Monday, March 31

I think I can talk to animals

So, after Boulderactive finally opened my eyes to my weaknesses (I would post a picture of me here but a) all the pics are with Marian and b) There's really nothing interesting to see, cause I could do only the first moves for 4/6 routes). the get back into shape process has begun. This means that

  • I am climbing more - just set an endurance route after we put up the tiles on Saturday - it's called "Ang Moh" [the pejorative for "white person" here] it's not hard, I can do all the moves, but I can't link it (yet).

  • I am NOT checking my weight - to prevent depression that is. Even though, as Mom would put it, my body needed the rest. But Moms don't count - she and my grandma would say that I've eaten so little after having soup + second course + second serving of the second course. Yup. Eating or loss of appetite is no problem with IR, no no no.

  • I am back to running. Not as much to lose weight, but because I miss it. So what better way to come back to running if not to register for a 15km run - Singapore Passion Run 2008. Yay!!

Ok. I admit it, though. Last night's run, it was ALL ABOUT losing weight. Cause u see ... marian cooked, and then we watched a movie (something that I do a lot these days*), and then it was 9 o'clock and I seriously didn't want to run anymore. But I got kicked in the arse (thank you, m!) and dragged my feet throughout it. And I even stopped once! Yup. Because I saw an owl!! I saw it flying and then it landed on a tree branch and I had a really good look at it! The first owl "in the wild" that I see! It didn't stay on the tree close to the running track for long though. That's because IR decided to make owl sounds (or what I thought to be owl sounds) towards the owl, which I suspect freaked her out, because she flew off into the jungle, into the night .... [Leaving me feeling totally stupid. IR smart, right!?!]

*the only time I am not reluctant to watching a movie (I would rather read, thankyouverymuch) is when I am exhausted and my brain is mush. This happened throughout the whole of last week, while recovering from Boulderactive

Friday, March 28

Aconcagua - The Romanians

[Not such a happy story though - the reason I didn't write about aconcagua in such a long time] Yup. We met some Romanians in the permit office, a big loud bunch of them :). They were planning to bypass the mule companies and hire mules without intermediaries, but we finally convinced them not to, and introduced them to Osvaldo. Two of them were with a all expenses paid company, so we only saw them in the office and a bit around Mendoza when we went shopping.

The rest, ah the rest. Two of them were from a mountain rangers office back home (Sasha and Emil from Salvamont Arges), one is a professor in Educational Sciences (wtf is that!? They all called her Madame), one poor guy was wondering wtf he was doing there with those people, and the last one, namely Ovidiu (Popescu) from a mountaineering club (Clubul Montan Altitudine). Now. I will not go into stupid gossip about how: Madame found a dead mule's horseshoe and tied it around her neck with a white string, Emil was bragging about how he went to Pamir and climbed some 7000m there, and how he shouldn't have headaches here (but later when the doctor told him in Plaza de Mulas that he had a murmur in his lungs, we would go to the doctor's every 2 hours), Madame was taking sleeping pills (!!!!!) at 4300m because she couldn't sleep* and even though I told her she's fooling herself she wouldn't stop, Madame tore a numbered sheet of paper from the summit register (found yes, on the summit) just so she could give her email to some dizzy polish guy, how after we all came down from the summit, they spent the whole night in the mess hall arguing about who was right or wrong during their messed up trip to Mont Blanc the same year - you don't want to know the acoustics of the mess hall, or how Madame wore a black thermal suit in Confluencia, at 30 degrees... No, I will not talk about that :)

Ovidiu had a 13 year old daughter with him on the trip and he was planning to take her to the summit. She had been to various mountains and she looked pretty fit and tough enough for the job. But MINORS ARE NOT ALLOWED to climb Aconcagua. He knew about this rule but was planning to somehow get through. And got through he got. What they did (we found out much later about this) was that they used Madame's passport to get a second permit in her name, and gave the second permit to Coca. In order to by-pass the rangers in Confluencia, they did not stop to rest in Plaza Confluencia, but instead spent the night under some rock in the Horcones Valley. Then, if this wasn't enough, they messed up the trail and ended up having to cross the Horcones river about two or three times. If you do this around noon, when the glacier is melting, the water is pretty damn cold. The poor girl had just gotten her period + crossing the cold water in sandals => you know what this means ...

