02 Jun 12. Base camp has been reached! We are sat under a perfect blue sky at 4720m. The white peak of Chachacomani just visible out of the valley sides, beckoning us to the challenge ahead, we contemplate our next move.
We left the roadhead yesterday, and headed east up the valley away from the last of the sparse habitations. Donkeys and local Bolivians bore the weight of the research and climbing equipment required over the coming days. Gaining inquisitive looks from the groups of llama and alpaca, thoughts turned the steaks we had enjoyed in La Paz, and the ongoing debate over the appropriate nomenclature for a group of llama.
Nestled between two rocky peaks rising above us, we have set up camp on a flat area of grass the size of a football pitch surrounded by the moraine from the retreating glaciers. Boulders strewn up the valley sides, some the size of cars allow for honing of rock climbing skills. Following advice from our Bolivian guides, flat areas with fresh evidence of llamas were sought as ideal pitches for tents.
Daily routine around base camp is developing nicely. The rectangular blue mess and kitchen tents provide communal warmth and social focus on an evening. More sleep is being had at night, and headaches are subsiding…for now. Life has become akin to reptiles, the first rays being eagerly awaited by cold nocturnal bodies, restoring energy and reducing the layers of clothing needed. As the sun moves higher, a fast flowing stream has provided opportunity for washing away the dust and dirt from the past few days under canvas.
Exploring the area around base camp has resulted in the first British/Zimbabwean ascent of Mirador, a rocky mountain of 5100 metres, whose broken ridge leads towards the further challenges of Patapatani. The mountain leaders have headed up to the research camp at 5200 metres and explored the icy terrain that leads on to higher peaks and the main climbing objectives of the expedition.
Tomorrow sees us heading up to the research camp to complete the final stage of the research phase for Team 1. On this fringe between rock and ice, we will take our final blood samples and echos, waiting with anticipation for our attempt on Chachacomani.
Moving up to the ice will limit our access to technology, albeit with satellite phone available for emergencies. The next update will be in a few days, and should see some of the team reach the magical 6000 metres in time for Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee.