79 O2 and 75 HR


One of the things we do before going up the mountain is check oxygen saturation and heart rate. We have a baseline down here at Yanacocha Lodge.

Mine are 79 O2 saturation and 75 HR. My O2 varied from 78 to 83 while I was sitting down.

I thought I was doing better. I was expecting higher O2, tbh. One of the climbers is at 93 O2. Just wow!

I feel fine. No headache. No dizziness (well, not until until AFTER I had the O2 value, and then I'm like, "Oh, are all these typos when writing because of LOW OXYGEN?"). My HR is about 10 higher than normal, but also to be expected at altitude.

Juliana, our lead guide, says she wants to know our O2 trends. If I feel fine at 79-80 -ish, and it stays that way, I'm okay to keep going. If it starts to trend lower, I suspect I'll be pulled. Still, 79 - 83 is right on the edge of okay.

We are 7 climbers and have 4 guides, so there are enough to take climbers down the mountain. We expect to go 2-2-2-1 clients per guide, but can go up to 3 to a guide if needed. No one wants the 3 climbers per guide on this trip, though.

All of this is data! Zero disappointment or nerves, really.

The drive up to Cayambe Hut, the first time


I really need to learn more about geology, especially of the areas I'm visiting. The ground and mountains and soil around here is amazing. I just don't know enough to be incredibly impressed, as it is, I am only incredibly amazed and enjoying the views.

Today's plan was "travel by four-wheel drive up to the Cayambe Hut. From here we hike for an hour up to the glacier for a climbing skills review and to acclimatize. That evening we return to the Yanacocha Lodge for dinner." Best laid plans, first contact, blah blah blah, you know how this story goes.

The roadwork around here is "very old." Which is to say, many of the roads around here are small to medium sized rocks from the surrounding area, all laid into a road. The sheer amount of human effort to build these roads is mind boggling. I mean, we can say the numbers, but to fully understand the people, hours, and effort, nah, most people don't comprehend these numbers. We don't understand scale very well for the most part.

So, the roads are cobbled rock roads, but not all of the roads are actually cobbled, though. Many are dirt, some hard packed, some, uh, not so hard packed. We had rains the last couple days, so we are unsure what to expect, but are told, "We may need to push the trucks."

We start off around 8:50, and thirty minutes in, I need to pee. This, my friends, is a recurring theme. It was this way in Peru, it was this way in England, it was this way on Antarctica, it is this way in Ecuador. I need to pee all the time. Not because I'm nervous or because I have a small bladder. I need to pee because I'm worried about not having a place to pee. Vicious cycle, that.

Worrying, and the roads are really bumpy. Like, if none of us have whiplash or sore necks at the end of this driving, I'll be amazed. I have to wonder if this isn't what riding a bucking bronco feels like.

Fortunately, I didn't have to wait too long. We hadn't driven very far before we were stopped behind trucks working on the road. A couple trucks were pickups, but a dirt mover was active a bit up the road. Our driver took the opportunity to chat with one of the workers. Thankfully, we have a couple climbers in our group fluent in Spanish, so when we are not with the guides, we still have translators. One of the road workers, said there are three areas churned up, muddy and unpassable. The drivers said, nope, we would make it.

We got stuck in the mud in the second churn.

We have four trucks going up: two covered pick ups and two SUVs. I was in the first truck going up. The road was dark mud with deep ruts. The ruts were so deep that the bottom of the trucks would be in the mud between the ruts.

So, we all exited the trucks, they backed up a bit, and the drivers went to work. They lowered the middle hump, and started breaking branches from the bushes on the side of the road to throw into the ruts for traction. We could wait in the trucks, or we could help.

We helped.

We broke off branches, carried them up to the ruts, handed them to the guides and drivers, and repeated until slowly one, then a second truck made the trip through the mud. We kept going, more branches, more traction.