So she arrived in base camp with horrible abdominal pain which kept her in her tent for three days. She could not take antibiotics, because you cannot take antibiotics higher than 2700m - Madame had given her, of course, but then Catalina found her out. She would cry to Catalina and tell her that it hurts like a horrible toothache, even when she just stands and doesn't do anything. This of course meant the end for her father's summit dreams, because he could not take her with him, they could not evacuate by helicopter because this would mean a medical check-up. So Ovidiu would sit around camp moping around and begging for compassion. Then one night, other members from our Explorer club heard (adjoining tents, what can you do?!) her poor excuse for a father swear at her (as in really really bad, if you have ever heard me swear those are just rose petals), and then tell her that she should use her mind to heal herself!!! Then more swearing, etc!! This nearly made one of the other romanians (from our club) want to kick this guy's ass. Marius was also not happy about it, as in, we were keeping an eye on them such that they do not cross paths. Sasha said that Ovidiu was a good father, and this is how he raised his daughters, my, you should have seen the smaller one how much she swore, Madame said that it's not our place to mess ... Luckily she was so bad that they had to leave base camp (on foot, 35km more to the park entrance, she was sick!!) and head on for Santiago, were she went to a doctor and got better in two or three days.

In the picture (Romanian and Argentinian teams) Madame is the one to the right of Catalina (blue down jacket) wearing a black thermal suit and a white cap, Ovidiu is the bearded one right behind her, and his daughter is the one holding the white sign, wearing a red down jacket with a red cap.

*yes, you shouldn't take sleeping pills. It will trick your body into sleeping without acclimatization. It's like taking painkillers for your knee, let's say, and then running.

Wednesday, March 26

I suspect they think I'm nuts

I order to improve my (non-existing) finger strength I decided to do between one and three pull-ups on a certain desk's 2cm rim every time I pass it. This desk is between me and (a) the printer and (b) Marian's desk, so I pass it very frequently, even if I were to reduce the visits to Marian's desk. It is one of the few unoccupied desks, I am not stalking somebody with my pull-ups, thank you very much! Nobody has said anything in the past two days (started on Monday) even though at least two people have seen me do it.

Monday, March 24

Dragging my feet

Just a short note to let y'all know that I am still alive. After that enthusiastic post on Thursday (or was it wednesday), you would have thought that I would keep posting and liveblogging till the end of the world ... This wasn't so, I'm affraid :) Boulderactive has come and gone, leaving me (and the rest of the helping crew) sapped of all energy. I helped out on all three days, from morning till dusk. I even set some (three) of the women routes. I still feel awful about my novice women final route. The first route, should have been easy (and it was doable, i swear). Just that i didn't know that the under 16 girls are also climbing the routes, otherwise I would not have set such big moves. As in, only one girl out of eight managed to reach the third handhold. Oh noes, as Kiat said, I will burn in hell. My hell will probably be route no 6 for the open women qualifiers. It was the only doable route, and of course it was the route on which I couldn't start. Yup. I couldn't start. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank Kesheng for this. Thank you, Kesheng, we will burn together! As for my performance, I did much better than my programmed 12 points (12/6 = 2 which means on average I was planning to start and go for the next handhold). I think I did 17 points! Considering this is my 3rd competition ever, it's not so bad .... Woohoo!! Actually it's not woohoo, but I am not being extremely hard on myself today, because I am still very tired. (On a side note, I was never so tired and aching after climbing only 6 routes as I was after the qualifiers, brrr)

My brain is mush from doing repetitive actions for three days like BLOWING THE DAMN WHISTLE every 3 minutes or so. My ego is G. O. N. E. I have found new inspiration to continue with training.

Wednesday, March 19

Another year has passed

And I'm back at Boulderactive 2008 to sleep (if i get the chance) over at Plaza Singapura, guarding the walls, setting some routes, climbing, watching movies and being silly. I hope that I will get a chance to sleep, considering that tomorrow I'm meeting my boss at 9 am. 9 AM. I hope I can steel somebody's computer and put up the post about Aconcagua.

In other news, writer Arthur C. Clarke has died. Oh noes!! Another great writer is gone, after Vonnegut last year.

