Whatever the case, it truly forced me to contemplate a six hour crawl from our Base Camp at Campamento Torres followed by a two and a half hour bus ride to a clinic.
It got a hold of me, and then it got Amy. The kidneys battled and fought for three days, leaving us feeling as if we went 17 rounds in the ring. Electrical pulses of hell would shock the guts in terrible fits. We laid in our tent starring at the ceiling until it passed… Eventually, we recovered… So we got right back to work with our plans… The Central Tower of Torres del Paine.
We hiked the duck-taped and glued rainfly and haulbags to the Tower. Twenty days of food and some torn-up ropes were delivered to the base. Equipment was shuttled from its previous resting place in a haste, to get it and us out of the “War Zone” in front of the North Tower. A rock the size of a truck tire was inches away from the cash spot…too close for comfort. Nicolas our new friend, a Guadalaparque, was our companion and porter for the day. He had his first trip on the glacier with me…and a “Taste of the Paine”. With Amy’s helmet on his head and an ice axe in hand, I had him jumping crevasses and self -arresting.
“Nicolas… Necistamos ir muy rapido!” Right then a sheet of granite came off the North Tower, sliding down the slab into the glacier.
I looked at him, “I told you… Esta muy peligrosa!”
We crushed snow under our feet as fast as we could to get out of the “Zone”.
At our Advanced Base Camp (A.B.C.), Nicolas got to see how we were about to live for the next few days. He watched as I drilled a quarter-inch button head, from which we would hang the portaledge just feet off the ground. We determined this area safe from rock and ice fall. We were under a small spire 15 minutes from the “Tower” and 2 minutes from water… A nice location for our A.B.C. We were excited with the million dollar view out of our front door and the climb about to take place.
Day two, we wake with work to do. Moving more bags… Seems like thats all we do – 70% moving bags, 30% climbing.
The icy glacier was rock hard. We strap the crampons on and go for a walk. As we are coming down the glacier I take my eyes off the ground and my feet for a second…maybe I was being hasty. I start to slide. Then, the right crampon sticks nice and solid, and the foot is now under and behind me. My own ass gives it the final death blow.
I swear and holler in extreme pain!
Questions go through my head immediately…
” Did I stab myself?… God, tell me I stabbed myself!”
“Is it broken… Please don’t be broken?”
” You are so Stupid Myles”, I yell…
“Let it be a sprain!”
I immediately unlash the crampon, unstring the boot.
” No blood, shit I didn’t stab myself!”
Grabbing the ankle, I’m hoping its not a big deal. I can see Amy’s face, the expression says it all. I tighten the boot as tight as it will go, throw the crampon back on. Do some front-pointing to get over some crap ice and “OOOUCHH!!!… This is going to hurt” I yell to Amy.
We make it back to Advance Base Camp. Amy tells me,”We will just hang for awhile and let it get better.” She decides to hike down the next morning for more food and supplies at Campamento Torres while I ice in the glacier.
By day three we are terribly bored. It’s raining, then sleeting, then snowing. It keeps snowing. It snows a half meter before dark. Now we have to wait for the ankle to heal and the snow to melt…I’m doubtful either will happen.
A wet-slide has just pounded our ledge. We laugh, but we know this is going to be a problem. Another one comes down and a few others during the day.
Day four. We wake to snow above our doors on either side of the portaledge. More wet slides pound us. The walls are gone. The gear is buried. The ankle sucks. The crevasse nightmare of a glacier would be an unnecessary work hazard. The wall and route can wait. The cash of equipment has disappeared for the time. The ropes are frozen. The portaledge is leaking. ” Let’s get the hell out of here!!”
We slam the wet, frozen gear into the haulbags and abandon A.B.C. Amy leads my crippled being out of there. The frozen water under the snow battles my descent. I fall face first, on my back, on my side. I tumble, crawl to get up and swear at my carelessness. Ice slabs are a total nightmare. The moraine field I see coming looks like a mine field. I try giving Amy my two cents, but she tells me she’s got it. She does. She is in charge and had done a phenomenal job thus far.
The pain killers I threw down the gullet have kicked in hard. We make it back down to our Home Base at Torres Campground. We dump our frozen puffy jackets and sleeping bags in the tent; swallow another pain killer and begin the five mile hike out. We hope we will catch the bus back to Puerta Natales. A stop at Refugio Chileno to numb the pain with two beers, a cup of wine and another half a pain killer. We hit the trail again, with me cursing and falling all over, but we eventually make it to the bus.
We find a hostal to crash for the night. We stop by Erratic Rock Hostal to say hi to friends. The Belgian Climbers have just put up a hard first ascent in the French Valley of Torres del Paine and are giving a slide show presentation… perfect timing!
We wait for ex-rays (the hospital does not ex-ray on Sundays). We need to know if its broken, fractured, sprained, whatever. We ponder whether we will be chillin’ on a beach or hanging on the side of a Giant. Both sound good, but we each know what the other is truly hoping for.
Ex-rays on Monday…
Boom!!! We are back!!!
Doctor says it’s the ligaments. “Wrap it. Heat it. Stay off of it for two weeks. In six weeks it will be fine” he says.
So… I will rest it for a week and tape the hell out of it. Amy will scout and photograph walls for future endeavors. I’ll stare at the ceiling of the tent with the foot wrapped. Then we will start digging the equipment out.
We did’t come down here to slip on a glacier and call quits. Even though the ledge leaks, the ropes are hacked and the ankle is jacked… I think we still got one more good effort left.
Lets do it!