We tore up a lot of branches for traction in the mud. I was so many levels of uncomfortable with this action. I understand the immediate need, but how long do these plants take to grow? Some of the pillow plants we were walking on take a century to grow, what about the bushes? Will they survive after we have taken their branches? Why do these need to die for us to make it up a muddy road?

Eventually all four trucks made it through the second mud patch.

The third mud patch might have been our match. The first truck made it through, but barely, and the second became stuck. There were no bushes on the sides of the road at this point, so we were at a loss. It started to rain. While I wanted to help, I didn't have rain gear, so went up to the first truck and sat in the truck while the other trucks were pushed / pulled / prodded through. Eventually the first truck pulled the second truck out of the mud, we loaded up into the two vehicles only, down from four, packing everyone and all the gear in, and were on our way.

At this point, it was 12:10. We were 2 hours past our expected arrival time. And this is how adventures go.. We have our plans, and Nature has hers. I talked with Juliana about it, trying in some small way to assuage her stress. These are the times that become stories.

Ten minutes later, we were stuck in a new mud patch. This one we just went around. I also realized that Ramiro was riding along in the back of the truck, and I was completely WTF, trying to figure out whose lap I could sit on so that he would have a seat belt.

As we were going up, the road went from cobble stones to hard pack dirt to mud to hard packed dirt to more dirt to stones to a creek down the middle of the road to just fucking rocks. We were 4x4ing up this mountain road. We were 4x4ing, complete with harmonic frequencies. I was in the front passenger seat, so I had a lovely view of what was coming up, and what was going on to the downward side of the road. In the Live Maim Die scenario, we had a 100% die off the right side of the road. My anxiety completely spiked, even as I tried to calm myself.

Back in February of 2018, Jonathan and I took a (very lovely) trip to Hawaii. We went to the Big Island, because I wanted to both show him Hawaii and show him the places Mom and I had visited when we were there. On that trip, Jonathan and I took a helicopter flight over the lava fields. The flight was amazing, the pilot willing to fly low for great views. On that flight, I heard a high pitch whine, and was wondering what part of the helicopter would make that particular sound. It took me a couple minutes to realize that the high pitch sound I was hearing was actually a scream, and that scream was coming from me.

I felt the same way on the way up on this drive. The realization that we are going to drive down this road, and back up tomorrow does not make me feel great.

Eventually we arrivred at the end of the road. Not at the hut, oh no, the end of the road. We all climbed out of the trucks and geared up for the hike to the hut. I moved as fast as I could and was still behind everyone. I am unsure what I'm doing wrong that I am consistently the slowest in gearing up. This was my first time wearing my rented boots, which was a mistake, I realize. I tied them tight. They are still loose.

I was the last one to the hut, arriving around 13:20. Quelle surprise on being last.

Breakfast at Yanacocha Lodge


I struggled to eat this morning. I mean, I already don't eat breakfast for the most part. Add altitude to the mix and food is unappealing before noon, and not very appealing after. I'm still hungry, just unable to eat enough.

Breakfast talk was amusingly about weird dreams, some sun coming out today, and double pane windows.

Apparently, unusual dreams are very common at altitude. I had a dream that Priyanka had tossed my journals at me, and was angry at me. She had found my journals, read them, and came across an entry where I had done something mean to her. I think the "mean thing" was that I hadn't paid a bill, and it had a late fee to it. I was conflicted in my dream between being annoyed that she had read my journals and embarrased that I had done the mean thing.

There are eight of us at the meals. Four of us eat left-handed, five of us are right-handed, and one of the left-handed people does everything but write and eat right-handedly.

We left for the hour drive to the volcano around 8:50.

I look forward to faster internet speeds, so that I can upload pictures for these posts.

First night near 12000'


I went to bed last night around 22:15, our first night at 11982', essentially 12000'! I woke up very confused today at 00:15. I heard someone in the hallway moving, which wasn't unusual as the shared toilets were down the hall. The retching sounds, however, followed by the splash was unusual. I lay there for a bit before realizing that if I were the one puking in the hall, I would want help. Unsure if anyone else had heard, but I had, and helping was the right thing to do, I unzipped my bag.

