Monday, July 21, 2014

Chimborazo Bruise'n

Chimborazo view with Vicuña in foreground - Sat. July 19 before storm
What started out as a perfect summit night with a star-filled sky and no wind, turned out to be the calm before the STORM. At 11:07pm after a few hours rest and "breakfast" we walked out of the refugio at 15,748 feet behind our guide Fausto, with all of our gear and enthusiasm in tact. 

As we steadily gained altitude we actually commented to one another how lucky we were to finally have ideal climbing weather. ...not long after the wind appeared. We were climbing the Castillo Route and by the time we reached the ridge line around 18,500 feet above the "castle" shaped rock tower, the wind had intensified into a full-force winter storm. 

We decided to continue on a bit in hopes of the wind abating but it only grew stronger. Around 2:30am, after Denise was almost knocked over by a powerful gust, we decided it was too dangerous to continue. 

The wind persisted as we descended back down the route and we estimated the gusts at 70-80+MPH. About halfway to the refugio and shortly after we unroped and removed our crampons, it happened. A strong gust blowing from behind, combined with a mixture of downhill rock and ice illuminated only by a headlamp, caused Denise to slip and fall! She tumbled forward letting out a scream and rolled downhill! Since we just untied ourselves from the climbing rope there wasn't much I could do other than watch from behind in pure terror. 

Fortunately, the rocks prevented her from rolling too far, but they also inflicted quite a bit of pain to multiple places on her body.  After assessing the damage and realizing nothing was broken, she regained her composure and we continued the downhill march slowly.  By 5am we finally reached the refugio and took shelter as the storm raged on. A few other groups were also on the mountain, all of them retreated as well, including two Germans whose tent was ripped and flattened by the wind. 

After daylight, we gathered our gear, took this photo of the mountain, and headed down to pamper Denise's bruised body in the comfort of a nice hotel, leaving Chimborazo to be climbed another day...  

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