In other news, Marius has decided NOT to go to Everest this year. I agree with him, it's just too troublesome and plus, so many signs have been there that he shouldn't go. What this means for me, is totally a different story, for another post :)

PS Later edit: just realized that this post sounds more like a "TODO" list for posts rather than a real real post. Bah. Must be the rain i guess. It's raining again today, rihgt after I was happily proclaiming that spring is here. I hope we will not get drenched this weekend!!

PS2 I have always been fully against reading my own work. Even in highschool, I would not correct the papers that I handed in, not for maths or literature. Now of course I should've thought about that when I entered grad school!! This is like the umptieth time that I am reading MY paper and I just can't take it anymore!!

Tuesday, March 18

To boycott or not to boycott?

Ever since news of Everest being closed down for this season, I kept thinking why would china do such a thing? does it really matter to them that a climber or climbers will start protesting about freeing Tibet and all that? It seems a bit childish, considering that the Chinese are pretty well known for not giving a shit about what everybody else in this world thinks, anyway ... Anyhow, this seems to be the case, because since then the South Side of Everest has been reputably been closed by Nepal, right after a loan from China to Nepal of 121 million dollars.

And then the protests in Tibet began. Not to allow the climbers to climb Everest, mind you, but to campaign for a free Tibet. Monks, nuns and whoever was there started marching chanting "Free Tibet". The protests started on the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet. Then Lhasa was closed down and put under yet another, more fierce, martial law. Nuns protesting in peace were more than intimidated. Monks protesting were taken to jail and never seen since then. Tibet was declared off limits for any foreign journalist (whereas they had been allowed free pass in all of China because of the Olympic games). Not that the international media took notice of it at first ... was showing pictures of Lhasa in flames way before BBC ever decided to pick the news up.

And then I remembered the shootings of Nangpa La pass, in which nuns and children were crossing the border to Nepal using this pass (around 5000m), to go see the Dalai Lama in India and attend tibetan schools there (since they are not allowed to do so in Tibet). What happened was that the chinese border patrol started shooting them in the back (nuns and children, mind you). We would not have heard of this if some climbers that were in the Cho Oyu base camp would not have alerted the international media. The chinese of course claimed that it was self defense, that the nuns and children were attacking them with stones (?!). Later footage showed that they were shot in the back. The Chinese issued no more comments after that. One little boy was arrested and I think is still in custody, making him the younger detainee ever (7 years old).

And then I read that Chinese troops are being moved to Tibet, despite UN urges for restraint. The "unrest" spreads, and the Dalai Lama fears bloodshed (that is, even more than the 80 people that died so far - official numbers, of course) and says that China has performed a "cultural genocide" on the tibetan people.

And now I ask myself. Is this the country to hold the Olympic Games for 2008? I thought the Olympic games were supposed to bring peace to the world, everybody forgetting about their conflicts and rage while we fight on the sports field? According to their figures, China executed 1010 people last year (according to Amnesty international, there were 8000). Apparently, the family of the executable (omg) pays for the execution ... How, and why was china awarded the Olympic games by the IOC? How can the torch pass through Tibet after everything that has happened there and is still happening? Why is there no way in which a peaceful consensus is reached?

Would a boycott be the solution for china to see that it should care about what the rest of the world says?

Saturday, March 15

Smart littl' ol' me

Now, of course Boulderactive 2008 is coming, we all know that. We also know that last year I fell and sprained my ankle one week or so b4 Boulderactive 2007. What do you think I went ahead and did yesterday? Huh?! I give you three guesses :)) Yup.

I was trying out this route, see, and then I had to do a very high and very crammed high step, see, and I fell, see, and of course that because I didn't actually expect to fall, so I didn't have time to assume the position, see. And lo and behold, I sprained it. Same place of course. It's not such a bad sprain, it is better than the last time, but I still have to wear an ankle guard, and I CAN'T RUN!!! I tried to run last night and this morning, but couldn't :(( Oh noes.

Went vertical climbing today at the grand opening of Climb Asia. The vertical routes were damn nice. They also had bbq but I left before that because I was totally and utterly sapped. My endurance has sky rocketed to the ground man! My fingers hurt, my biceps hurt, my ankle hurts, but more importantly, MY PRIDE HURTS.

Stay tuned, the next Aconcagua installment coming soon.

