This is the story of my “mid-life crisis”.
During the summer of 2011, I turned 50. This is a “big round number” that effectively marks a milestone in one's life—being half of a century old. So I wanted to do “something” to celebrate. The question was, what?
I wanted to do something “big”, something that I otherwise would not normally be doing. I also wanted to do something that was physically demanding, something that would be increasingly hard to do as I got older. This was an expression of the “do it now or never” mentality—I wanted to do something of interest now, given that I might not be able to do so years from now.
I thought about going on a week-long rafting trip down the Grand Canyon, but that is something that I'll be able to do years from now.
I thought about climbing Kilimanjaro again, this time via the Western Breach, but that would be essentially repeating something that I had already done.
I thought about trekking in the Himalaya.
What I eventually decided upon was to go climb some mountains in the Andes. More particularly, I would be taking a snow and ice school in Bolivia, which would be followed by three climbs. The first was a practice climb up to the top of Tarija, whose glacier was the location for the school. Then there were two “real climbs”—the first to 20,000 feet up Huayna Potosi, and the second up 21,000-foot Illimani.
Huayna actually caused me more concerns. The approach to the summit is along the crest of a sharp ridge, with the mountain dropping away for thousands of feet on either side. I have an active fear of heights, and this was guaranteed to trigger it.
Needless to say, all of these climbs are on glaciers, requiring ice axes, crampons, etc., similar to a climb up Mount Rainier. Kilimanjaro, on the other hand, is just a “normal hike”, although at a very high altitude.
I kept a diary while I was in Bolivia, the narrative of which runs some twenty pages. Some of the following text is from that diary, while other text was written and/or reorganized after I returned. Quotes from my journal are in italics.
|June 22: Boston to La Paz|
|June 23: La Paz|
|June 24: La Paz to Copacabana|
|June 25: Copacabana (Isla del Sol)|
|June 26: Copacabana to Tarija|
|June 27: Tarija 1|
|June 28: Tarija 2|
|June 29: Tarija Ascent|
|June 30: Tarija to La Paz|
|July 1: La Paz to Huayna Potosi|
|July 2: Huayna: To High Camp|
|July 3: Huayna Summit Attempt|
|July 4: La Paz (4th of July)|
|July 5: La Paz to Home|