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Published: March 28th 2013
Today is the big day... Time to tackle the Paso John Gardner, with an ascent of more than 600 metres to above 1000 metres, and then descending 800 metres on the other side. We are up early, after a bloody cold night, and the temperature is still hovering around 0 degrees. Our fingers go numb quickly as we pack up the tent, warming them with some tea and a big bowl of oats and dolche de leche (kind of like creamed caramel).
The track out of the campsite is essentially a quagmire, with loads of water and mud and the odd tree branch positioned by other walkers to help navigate through the mess. It is also a small steady incline, and the going is tough, having to navigate through mud, balancing on rocks and swinging off branches. All this with a 20kg backpack. At one stage i mistime a step and end up with half my leg in the mud, luckily the gortex pant and my boots keep me dry. This goes on for about an hour, when we break through the forest and hit small boulders and rocks, which is also hard going to ensure the balance is correct,
and the feet are pounded on the hard surface. Over the next hour we weave in between forest and the rocky outcrop until we make our way to the end of the tree line and stare up at the paso that we need to get over. It is a bit daunting, but we have a break and shove as many nuts and fruits down our throats to get an energy hit.
The climb is fairly steady, with some steep inclinations and some scrambling, but once you get in a rhythm its not so bad, breaking every so often to catch your breath and rest the legs. After an hour we are halfway up, and in line with another glacier that is carved into a mountain. The only plant life is moss, and some hardy succulents. There are cascading streams of water everywhere, being fed from the melting snow on the mountain caps, and the water tastes amazing, but gives you brain freeze.
We summit what we think is the peak, only to find that there is still a long way to go. Its getting chilly as we get higher, but our legs are good today and we steadily
climb and climb and climb. When we do get to the actual summit, there is some sight to behold on the other side of the pass. It is glacier grey, some 1000 metres below us. A massive ice field that stretches for miles in both width and depth. It is jaw droppingly amazing, and mojo even has a small cry, taken back by the beauty of it all. We quickly take some photo's, and then have to push on as it is cold and the wind is whipping around us.
The descent starts off like the other side, meandering our way down a path carved through the rocks. Then we hit the start of the treeline, and it is like bonsai world, with miniature versions of the big trees we saw in the forest clenching on for dear life on the side of the mountain. There is reds, yellow and green everywhere and it is very pretty. As we descend more, the same trees start to get higher, and the drops between stairs (if you can call them that) gets ridiculously high, some are almost a metre. This goes on for another 2 hours as the descent continues. Although
i am using walking poles today, the constant jarring on the knees is quite excruciating and very tiring.
At last the path somewhat flattens out and we are walking around 50-100 metres above the glacier, through moss ridden forests and there are fallen trees everywhere.
Some 7 hours after we began the day we stumble into camp, exhausted but in admiration of what we saw, and achieved. There are a lot of limping trekkers in camp, and a few people icing their knees in the stream that flows through camp.
Whatever cartilage i had left in my knees at the beginning of the day, has now disintegrated somewhere on the mountain.
Tot: 2.523s; Tpl: 0.07s; cc: 11; qc: 66; dbt: 0.0474s; 2; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 3;
; mem: 1.4mb