After hiking the Inca Trail and trekking Colca Canyon, I got a little cocky about my ability to handle mountains and altitude. So when I got back from Colca Canyon, I immediately signed up for the two-day trek to Volcano Misti like a damn fool.
Volcano Misti is an active volcano that sits right behind Arequipa. Its summit reaches 5825 meters (19,101 feet!!!). I should have realized I was in over my head when I was given snow pants, snow gloves, and then a fricking ice axe and crampons (those spikey things you hook on your shoes). But somehow I decided to go for it.
We had a five person group with two guides. There was a British lady, a Texan, and two New Zealanders. The British woman was a legit mountaineer, having hiked Kilimanjaro and the Himalayas. The Texan was an avid marathon runner, having ran over 12 marathons. Then the New Zealander brothers just looked official. They were talking altitude, and grade, and direction, and all this other fancy shit.
My qualifications?? All I really had going for me is the silly belief that I can do anything. Thanks Mom and Dad, I actually believed you when you told me that when I was 4. So cockiness and a ´honey badger dont give a shit attitude´ were my two main assets for the climb.
The hike started at 10:00 am. We had to carry all of our stuff to base camp, meaning I had a full 70 liter pack full of water, a sleeping bag, and all sorts of other gear. Who knew water was so heavy??? (I guess everyone knows this fact, but not many experience the joy)
The hike was tough, lots of steep rocks to climb over and very steep inclines. When we finally made it to base camp, I was relieved and exhausted. The summit of the volcano looked so close!
I first knew I was in for trouble at dinner time. The guides asked us each to contribute 1.5 liters of water for cooking. The lady that booked my tour didnt warn me about this ahead of time, so I wasnt too happy. My hydration standard is that if my pee isnt clear, I am doing something wrong. (ie I chug water all day). Then they ended up using 2.5 liters of my water, which made it even worse.
For dinner, we were fed soup from a packet…basically flavored water. I think they could have at least splurged on ramen. Then to go with, we were fed mashed potatoes, also from a packet. On top, a tiny scoup of tuna and tomato sauce. I could handle how nasty it was, but the quantity was seriously limited. Didnt they know how irritable I get when I am hungry??!
Our wake up time was 12:30 am. I cant think of any reason for this insane time except for torture. Breakfast was really filling, a piece of bread with a slice of frozen cheese.
Despite being cold and hungry, I was still running high on adrenaline. I was super pumped to make it to the top.
About two hours in, I was having second thoughts. Besides being freezing cold, the altitude was getting to me. You know that feeling right before you throw up where your mouth gets all wet?? Yeah, it felt like that the whole time. Then it felt like my brain was trying to expand further than my skull would allow. (I know I am smart, but come on brain, dont grow now!)
The worst part was feeling dizzy. We had to climb over these huge boulders using all fours. Every few seconds, I would have to pause and hold on to something to let the dizziness pass. For those that dont know, I kind of have a history of feinting. Anyone in Vegas for Angies bachelorette party witnessed this first hand. Feinting and hitting my head on a rock did not sound ideal. So at that point, I slowed my pace and drank lots of water (which I kept struggling to get to because my water bottle kept freezing shut).
About an hour later, the British trekker of the Himalyas decided to turn back. That was definitely a blow to my ego because she was probably the most qualified in our group.
Then to make matters worse, the guides told me that at my pace, I still had 5 hours to reach the summit.
With the only strength I could muster, the words, ´Youve got to be fucking kidding me´ escaped my mouth.
Despite every prideful bone in my body, I decided to go back too.
The terrible thing about deciding to give up is there isnt a helicopter greeting you with tea and flying you back down the mountain. Nope. I had to hike back.
The hike back wasnt too horrible because we got to ´ski´ down the volcanic ash/sand instead of climbing down the boulders. Still, it was 5:00 am and I wanted to cry. We made it back to base camp where we had to wait for the survivors (the New Zealand brothers) to summit and make it back.
From there, we had a three hour hike back down to where the truck was. An hour later, I was in a hot shower trying to forget the pain of Misti.
Is this the part where I end with a life lesson?? Not really sure, but I am glad I at least attempted Misti. I made it over 5000 meters too, which is definitely the highest altitude I have ever endured. The end.