Monday, May 2, 2011

Foraker 2011: Monday, May 2 – Camp 1 to Camp 2 (Day 7)

Watch for links to video below, and click pictures for larger versions.

Wind wall at Camp 1
8pm - This morning, Joey, Bob, and Kirk saddled up to head down toward the glacier floor far below, and marched out of camp. Nate, Craig, and I would go the other direction later, but despite the carry of half our gear up to Camp 2 where we cached it yesterday, today's pack with the other half of the gear was still alarmingly heavy.
But where yesterday the three of us had powered up to Camp 2 with plenty of energy, today's climb of the same route was a grueling torture festival.

As I write this, I'm laying here in my puffy warm down sleeping bag, reflecting on what has been without question the single most physically demanding day of my life. Right out of camp, I wasn't feeling my normal strong climbing self. I just couldn't find my rhythm, and I couldn't figure out why I was so out of breath so quickly, when yesterday, I had destroyed the same climb. (I later realized it was the meager breakfast calories that stalled me out so early on this day... another two-bagel-with-cream-cheese day, I think.)

I had a number of things bugging me: First, yesterday I had accidentally stepped on my own foot pretty good, and doing so had driven a crampon point straight through my outer boot, the inner boot, my thick mountaineering socks, and straight into the top of my left big toe. OUCH.

I examined the injury when I got back to Camp 1, and found that it had bled a bit inside my boot, but I cleaned it, bandaged it with some antibiotics, and put on a pair of fresh socks--but it was still hurting and swollen this morning.

Second, once I got my feet into my boots today, all my toes went very cold, most of all my injured left big toe. I'd had had cold toes yesterday, but the fresh pair of socks I had put on for my toe ended up being a very bad idea. The extra loft of the new socks made the fit inside my boots even tighter, which constricted blood flow to the area, and made the cold problem worse. And because my left big toe was still swollen from injury, it was the worst of all.

Third, because I'd had cold toes yesterday, I decided to try my boots today laced very loose to see if I could improve the circulation. Another bad idea. Boot lacing supports stiffness and lets you flex into your boots, which helps you get up hills with a little more efficiency—an important aspect of climbing—but every step up the steeps this morning lacked that support. I was slopping around inside them.

Fourth, I didn't get enough food last night that would have helped me recover from the exertion of yesterday's climb, and fifth (the worst idea of all), I didn't drink enough water last night, largely to avoid the need to pee in a bottle in my sleeping bag during the night. I was dehydrated.

Add this together with Craig's strong pace on the rope in front of me, and Nate's strangely faster pace (despite his assurance at the outset that we'd take it nice and slow), and you get me, wallowing around on the back of the rope, and nearly passing out—with extremely (perhaps dangerously) cold feet, to boot.

Nate later admitted he got a little carried away on the momentum of today's climb, but I made the error of not taking proper care myself last night: not good. That's definitely something I need to pay more attention to if I'm to do my job for my teammates.

A look at the first slope on tomorrow's climb

Anyway, when we reached Camp 2's narrow ridge and dug up the cached gear we'd left there the day before, we set to work building camp. Another tent platform leveling/stomping, another heavy 50-block wind wall cut from the hard, windswept snow crust all around us, and another camp set. I was positively staggering when we were done, but it was nice to only have to pitch one tent this time, and we were soon moving our sleeping gear into it.

We've just had a nice hot meal with pretty good volume this time. Nate chose mac and cheese again… awesome! I love that stuff. He also added some tasty miso soup, but I also ate half a salami and cheese bagel and an energy bar of my own to supplement.

With half our party gone, we now have an excess of group food and fuel, despite them taking a lot of the overage down with them.

Tomorrow (assuming the weather holds) we'll do a carry and cache of some group gear to the future site of Camp 3, over and beyond the Summit of Crosson, and return back to camp to to sleep. That's a day that will surely end up being more like 3000 vertical feet of climbing instead of the 1500-ish days we've been doing so far, so I need to fuel up, get my crap together, take good care of myself, and knock it down.

I feel like after lagging a bit on the rope today, I have some redeeming to do. I know I can do it, and this is what I've been training so hard for. My only concern now is that my pack still seems heavier than I want it to be every single day—and that always makes going tougher.

Topping out at Camp 2

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