Thursday, March 13


To make sure that their Everest team has exclusive access to Everest such that they actually get the Olympic torch to the top (and probably to make sure that nobody sees HOW they do it), the Chinese government announced all teams that the North Side of Everest WILL BE CLOSED until the 10th of May. They have also pressured the Nepalese to close down their South Side as well. Doesn't matter if u already bought the permit, set up camps or whatever, they don't care. Cho Oyu will be closed as well, as a backup I guess. The news is here.
Marius was supposed to leave in three weeks!!! He already sent the bigger part of the bags, bought insurance (v. expensive) paid 10% of the expedition cost, paid the plane ticket and all that!!!!!

And i quote from Everest news:
China's worst nightmare for the Olympic torch event is not crowding or safety - the mountain will after all re-open after the torch. China's worst nightmare is a picture of the flame on Everest summit, alongside a climber holding up a "Free Tibet" sign.

Tuesday, March 11

When the cat's away ...

Its grad students will come to work around 12. Yup. Climbed this morning with San and Clara from 10 to 12. As usual, I wasn't able to finish any as in A.N.F*cking.Y. Furthermore, the routes they could do easily I could not do. Sigh. Sometimes I wonder if taking such a long break from climbing (to go mountaineering) is really worth the struggle to get back in climbing shape.

Spent the rest of the day doing research on mountaineering nutrition for Marius. He will be leaving for Everest in 3 weeks, woohoo!!! I bought this super good book on mountaineering techniques and it has a good chapter on nutrition. Amazingly, Borders has finally started to stack up on mountaineering books. I guess it's because this year a female singaporean team is attempting Everest.

To my credit, I did do some work. Finished my quotes web application, yupii! Or at least a tiny version of it. What it basically does is it logs your quotes! You can add new books and new authors, plus you can see a picture of the book cover (from Amazon). I would love to add new stuffs to it, but my knowledge of Ruby and Rails is so lame.

It's still raining. Which means no running and no swimming for me! I made up my mind to swim more often as it strengthens the joints, and my left elbow really needs it.

Sunday, March 9

Preamble to Aconcagua

Now, where were we? Ah, yes ... We had just had an amazing lomo alo pobre and camped by the highway for the night. Marius drove for another 900 km to reach Los Andes and from there the border of Chile with Argentina. The border is somewhere in a mountain pass, surrounded by very impressive stone peaks. To get there, you have to go up this road that has about 26km of very tight curves. The chilean customs is not, as you might think, next to the argentinean one. What you do is, you go through basic checks at the chilean border then, in about 20km or so, you find the argentinean one, in which your bags are checked, etc. Our problem was that we did not have an authorization to get out of chile with our car and as such, someone from our mule company was supposed to wait for us at the chilean border, namely Jose. Of course, Jose was waiting for us at the argentinean border, we couldn't get out of Chile, we couldn't walk for it and we didn't have any phone to call Jose.

In about one hour of so of talks and walking around (it is a customs office in a mountain pass, it was of course 9 pm - sun sets at about 10-10:30) we finally managed to get through to Jose and tell him to come and rescue the girls and the BAGS (omg so many bags!!) After much talk with the customs because the girls were getting out of Chile on foot which was unusual for that particular checkpoin, the girls were up in Jose's car and then safely in Penitentes, enjoying Jorge's cooking. Penitentes is called that way after the stone formations that guard it that are similar to the snow penitentes I showed a while back.

Marius and I returned to Santiago to return the car and get our moneys back - for replacing the clutch. We ended up spending another 4 hours arguing at the rental company, but we finally got most of them back, even though they were in form of a cheque. And it was Friday. Of course. The night before we could not find a hotel (again) and so Marius slept it a hostel - they had only one bed left, and again, it was 11 plus when we got there - and I in the car. In the morning, when I went to Marius's hostel to shower, guess who I bumped into?! Guess, guess ;;) Nevermind ... DAN, of course! He was leaving on the same day for Romania. The ticket change had cost him about 300 Euros, but he was happy to leave. He didn't even say congratulations for Tres Cruces. His voice trembled when he talked about how his little girl was asking for him. This would have impressed me at some point but now I was disgusted. Then he started saying how "time will tell who was right" and "what will we tell the people back home" sort of crap. How Dan got home and what happened is the subject of another post :)

