We could only see as far as the beams of our headlamps illuminated.
Our world was reduced to grunts, curses, pain in all muscles and quite a bit of fear.
Darkness engulfed everything.
We lived by each hard-fought meter of ground we covered and by every ledge we climbed the sledge over.
80 kilos of kit take quite a bit of effort to man-haul over class II and III rock but we wanted to move fast. Safety would wait for another day. We were way past it anyway. Determined to climb up to Paso Marconi as fast as possible, no matter the cost on our beaten bodies, we just kept pushing the climb up, alternating between body-belays and moving together.
Our wearher window would be short and there was no time to waste.
Finding a way over the rock band and back onto safe ice was like doing several thousand deadlifts and squats. It felt rather like a brutal gym session than a mountaineering trip. But we were happy to be here and not back down at the bergshrund, where debris, falling from the overhanging serac barrier were turning the slopes into a killing zone. If you think avalanches are deadly, you should see tons of ice falling towards you, and think again!
Have you ever heard that your entire life flashes before your eyes right before you die?
You think about your partner’s safety and imagine the potential one-man rescue operation, should the ice hit him. You think about getting yourself out of harms way and fueled by spiking levels of adrenaline, your brain calculates every single possible outcome and you – literally – jump into the right decision. The only thought left aftewards is “Shit…we definitely botched the job this time…”.
But no. Your life doesn’t flash before your eyes. You’re just too busy with high speed thoughts on physical survival to bother with any romantic ideas.
Push-pull-grunt…push-pull-grunt…We had found a wide ledge to follow back to the ice.
Crampons went on again. The temperature dropped but the moon rose and illuminated an amazing expanse of endless glaciers and looming mountains. We pushed on in the eerie night for a few more kilometers before setting up camp. My friend was a bit hypothermic so he just crashed in his sleeping bag with a bottle of hot water. I stayed up to make dinner and ensure we’re fueled for the next day. My watch showed 02:11AM. Exactly 15 hours and 36 minutes since we left our camp on the shores of Laguna Electrico…