Sun washed over the tent. A quick breakfast was fired up on the stove and camp was broken down. It was time to begin the days trekking. I was stoked....
The heading was towards Alpamayo Base Camp. Though out of the way, and requiring an extra day of travel to camp by, Mt. Alpamayo offers some incredible scenery. The massive peak (5947m / 19500ft) shadows a large glacial lake, the only one I have ever seen where the glacier still meets the waterline. Friends at the hostel ensured me it was worth the effort and whats a bit more uphill at this point anyway.
After some ups and downs, and many more cows, the final ridge opened up onto the lake's edge. The large glaciers creaked and groaned under the stress of the afternoon sun. Soon the wind began to pick up and a storm front quickly rolled in.
The light drizzle gained steam as thunder and lighting followed close behind. The tent was tossed down on the first flat patch of ground available, the day was a wrap.
The last full day on trail brought on the hardest hiking I have ever encountered. Punta Union pass, topping out at 4750m, was this mornings destination. Even after 6 days at altitude and 3 days of acclimation hikes nothing was going to prepare me for the elevation + pack weight. Ignorant of what was to come, I walked out into the sunshine with clear view of Mt. Artisonraju lurking in the distance.
500m, uphill, heavy packs, thin air.....exhausting. Every step felt like the last I could muster, literally gasping to the top. Higher than any mountain in the contingent U.S. The wind was fierce, the air was cold and the temperature dropped with each switchback. Snowflakes began to swirl around mixed in with some light rain. Exhaustion gave way to a great sense of relief at the top, it's was all downhill from here.