We took a bus from Santiago to Mendoza, in Argentina, but decided to stop in Penitentes, where the girls were. They were staying at our mule company's skiing refuge, called Cruz de Cana. Our mule company is called Lanko. The company is run by Osvaldo and Jose. They are great people, even though remarkably different. Osvaldo si the calculated, mellow, kind type, whereas Jose is the forgetful, easily distracted type. They run Cruz de Cana together with Lucia, who is responsible for the bar, the rooms etc, and Jorge, (or Coky) who is the cook. Both Lucia and Jorge are students who only work there in the summer. In the winter Cruz de cana is absolutely full. In the summer it's just us climbers or tourists to aconcagua that keep the place barely running. Jorge's cooking is amazing!!! Wooha!! And Lulu is extremely kind and friendly.

There are three main routes and three main ways of climbing Aconcagua. The three routes are: the normal (easy in mountaineering) route (which we took), the Polish glacier (which I wanted to do), and the south face (south wall pictured - which i would love to do but it is extremely hard, so maybe in another life or so). As it is with climbing high mountains, you have to do it following a series of camps. For the normal route, the camps are: Plaza Confluencia (3300m), Plaza de Mulas (4300m), and from there on a couple more with the last two being (in general) Nido de Condores (5380m) and Camp Berlin (5700m). For the polish and the south face the only camp that I can remember is Plaza Francia (4200m) and Plaza Argentina. You can do the polish glacier from the normal route as well, taking a sharp left turn around Camp Alaska (5100m). All the routes start from Confluencia.

For the normal route, to get from Confluencia to Plaza de Mulas you have to walk the valley of the Horcones. This valley has more or less 25 km long, with a difference in altitude of 1000m. You can feel this difference when you get just bellow Plaza de Mulas where you have two massive slopes to climb. You have to carry a lot of bags up, of course. The weight ranges from 20 to 30 kg. To walk. For 25 km to the base camp. Wooohoo. This is where the mules and the mules companies come in. As I said, there are three ways of climbing Aconcagua: go with a full service company - including guide, all food provided, etc; go by yourself or employ mules to carry your load up to Mulas. If you go full service you will of course pay more but at least you don't have to worry about anything. However, expect to eat pasta with a bland tomato sauce for as many as twenty days. Furthermore, you have to do everything with the group. If you go by yourself you will have to carry everything up that bloody valley. The whole 8-9 hours of it. Plus, you still have to pay for the toilet at Plaza Confluencia and at Mulas. There are ecological toilets both at Plaza de Mulas and Confluencia and they MUST be used even though they stink to high heaven at Mulas. One thing that I liked was that they change the camping spot at Confluencia to allow the vegetation to regenerate, good for them!!!

What we did was to hire Lanko to take care of the luggage to Plaza de Mulas. Also, at Plaza de Mulas we were met by two great guys, Carlos and his wife Vanessa, who take car of the Lanko tent and toilet there. If you go with a company they will also have a reserved tent space in their name. DO NOT however, pitch your tent next to the mess hall. Anything is better that than, since you will not be able to sleep if there are some argentinians there enjoying some mate de hierbas or some romanians having their usual squabble. They will talk you to death. Also, DO NOT assume that you can negotiate with the muleters on sight and get a better price (as some romanians thought they could, sheesh). They will not negotiate because they are working for their companies. Furthermore, the competition among companies is fierce, so the prices are all right.

As I said, Osvaldo and Jose are really nice. They will even show you around Mendoza and help you with the formalities for getting a climbing permit. The climbing permit for Aconcagua costs 330 US (for foreigners) or 300 pesos for argentinians. Write to Osvaldo at or at

Thursday, March 6

Good things come ...

to those who persist!! As y'all know, the last day of Chinese New Year was a while back. On that occasion, my supervisor bought to work a tin of pineapple tarts (slurp!!!) which he put on his desk. He did initially serve me with some (only one, but i took around four), but I subsequently stole some any chance I got. So, whenever I went in his office to discuss something, I would take one (or two) - when he was talking of course, imagine me talking with my mouth full :))

Anyhow, today he came to me and gave me the rest of the tin - it's half full, yay! I think nobody took from them except me, haha. They are still fresh man! Ah, the petty joys of a graduate student ...

