Tales of a Peruvian Gumby


On Friday, I will begin my venture into the depths of the Peruvian Andes.My duffles are packed with sharp foreign objects I have no idea how to handle. To say I’m headed out of my element would be akin to placing a lizard atop a small floating iceberg off the shore of Greenland. We could start with the fact that I learned just two days prior the difference between an adze and a hammer, in regard to ice picks. Or that I ordered mountaineering boots that don’t even have a toe bail for crampons. Speaking of which, I have not yet figured out how to connect crampons to my feet, let alone stand and walk in them. Fortunately, my friend and roommate Emily Harrington just returned from the summit of Mount Everest, and is helping me prepare for my experience at barely half the elevation she reached.These brief moments of panic over my naïveté for alpine living counter an immense excitement for this upcoming adventure.A 140 character twitter post about this expedition would feature a comically varied assortment of objectives; technical peaks, developing bouldering, catching fish for dinner, and learning how to grip an ice ax will assuredly top the list. This hodge podge tick list fits the eclectic mix of athletes on board. Pete Takeda and Mick Follari will handle the peaks, Abbey Smith will tackle the boulders, and I’ll dabble between the two. Toss in photographer Andy Mann and Marmot athlete coordinator Alex Gilbert and we’ve got ourselves a team!For 30 days we’ll inhabit a base camp at around 16,000 feet, at the epicenter of a massive boulder field and at the base of a series of 5,000-6,000 meter peaks. From there, I’ll primarily be exploring, cleaning, and climbing new boulders, a process with which I have basically no experience. However, prying apart flakes of rock and scraping off lichen to expose untouched probems sounds like a puzzle to me, and I do love puzzles. In between wandering the boulder field, I’ll join Pete and Mick up in the high peaks as they prepare for their main objective, an unclimbed face. The duo kindly offered to lead me through this mountaineering learning experience and, while it may not fit my repertoire, it’s not often that experienced alpine climbers offer to drag a gumby up a mountain. I accepted.And so, I willingly step into my role as a gumby, although hopefully less on the boulders, and more on the mountains, but we’ll see. I’m used to roping up, so the entire trip will be an incredible learning experience. Over the last few weeks I got to visit a few new-to-me bouldering areas (but let's be serious, all bouldering areas are new to me). At around 11,000 feet in elevation, Lincoln Lake and Independence Pass were the perfect acclimatizers for Peru.Right now, I’m looking forward to sleeping under the stars, catching fish for dinner, having absolutely no access to any sort of technology, relearning Spanish and venturing higher than I’ve ever been before.See you all in mid July!