MORE ON THE CLIMB:
Things just went smooth. P and K would take turns leading, Jordan constandtly reminding us to drink and eat. This kind of effort and this rapid a pace at altitude can cripple even the best of climbers. It’s late morning and the ridge behind us sudenly presents very dark and fast moving thunderheads. I’m going back and forth with the ‘what if’s’, if the Thunderstorms and associated thunder/lightning hits us. We have the best gear and J’s proven he’s tough as nails in bad conditions. We continue up.
We got get the occasional whip of the tail of a cloud, then it’s piercing sunshine warm,blue sky. It’s like someone has a swith playing with us. It’s only less than hand full of hours and we reach the 16,000’ ridge. Not before we negotiate some 5th class climbing, not much but it’s pretty vertical. Jordan is not pro in this stuff yet, but he doesn’t hesitate one bit. Infact he accelerates when things get interesting. IT’s only 100’ on this knife ridge and we encounter the Tyrolean Traverse. It’s a rope horizontally bridging a massive gap in the ridge. You put the gear on right, it’s no worries. A big physical effort but nothing’s gona happen to you. If you screw up, one piece of the gear is off on the anchors or your personal gear and you will free fall. A long ways, before you hit, tthen it would be a pretty ugly 800-1000’ of lifeless cartwheeling before your carcass comes to a rest. My point: ZERO room for error. Non, null, nada. It’s body recovery, not rescue. Ok, enough of the drama, we pullit off and even manage some laughs during it all. A few hours we’d spend on the summit non stop tip toeing on some dicey ridge, often using security lines already in place.
Those same thunderstorm clouds visit us, dropping the temps considerably. We’re breaking fresh tracks in up to 1 foot/25cm of fresh snow. At times fishing around for the fixed ropes. Karen’s leading, J and I look up, she’s perched on a knee, camera out with an extra grin. J asks/yells “are you ‘there’ now?” She only smiles and nods, we both know what that means. J picks up his speed and I make one last reminder to be focused, it’s a dicey little approach to the perch of a summit.
1459 local time, J climbs onto the tip of the pyramid, all 3’x5’ pad to stand on, a 1000’ vertical drop on 2 of the 3 sides.
“I can’t believe we did it, I love you guys….thank you thank you thank you”
The visit to the summit of a mountain is not always fun. It’s gratifying, it’s rewarding…but sometimes it’s the coldest/windiest place for surrounding thousands of miles (being the highest point of said continent).. But sometimes, much like Jordan encountered on top of Denali, having the whole peak to just our team….the Summit was all ours. Nobody for miles and miles. No wind, a few clouds in the distance, the unbelievable sight of glaciers just the next ridge over, JUST knowing that great climbers have strived to get here, and more sobering to know that many climbers have died to get to this very rock we stand on. We have 3 cameras and we get the very best of images and video we can muster. Jordan is patient as can be, posing, smiling and his eyes just wonder and gets distracted from the jaw dropping scene we have. It’s all about the American Flag initially for Jordan, then the sponsor obligations, then…a unique photo opt. We have brought a laminated cover story from Big Bear’s local news paper, The Grizzly, breaking the horrible news of the tragic death of our friends son, involved in a (not yet solved) hit and run accident in the heart of Big Bear some 2 months prior. We bring this hoping media will cover our accomplishment, and rekindle the energy needed to bring justice to the beautiful Bhandari family. Just one small break in the case might be needed to solve it, and we hope this can help. In a strange twist to this story, we’d brought a large 8×11 photo of Kushan to take photos of as well. I don’t know how to explain this other than to tell that the only breeze we felt, while at the summit of Carstensz Pyaramid somehow snatched this photo out of Jordan’s backback pocket of which I had placed in there rather well. It took off like it had wings, it floated and then dove down the 1000’+ face. I watched as it disappeared. We were baffled, Karen quick to say, ‘Kushan was here and took it from us as if to say hello.’