Pineapple tarts, anyone?

Monday, March 3

To everybody ...

out there having a hectic Monday, click on this, wait for it to load, close your eyes and enjoy.

Sunday, March 2

Tres Cruces Central (6629 m)

Bah. I think one of the biggest problems with going in long holidays is the loong stories you have to write afterwards. Just two more people and we're done. Then I can start talking about my ordinary [boring] life again.

After we so narrowly escaped being stuck in the wintery desert for like three months, we had to replan our moves. First, we arrived in Putre only to find that Dan had fled to Arica leaving a tearful note to me trying to justify his flee. And I quote "I was feeling devoid of friendship and marginalized", this coming from a 40 year old man. I mean give me a break!! We were having a bit of a problem figuring out what to do next. We had to return the car on the 11th of January and proceed to Aconcagua from Santiago. Apart from that, we had not yet summited any serious mountain. To say nothing of the fact that they had attracted sponsors (I had none, of course) by promising some Romanian premiere some 6000 m peaks. So, we decided that the best thing to do was to go the Tres Cruces National Park and climb a mountain there. Marius and Catalina had been there before when they climbed Ojos del Salado (68 m), also being the first romanians to do so.

Our target was Tres Cruces Central in the Tres Cruces Massif, with the height of 6629. This is the second peak in the Tres Cruces Massif, but the first one, at about 6700m, had already been climbed by another romanian. For me, I really don't understand the point of being the first one to do something. I think that what should matter is the difficulty of the mountain and the struggle of the climber, not who gets there first. Ah well ...

We caught up with Dan in Arica. He already had his plans made up (including a change in plane tickets) to go back home. He would later come to say that we abandoned him and that he felt that we only wanted him in the expedition for the money his sponsors gave him. (sheesh) Although we ended up paying a whole lot more on things (the price was now being divided by 4 instead of by 5), I am so glad we got rid of that little weasel that no amount of money that i subsequently spent is going to make up for it. In Arica we saw a beautiful church built by Gustave Eiffel (yes, of the tower) before he became famous. The church was built in France and all the pieces were sent to Arica by boat and assembled there.

To climb Tres Cruces, or any other mountain in the National Park, you have to get a permit (free) from the national park authority of Chile (DIFROL), from the lovely (not!) town of Copiapo. Unfortunately, we arrived to Copiapo on a Saturday, and, even though we could apply for a permit, we could only get in the following Monday since the Difrol office in Santiago does not work on Saturday. Thus I think there are still permits in our name uncollected from the office in Copiapo. :) Marius knew a way into the Tres Cruces park that bypassed the permit official. Instead of going by Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon), an absolutely lovely lagoon, you have to take the road towards Laguna Santa Rosa. We stayed at Laguna Santa Rosa for one day. Unfortunately for us we did not drink as much water as we should have and also did not spend as much time as we needed there. The view at the Santa Rosa Lagoon faces the three Tres Cruces peaks. Together with the lovely lagoon populated by flamingos it was stupendous!!!

From Laguna Santa Rosa we moved to the base of the Tres Cruces Massif. Before that, Marius and I had a lovely bath in the Rio Lama Waterfall, with Catalina and Lili not wanting to get their feet wet. Too bad for them, the water was great! To get to the Tres Cruces Massif you have to negotiate hills and valleys full of boulders. Again, thanks to Marius for his extraordinary driving! [When going towards Tres Cruces, our green salad bowl jumped from the back of the car. We saw it when we returned, because it was the only spot of green in that desert]. We camped for one day at the base of the massif, at around 4800. Lili grew so tired of sleeping in the tent and decided to sleep in the car. This was a bad call because the car was extremely cold during the night.

The plan was to move camp from 4800 to around 5700 the next day. We got up early again and had to face a horrible cold which exhausted us before we even left the camp. We only managed to leave camp in about two hours because we had to wait for the sun to come from behind the mountain, otherwise we could not move. Our backpacks were extremely heavy since we were moving an entire camp. We had not had proper breakfast, only two low calorie cereal bars (stupid Dan had bought the low calorie ones which only had 87 (tops!) calories - how on earth is that supposed to nourish you?!?!?!) - for those who could eat that is (me, me!). We ended up stopping every other 10-20 minutes for long rests. I think we only managed to climb about 200m difference when we decided to set up camp again. It was horrible, we were very tired but we should have continued, but it was already about one o'clock and the weather was getting cranky (yes, here too!)

