Finding our limits

Published: May 3rd 2015
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Dawn of summit dayDawn of summit dayDawn of summit day

Not a bad spot for breakfast before attempting to climb an active volcano.
We have been very lucky on our travels having hiked through some truly awe inspiring scenery with largely perfect weather, however, there has been something lacking. Gazing at the granite towers of southern Patagonia and witnessing the majestic peaks of the Andes range inspired a question in us - what is it like to climb one?

Having never climbed anything over 2,000m and not knowing how our bodies react at altitude we set forth to find out in the safest way possible. We found a 5,600m (18,300 ft) volcano called Mt. Lascar that has a reputation as a good introductory mountain (in summer), we hired a highly regarded guide and we drank as much water as we could.

This was a one day climb and it began at 4:30am for us, unlike other mornings when something requires you to wake at this obscene hour we both shot out of bed at the first decible of the alarm. There was exitement, plenty of nervous energy and anxiety - it was like Christmas morning in our youth only the gift under the tree this time was testing and finding our limits.

After a beautiful and scenic breakfast and offroad driving
Sunrise on Mt. LascarSunrise on Mt. LascarSunrise on Mt. Lascar

The sun hitting the summit of Lascar for the first time that day, hopefully in another 8-9 hours we will be standing there.
that would rivel most professional rally car drivers we arrived at Lascar base (4,400m). The climb begins, 20 minutes walking, 5 minutes resting in monotonous repetition up a gradual slope of snow and ice. Climbing involves only two activities; walking, which for most of us we have been doing since we were a year old and breathing which is pretty automatic. How then is this so difficult?

It always amazes me at what the human body naturally does to adapt and protect itself to changing environments. As we ascended our lungs began to increase their surface area to maintain the oxygen levels our bodies required. This resulted in the enlarged lungs putting pressure on our stomachs and forcing the stomach gases out, otherwise known as flatulence. So one could say that we began to breath out of our arse.

Step after step becomes more laborious, the mountain and its snow covered slopes slowly wearing us down, alone with our thoughts a mental war of perseverance is being waged and must not be lost.

This was not the biggest mountain in the world nor was this particularly technically demanding but it was a true test of our resolve. Both Sandra and I found a great sense of accomplishment, not in climbing a mountain but in pushing our mental and phyiscal limits.

One other item to note, the descent! As there was a significant amount of snow our guide suggested we 'Bear Grylls' it down the appropriate slopes. That involved sitting on our butts and sliding down the mountain feet first controlling our speed and direction with a hiking pole. What fun, especially as it only took 2 hours to get down!

Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16



Our first real issue of the day, our 4X4 got stuck in the snow, thankfully another climbing team was nearby and winched us out. Our climb starts at 4,400m as we can't get closer due to the conditions despite the best offroad driving I've ever seen by our guide.
Our climbing team!Our climbing team!
Our climbing team!

Along with two high altitude mountain guides we climbed with a Belgian couple. This picture was taken at 4,700m (15,420 ft), the air pressure is decreasing now and its getting harder but everyone still has smiles.
Walking inWalking in
Walking in

This is our other guide walking in to catch up with us after dealing with more transportation issues. Can you spot the truck, puts perspective on the vastness of the landscape.
Second climbing team turning back.Second climbing team turning back.
Second climbing team turning back.

At 5,000m we said good-bye to the other 4 member team on the mountain along with the Belgium couple we were climbing with. After 3 hours of climbing the exertion and altitude were starting to take its toll. Sandra and I decided to push on with a guide as we were only half way there!
View from almost the top!!!!View from almost the top!!!!
View from almost the top!!!!

At 5,500m (18,045 ft) Sandra had reached her limit and was happy with her view (pic) as she sent me on for the final stretch.
View from the top 5,604m (18,390 ft)View from the top 5,604m (18,390 ft)
View from the top 5,604m (18,390 ft)

After approximately 7 hours of climbing and an exhausting physical and emotional battle I reached the peak.
Summit skyline and crater belowSummit skyline and crater below
Summit skyline and crater below

It was really difficult to get a good picture of the crater, the volcanic bowl was sheer and dropped to significant depth. The smell of sulphur became much more pungent here and a haze of gases rose from the volcano's depths.
Me and the craterMe and the crater
Me and the crater

Looking down into a volcano that had erupted as recently as 2007 is a humbling experience.

3rd May 2015

Another stunning lot of photos
Congrats on the climb. Looks great
4th May 2015

Thanks Mairead, we are having a lot of fun taking them. Sandra is missing all of her girls, looking forward to seeing everyone soon.
4th May 2015
Panoramic of area

Adventure on Mt. Lascar
Awesome!! Congratulations Sandra and Glen :)) Love Mom

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