carry packs with two days of water and camping gear. Ugh. We arrived at the campsite at 4,600 meters early evening, watched the sun set and went to "bed" at about 7 pm. We planned to wake up at midnight for what would be the toughest physical exersion I've ever and possibly will ever experience. Besides maybe running the mile in gym class in high school.

Fortunately we could leave the camping gear at the campsite. Fuelled by a stomach sloshing with hot chocolate and guided by the light of the half moon, our headlamps, and our Peruvian guide Teo, we strove higher and higher into colder and harsher territory. The night lights of Arequipa were a continuous glow in the valley and I wished for the warm comfort of an airplane with similar views.
5,000 meters. My head started spinning. I dragged behind the guide and Ravioli whom to me both appeared casually strolling in the park. 5,500 meters, three or four hours later, my breathing was ok, my muscles were ok, but I couldn't muster any power. For each step forward my foot slid a half step back in the sand and my head took a 360 degree swing. Sometimes I saw color flashes in my vision like if my brain was experiencing a short fuse. Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto...wah chicka wah this was altitude sickness! Ravioli's biggest concern was that his toes were numb, he had heard somewhere about numb toes being linked to amputation and was getting pretty nervous. Between headspins I told him not to worry, just wait til you've been to North Dakota in the winter.

The sun came up just as I was reaching the crater, and what a cool crater it was! Steam bellowed out of yellow encrusted sulfuric vents. To me the volcano-freak there was nothing more satisfying than to reach the actual crater of a real active volcano. Ravioli wasn't satisfied, he had to reach the highest point, a 45 minute climb to a rock with a cross along the crater mouth. And he made it, that toughy, congrats!

The descent was wonderful, just an hour down a soft sandslide to the campsite to pack up, and another hour down the sandslide back to the foot of the mountain. 12 hours up and 2 hours down. But I DID it, YIPPEEEE! And noone here in Lima believes us.


Anonymous said...

Ravioli's coming to North Dakota?! Yipee!!! Congrats on your totally effen' sucky (thanks for adjective, Jamie) climb.

sister Sam

Faith said...

Wow Shannen! Reading your story gave me flashbacks from Fuji-san- crazy!! Absolutely amazing photos!! Congrats indeed guys! = )

Anonymous said...

Wow, glad you are done climbing that mountain. It was scary to read. Congrats on the success!! Me, I'll take shopping anyday.


Shannen said...

*Sister Sam*

He might be coming for a visit this Christmas...heehee! It was effen' sucky (very nice adjective indeed) but I'm glad I did it!


You climbed Fuji-san? It's hard work, isn't it! And you mostly don't feel happy about it until you've showered and had a good night's sleep, HA! Would you do it again?


Sorry to scare you! It was all very safe with the guide and all, I could've backed out at any time. Next time Ravioli wants to climb something, believe me, I'll be with you at the mall!

Moe: said...

Man, just reading that post made me tired and muscle-achy. I am duly impressed though!

Shannen said...

*Cousin Moe*

Sorry to wear you out like that...
he he

Faith said...

Very true! I loved sliding down in the sand though- that was fun! = )I'd definitely do it again, but I don't know about El Misti! I'll leave anything that high to my super-fit adventurous friends! = )

Kanabanana said...

Gee, the story is amazing and the photos are awesome! Absolutely cool one. love your great adventures, keep wandering the world!

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