It was a good thing that we stopped though. This way we could hydrate and nourish ourselves properly, which we did throughout the day. It was good that we were close to a penitentes flake and we could get snow from there. The next day we would have to move camp to 5700m, if we wanted to get to the summit, that is. Of course, here too, we were running out of time.

During the night Catalina had an attack of asymptomatic paroxystic tachycardia (i hope i got it right!). In other words, her heart is beating VERY fast and she couldn't breathe. It seems she gets these things sometimes. She was ok now but she really had to get down and so she descended back to 4800m. This left only the three of us to climb. We attacked the horrible slope ahead of us and succeeded in about 8 hours to get to 5700m. Here we found a lake which saved us the trouble (and the gas!) of melting snow for our tea and food. Lili and Marius could not eat (again) but I enjoyed my freeze-dri sweet and sour lamb to the max!! The bad thing about that was that my meal had 1400 calories which got me so warm that at first I couldn't sleep. We prepared our gear and food for the next day. I was relieved that Lili had offered to carry the camera (until sunrise), as she had nothing else to carry.

Come 4 am we got up and started to get dressed and go. Lili had not slept a wink because she was feeling nauseous, same as Marius. I had slept like a baby. We left camp at about 5 in the morning. It was dreadfully cold, even though we were wearing down jackets and down gloves. I hate down gloves, even though they keep my hands so warm! However, you feel like you have tennis rackets for hands! You can't even hold your walking sticks, to say nothing of pressing the camera button! At around 05:30 am Lili nearly fainted (she told us later) and decided that she could not go on. While I was taking care of her Marius started puking his stomach out. Lili went back to the high camp to take a rest and proceed downwards from there. Marius and I decided to go on.

I wasn't feeling cheerupy either. The thing with my body is (I guess) that it does not like to exercise in the wee hours of the day. It likes to sleep i guess. I was having severe palpitations, that only allowed me to walk for a little while. I made myself walk for either 8 or 16 paces then rest for 8 or 16 heart beats. The first slope was incredibly hard, both for Marius and I. I was feeling dizzy and extremely sorry for myself. Marius was still puking and could not eat any of the powerbars or powergels that we had with us. I was so sorry for myself that when we got to the end of the slope and I saw another one exactly as hard as the first I started crying. Literally.

About two hours after sunrise things started to change for me. I don't know if it was Marius's support, the powergels or my body finally waking up (or a combination of the three), but I was allright from there till the summit. Marius was still feeling extremely bad. However, he did manage to make the right call when I was lobbying for the wrong call. You see, we were faced with a huge snow slope that could be tackled either directly - on the snow - or to the left, on some rocks. The climber in me chose the rocks. Marius said it would be better to go on the snow because we didn't know the conditions of the rocks. I was convinced the summit was towards the rocks, but that proved in the end to be a false summit.

Thus we tackled the snow slope. It was a very abrupt slope. Marius was cutting steps for the both of us, but he was so weak that I had to take over. This was a first, and only shows how bad he was feeling. So bad that at one point, with our last powergel, he was drinking tea first to see if he pukes it, and then take in the powergel.

We finally got to the top of the slope and there found the summit ridge. The problem was now determining what point on that ridge was the summit, since there was absolutely no sign there, not even a cross or a stick or something to show us the highest point. We spent the next half hour measuring and comparing rocks, until we finally decided on the tallest one. Yey!! We were on the summit at last!!! And the first romanians to do that, too! We could see Ojos del Salado in the backround and a lot of other 6000m peaks around us. Since the local guides had said that the peak had no name, only Tres Cruces for the three of them, I actually named it, "Trei cadane" or "Three odalisques" because one of our favorite jokes was that of Marius being a sheikh and the three of us his wives :))

The descent was even worse than the climb. We were dead by the time we got to the advanced camp and even deader when we got at 4800m. Even so, by 12 am we were eating a delicious lomo alo pobre in Copiapo (yes, restaurants in Chile stay open until 2 am). We could not find a place to stay and so left Copiapo and camped three hours later by the highway (actually only Marius did, the rest of us slept in the car).