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  • Writer's pictureVoita

Out of bounds

My alarm goes off at 0400.

It's a great excuse to cease at my poor attempt on sleep. It was the kind of night you may have on a plane in economy class; short bursts of unconsciousness bookended by creative pain points in parts of your body you haven't thought of since last flight.

Not to mention that my brain, as is its lovely habit, runs on turbo, combing through all the piled up fears and issues of the last decade.

What am I doing?

morning on the slopes

In the flickering light of my fading headlight, I climb out of the tent. I opted for one layer on my legs, and four on the upper body. Temps wise, it's perhaps 20F and the wind has died off during the night; I'll be ok.

Nobody else seems eager to go greet the sun from the hilltops and I set off alone, encapsulated by my puddle of light, which I have to block out, to see outlines of the peaks which I'm attempting to climb.

lake's crown from the the first peak

The idea is simple.

There are 5 peaks over 20.000 feet crowing the lake, with several smaller humps in between, connected by ridges and saddles.

Starting on one end, how far can I get, before I run out of time, steam, air, or all three?

views north / south

Hour into waddling through the night, my bowls call for an early morning and force me to squat in between rocks shielded from the intermittent wind.

It's warm enough to be ok clothed and moving.

It's not warm enough to let my butt cheeks play duet with the squealing wind.

Cold sneaks up under my layers and settles for a long campaign to sap all my heat and, invariably, succeeds.

I'm alone, lost in the darkness, shivering and unable to walk, which leads to more heat loss.

first peak / snowfield below

The two hours until sunrise, when ever minute is filled with aversion to being alive, seem neverending.

That's ok, I'm used to prolonged stretches of physical discomfort and pushing through mental strength deficiency.

The sun is out there and we have a date.

By seven thirty, we meet, even though it's not until after ten that my core temperature stabilizes to the point I stop being aware of it.

And while I had a reserve layer, I never felt close enough to dying to feel the need to use it. Sometimes it's better to keep pain and discomfort close and use them as a propellent to keep moving.

look back / down into valleys

I nap in shivering fits below both the first and second peaks, to make up for the miserable night.

On third peak I meet Siddhartha. We admire the views; most of little Tibet sits between 16K and 20Kfeet, which lets us see as far as the slowly clouding-up sky permits.

Unlike in Nepal, snow here is scarce, allowing for easy climbs like the set I'm running through today. Perhaps one in four peaks requires similar level of preparation like the peaks I climbed in Nepal. And only the few highest necessitate a full expedition which we have connected with climbing mountains.

Most peaks are like the Chomo Chonkar's crown: one hell of a cardio.

peak two views of lake / ridge forward

It's eleven as I set off towards a fourth notch, my energy flat-lined in the zone. I'm not bursting with it, but I have enough reserves to steadily carry for hours, and nothing less would suffice.

Similar to food and water, energy reserve shouldn't drop below 30%; essentially enough to get yourself and a person in need off of the mountain, or to survive unplanned extra 24 hours in case anything goes awry.

peak three w Siddhartha / ridge to peak four

In between fourth and fifth, final peak, lies half of the crown. And the fifth point, the pass' other sentinel, is highest of the lot, with a solid helping of frozen snow lining its tippy top. I estimate it for another 6 to 7 hours of extreme effort - and with that turn back and head to camp.

I've just climbed four 20K peaks in eight hours, before lunch, having skipped breakfast.

That'll have to do.

peak four - hiding from the wind / Tso Moriri lake views

By the time I navigate through the omnipresent scree-fields back, half of the camp is already packed up.

Arjun acted as our dream catcher, except instead of dreams attracting all the headaches.

Compared to his night's tango with the devil, my morning pain was a walk in the park.

No wonder he decided against climbing and instead rested throughout the morning.

shoutout @Pod7Kilo :) / way back to camp and pass flanked by Fifth (l) and First (r)

It's two o'clock, when I find myself all alone by the lake.

Since I sat down, my legs started feeling the burden of navigating four miles and nearly 5.000 feet of elevation in altitude where oxygen sits below 50% and to breathe normally, we'd need double the standard number of red cells in our blood, which takes weeks to months to build up. And even then the altitude could not support long term human habitation. The cut-off is in around 17.000 feet.

climbing gear / packed by the wind wall

I hastily heat up another noodle soup, to keep my blood flowing; the day is far from done with three more miles worth of hiking against the refreshed wind, towards the car, stretching between me and survival.

And the guys are gone; I've no choice but to keep moving.

I start packing.

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