Our guide Poxy climbs up to the summit, reaches in his pack and hands us a giant banner, congradulating Jordan as new World Record Holder for summiting Carstensz Pyramid. It was a complete surprise to us, a completely custom banner, photos were snapped, a glance at our watch, and we’re all about getting down. Particularly in a mountain like this, by far the most dangerous part of the trip is getting down. We have snow and ice to descend, and that is always way more tricky coming down, particularly in our slick rock climbing approach shoes. We’re extra cautious, make our way back across the ridge, Jordan moving swiftand with a little extra puff in his chest. At one point, as he traditionally does…he speaks of the next mountain “it’s onto Vinson, I can’t believe it’s onto Antarctica now”.
Darkness falls on us as we make the last rappels to the base of the giant rock face, we’ve still a 1 hour trek back to our base camp. A full moon has graced us, just as the very last of the sunset throws an orange layer on the glacier.It stopped us in our tracks, it lasted for only a few minutes and was one of those cover shots for which photographers wait a lifetime.
It would be a crime to Karen and Jordan if I did not mention the comedic yet uncomfortable topic of ‘hic ups’. Yes, hic ups. I have no idea what brought this on, or why it was me, but ol dad here developed hick ups on the climb up, and they pretty much stayed with me for the whole climb. Annoying and uncomfortable would put it lightly. On exertion, hic ups tend to sound like a seal barking (well, mine do anyhow).If I’m facing the right direction there would be a ricochet off the limestone walls and echo, causing more laughter and heckling from the long haired and shorter of the threesome. I tried everything to get rid of them, and it was on the long lonely dark walk back to base camp that I tried the last remedy. While walking just 2 yards behind Jordan, I tried the scream method to rid myself of the diaphragm spasms. I’m glad we weren’t hiking on a cliff, and Jordan may have jumped off as I frightened him so much that he screamed back. It got rid of my hic ups (albeit temporarily), and brought a much needed laughter to our beat up quads and empty stomachs.
Once back at the tents, packs are dropped, and we can officially celebrate the climb. You never really should celebrate until a team is back in base camp safely, and Jordan knows this all too well. Hugs, more photos and a serious load off our chests.
Straight into the sleeping bags, guide Poxy cranks up some hot noodles, and it’s down for a well earned night of sleep.
Health Report- Jordan- Not a scrape, not a complaint,
Karen- never a worry, strong like bull. Cameras and batteries all held up well, makes her happy.
Dad- other than fully ripping the seat of my pants, slugging it out with a fever, enjoying an intestinal unwelcomed friend, and inflaming a mountain bike induced wrist injury, happy as can be.
Sunrise comes, the hypnotic thump of the Bell 212 Helicopter coming up valley, and we’re greeting a Swiss/Austrian twosome that jump out, as they attempt their Seventh Summit, having just summited Everest with out Oxygen. It’s brief handshakes and we’re back onto the familiar back seats of the helo, I don the headset and say hello to the Capt Heru, and he wished a giant congratulations to the team and particularly Jordan before we could even lift. The helo makes amazing speed in the 50 minute downwind, downhill trip back to the beach town of Nabire.
We land, jump out and are greeted by the big kid smile of Patrick and hugs all the way around. Guide Meldy is alive and well, and there with hugs. He’s ‘better’, albeit obviously thinner and weaker than what we recall before the climb. It would take several days to recover from such an illness that he battled.
Straight to a shower, juice shop, then to post a cover photo on the blog. But then it’s all about the beach. By noon, we’re bobbing in the chest deep, 88degree water and completely empty beach. Our muscles loving the salt and nutrients. Story telling and photo swapping take up the rest of the day and evening, it’s 6am wake up for our trip back to Bali for 3 days of R and R.on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
I’d promised Jordan such a beach visit, one afternoon, on December 30, 2007 dragging our way off the 22,800’ Argentine mountain of Aconcogua. I needed something to cheer him up at that moment, as we were some 14 hours into a giant giant day of super sub zero temps and huge climbs. He was as beat as you can imagine, and I had to pull something out of my hat. It worked at the time, just for a bit. True to my word, by the time you are reading this Jordan has his toes in some white sand sipping from a coconut.
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