Kyrgyzstan. In the footsteps of Alexander the Great (part III)

I left the story hanging by a thread. I was heading down to base camp for a well-deserved two-day rest. The Edelweiss Glade, as the area where the camps of most of the expeditions were located was called, was a plain formed by an ancient glacial moraine, today covered with grass and flowers. A bucolic place.

The always boring rest at base camp is spent reading books, inventing absurd games and challenges with other climbers, and most importantly, eating and drinking to regain strength. These are the days when you have to be more careful not to catch the dreaded diarrhea, which could ruin the expedition.

The problem with rest was time. The day after arriving, we woke up to half a meter of fresh snow, something unheard of in recent seasons. It was overcast and snowing for three days.

Finally, on the fourth day, there was a scorching sun that allowed all of us mountaineers who were at that height to ascend to Camp I and those who were above to descend and end the expedition. As we climbed to Camp I, the climbers I met along the way repeated the same thing, over and over again: horrible winds that had torn down many tents in Camp II (where mine was, or should be), tons of fresh snow, very cold at altitude... come on, conditions to shiver.

In itself, the climb to Camp I was not without fatigue due to the snow on the route. The climb to Camp II, through the Lenin glacier and its dreaded cracks was no less.

My intention was to climb non-stop from Camp I to Camp III, stopping at Camp II only to pick up my tent. I would pray that it remained in its place. The biggest problem with this route was the covered cracks between the first two high altitude fields, especially when going alone and without a teammate. In the end I had no problem, but the reception in Campo II was dantesque. There was practically no one left there.

Of the fifty tents that could have been there a week ago, no more than half a dozen remained standing; the rest had been blown away by the wind, were buried and broken, or had been collected by expeditions.

My tent was still there, unscathed, with only one broken pole that I had to fix with some duct tape. It took more than two hours to dismantle it, due to the ice that covered its skirts. As soon as I picked it up, I went up to Camp III along a trackless route, swimming in a sea of snow that sometimes reached my knees. I was very loaded, there was almost no one left on the mountain, the rest of the climbers came after me, the next day, but I wanted to take advantage of a single day of good weather that they had the next day, then the storm would come again, of That's why I had to speed up the climb.

After three hours of walking, much longer than the previous acclimatization climb, a huge gale made me stop at a hill before Camp III. I decided to set up the tent and leave at dawn for the summit from there, with just enough, without weight.

At 12 at night I was ready for the ascent. In just over 3 hours I arrived at the old settlement of Camp IV, at about 6,500 meters above sea level, where you could see an old tent from some expedition. The bad weather started again. I was alone in the mountains. There was no one else around me. Some of the climbers who were leaving Camp III at that time had not yet reached my position.

I decided to turn around and return to my tent. I flew down, almost to the limit of my legs, reaching my tent just as dawn began. A wonderful sight to see the red clouds, the overcast sky threatening a storm through the door of my “home”.

After having breakfast and sleeping for a few hours, I decided to load everything and climb a few more meters to try to repeat the summit attempt, running out my last cartridge. The following afternoon and night I slept in Camp III, waiting for the arrival of dawn. This time I had a really bad time.

The wind raged throughout the night, my tent, which was already badly damaged, could not withstand the force of the wind. I spent the whole morning without sleeping a wink, grabbing the broken sticks trying to avoid flying away, it was snowing heavily outside.

At five in the morning, Stan, my Bulgarian friend and a group of Indians left for the summit inviting me to join them. I hesitated, tried and decided that my strength and time were not the best to reach a summit that had proven to be intractable. I decided not to risk, I did well. One person disappeared during the climb., almost all of them turned back, and those who arrived are almost not able to descend. Chaotic, cruel, like a mountain that until now had seemed placid, even easy. How things change.

I gathered all my things, without looking back, carrying more than 25 kilos again on his back (waste included), making a downward trail, again like a foam slide, along the floor every two minutes. I passed the cemetery of Camp II tents, where some were much less visible than the day before. I negotiated the cracks as best I could, unstable snow bridges, heavy snow that stuck to my crampons, causing me to ski instead of walk on many occasions. I arrived at Camp I, Base Camp, where I spent 24 hours waiting for my transport back to the Kyrgyz civilization.

And the return, so long awaited, so longed for, suffering again in the car, under torrential rains that made us lose control at every turn.

And the sun and heat, again, sultry, of Bishkek, a city in decline but with a certain style, with some streets to walk and some places to eat, an amalgamation of cultures in the middle of the Silk Road. And arriving at the airport, a single face that smiles at you, that hugs you when you arrive, with 10 kilos less than myself, with a full backpack, a camera full of experiences and head full of illusions.

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