In the lead up to Chimborazo, we met several groups who’d attempted it, and their reports were grim. It was an unrelenting and grueling climb, they said, and none of them had reached the summit. Statistically, our chances of success seemed to settle around 20%. Lea had considered joining us, but bailed after the negative reviews (and tension with Tim) began to pile up. In truth, I had second thoughts as well. I wasn’t excited about spending so much time and money with such a bleak forecast. But Tim was unshakeable. Arrogant, almost. He was convinced that we were more determined and more prepared than those that had failed before us. Never mind that we were less fit, and that I’d never worn crampons.
So I arrived at the refuge on Chimborazo exhausted from the events on Cotopaxi, and unenthusiastic about the climb. I wasn’t thrilled to be facing a monumental challenge having just confronted another, very different type of test. But I wasn’t about to bail on Tim, and there was, of course, a part of me that was anxious to prove myself wrong. Indeed, I was excited to stand on top of that mountain, knowing its 6,310 meter peak is actually the furthest terrestrial point from the center of earth. But I wasn’t excited to fail.
Many experienced climbers report that Chimborazo is more difficult than many other, more famous mountains. Aconcagua, for example, is the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas, but it is usually conquered piecemeal - over nine days. Chimborazo is normally attempted in one night. The plan, ostensibly, was to begin the climb at 11pm, summit at sunrise, and return by noon.
What was supposed to be an epic test of strength, will, and endurance ended up being more a test of patience. After a week of trying to convince me we’d reach the summit, it was Tim that sputtered out, and at the relatively unimpressive altitude of 5,600 meters. Despite my pessimism, I’d planned to give the mountain everything I had. So, it was hard not to feel cheated when I was forced to turn around with plenty of gas in the tank.
I was frustrated, but had to remind myself not to blame Tim. The effects of altitude are unpredictable - elite athletes have been reduced to aching, stumbling mortals at these heights. And Tim deserves full credit for getting me out of my comfort zone, and introducing me to a new sport. I’m left to anxiously await the first time I beat a mountain.