17 June 2012. Saturday saw the culmination of the research with the final sample collection completed during the early hours. This spelt the real start of the AT opportunity we’d all been looking forward to. Team 2 were split into two groups, one half were left at high camp on Friday night for their bid on Chachakomani, the glaciated 6000 metre peak towering over high camp, while the other half of the team descended back to Base camp with a plan to climb Pata Patani on the other side of the valley.
The Chachakomani team had an early start with a 3am wake-up call for a 4am departure onto the glacier. They were split down into 3 groups with Percy leading one, and Bolivian Mountain guides leading the other two. The minus temperatures and darkness didn’t put them off and within a couple of hours the sun was up and they were enjoying the views over the surrounding mountains. Rope 1 (Pedro the guide, Harvey, Andy Gibson and Kate) had the slightly unamusing task to recce a new route only to find their path blocked by an uncrossable crevasse resulting in having to descend 200m height gained and taking a more circumferential route. Despite this, they still summited in reasonable time at midday. Rope 2 (Percy, Liz, Tim and Emma) cut the difference and made good progress, putting down their own tracks and it should be noted that for both of the girls this was their first climb in crampons and at altitude. Rope 3 (Felix the guide, Dan, Elaine and Martin) brought up the rear using the standard approach route, summiting at 1300 with Dan and Martin flying the RAF ensign and Elaine with her splendiferous alpaca hat. All ropes returned to base camp (employing a combination of the Ministry of Silly Walks and lunges) that evening in good humour despite the long day to enjoy a celebratory earth-baked lamb supper.
The Pata Patani team were awoken at 0530 with a rendition of God Save the Queen by Dave Holdsworth and Tom Blankenstein, the forfeit for losing the initial game of cards the evening before. This was in place of the daily bed-tea delivery which had been the forfeit in previous days. Given the standard of their performance singing, it was collectively decided that the forefeit should be a hardship on the losers, not torture of all the others. Singing in future has been banned and the bed-tea will resume. After a 6am breakfast the team set off in the rising sun towards the Pata Patani ridge. By 0745 we were stood on the ridge enjoying spectacular views around us, and able to see the Chachakomani team making good progress across the glacier. Tom Woolley showed off with some Yoga stretches on the ridgeline that would have made Jane Fonda (and Jon Naylor!) jealous. After a faff stop we cracked on along the ridge, making the most of the beautiful weather. It wasn’t long before the terrain deteriorated enough to require us to don harnesses, helmets and rope up for the more exposed parts of the ridge towards the summit. By 1130am we’d all reached the summit and were able to bask in the views all around us, including the spectacular sight of Lake Titicaca to the west. The Naval contingent (Adrian, Andy Brown and Will Smith) got the summit photo with the White Ensign – Rank had its privileges and Will took a knee below the two Surgeon Commanders. This coincided with the news over the Bolvian’s radio that the first team had just summitted Chachakomani to our North.Congratulations were sent although the limited English of the guides meant it was lost in translation! The descent down Pata Patani involved some steep scree slopes and rock fields which were not the most enjoyable. Adrian was quick to point out this was his second ascent (and descent) of this hill in ten days, and he was the only one with cause to complain!
After the Pata Patani team returned to Base Camp we were able to relax in the afternoon sun while enjoying the sights of the Bolivian guides preparing the earth fire for the evenings dinner. By 1800 news spread that the Chachakomani team were on their way down to base camp and a welcoming party set off to meet them and help them with their kit. Supper consisted of lamb, potatoes, plantain and salad, all perfectly cooked in the ground by our Bolivian hosts. Post dinner, Adrian toasted all past and present and thanked everybody for their efforts with the research and successes of climbing so far. The Chachakomani team headed off to bed early with the exception of Harvey and Liz who topped off their day with a victory in the forfeit-less game of cards.
More climbing to follow with the teams swapping playgrounds over the next few days and further attempts on Pata Patami, Chachakomani and maybe some other hills. Watch this space…
Tom Blankenstein and Kate Brown