"It's okay, it's okay. Go back to sleep."

When in distress, sometimes people are embarrassed. When at altitude, people may not be thinking clearly. Add in the time of the night, and I wanted to confirm.

"I'd like to help. Will you let me help you?"

While speaking, the location of the spill became more obvious, and it was right in the dorm doorway. I would realize only while helping clean up the vomit that the mess missed my bag by about 12". Close!

Being new to the place, we didn't know where things were. We did our best, using the paper towels from the bathroom, and cleaned up the floor. Our third roommate was also confused by the activity, and woke up. She really needed to use the toilets, so I did my best to direct her to the least affected area. She ended up cleaning up some of the vomit with her socks, nonetheless, but went back to sleep nearly immediately afterward. One of the lighter sleepers in the boys room also woke up, used the toilet, and gathered more supplies.

Once the floor was clean, the ill teammate moved to the toilets to be. Her stomach was still uncomfortable, and the toilets seemed the safest place. She insisted it was just her stomach.

I don't know altitude sickness symptoms well enough to let the teammate deal on her own and go to sleep, so I went to wake Juliana, tell her the situation, and take over. Which she did, and I wandered back to sleep. And by "sleep," I mean lie in bed awake until 2:45, completely unable to sleep, ruminating on this week's conversations and checking internet things as best I could.

I woke at 5:15 when the place started waking up. I guess I'm awake now. That was about 3 hours of solid sleep last night. Today is going to be interesting.

Help, with a Metaphor


unfinished painting of a vase of daisies, by Helen TossavainenThis year is my Year of Healing™. That healing includes letting go of stuff, of baggage, of behaviors that are no longer useful or desired, of emotions that I don't want, of the person I don't want to be. Lots of internal things, but that first one I could use help with. I don't. want to have to move all this unwanted stuff again. I'm four months into the year, and haven't made a lot of progress.

So, I hired a personal assistant to help me out with my purging of stuff.

She started today.

I'm pretty excited about the help. I'm a bit nervous about the new Covid vector, especially so close to my upcoming trip, but I need the help, and now seemed good, both for my motivation and her availability.

I started her off with a list of 40 or so tasks, some gauged to determine skill level, some made intentially vague to understand how much she'll ask before running with the task. Some of the tasks are ones that I would really like to do and haven't done, and some were quick tasks for easy wins.

In handing the list to her, I recalled the summer a friend of Mom's hired me to help him around his place. One of the first tasks he gave me was to go buy lottery tickets. He handed me twenty dollars, and asked me to go pick numbers, bring them back to him. Off I went to the store, bought 20 quick picks and came back with the tickets. He looked at the tickets, and asked what the significance of the numbers meant. When I said they had no meaning to me, I had chosen the quick pick option, he looked disappointed. I asked him what was wrong with the tickets. "I asked you to pick numbers. This tells me you don't listen very well." It was my own personal brown m&ms moment.

The vague tasks were exactly that sort of moment. Would she ask for clarification (she did)? Would she run with tasks without checking in (she did not)? Was a good knowledge gathering exercise for me.

The big task she completed today was hanging the wall shelf in the kitchen, on which I placed an unfinished piece by Helen Tossavainen. The work is of a vase of daisies. The painting is unfinished. It has many do-overs in it. The canvas and paint are a little beat up, and yet the whole painting is beautiful. The painting is a metaphor for my life. I love it.

We'll continue next week, when we dive into a couple boxes. Most of the boxes that I haven't gone through yet are ones that are hard to go through.

This will be interesting. And fun.

Doing something correctly!

Daily Photo

I'm not good at keeping indoor plants alive. My new snake plant, however, seems to be doing well. I have babies!