- Published on Tuesday, 19 April 2011 02:00
When UCT’s Mountain and Ski Club (MSC) describe themselves as adventurous, it is no understatement. On 2 July, seven members of the club began the mission of a lifetime – climbing a peak of just over 6200m in the Himalayas. Brendan Argent, Hannes Breytenbach, Jonathan Glover, Matthew Davey, Mikhaila Levitas, Tim Perks and Wiebke Toussaint were the brave individuals who took part in this incredible trip.
After the MSC had planned to climb a peak, they hadn’t decided where they wanted to go in particular, so they literally just picked a peak in the Himalayas. “Everything was in preparation for this,” said the team, who trained for over a year before their journey, “we spend almost every weekend in the mountains.”
The group set off to India at the end of June and were able to travel around the country before meeting up for the expedition. While in India, the team took part in pre-trip training, involving practice ascending and descending on various degrees of slope, working with ropes and learning rescue techniques as a precaution, in case they fell or got lost in the mountains.
Along with 12 donkeys to carry equipment and 12 live chickens to eat, the group took two full days to reach the 4400m base camp. There, they spent a day acclimatising to the altitude, climbing up to 4800m before returning to base camp.
The group then spent six days training with intense morning sessions, which would last over six hours each day.
Although there were not too many injuries, team member Hannes Breytenbach dislocated his shoulder during training. The team contacted an emergency doctor via telephone and were able to put Hannes’ shoulder back into place with the help of the doctor’s instructions.
With three instructors, a cook, and two kitchen staff, the group then spent a day carrying equipment to the advanced base camp. They spent one night camping on a glacier and one night in tents on the snow. The group was reminded of the danger of their journey when they saw the debris of a plane crash in the snow near their camp.
When the mountaineers reached the advanced base camp, they left the donkeys behind and carried the bare minimum of what they needed. The majority of their trip to the summit was manageable, although they did experience low blood sugar levels as well as dehydration, as their water bottles froze and there was no running water.
In the last third of the climb, the team struggled with the extreme altitude and slowed down during the final stretch. “Getting to the top was a relief,” said Hannes, who also mentioned that it was also a slight anticlimax, as heavy snow led to poor visibility at the top. Although they couldn’t see very much, the crew felt that reaching the summit was a nerve-wracking experience.
With at least six to seven hours to climb down, the team acknowledged that “the summit is only actually half way.” Descending the peak took longer than expected due to the climbers’ dehydration and poor conditions. The group was extremely careful about safety on the climb down and eventually all passed out when they arrived back at advanced base camp. Twenty-one days after beginning their experience, the team had attained their fantastic goal.
After the amazing and taxing trip, the group cannot express enough gratitude to their sponsors, PVM energy bars, Drifters Extreme Sport in the Cape Quarter, UCT Travel Fund, and the UCT Mountain and Ski Club. The seven adventurers know that this trip is just the beginning of many more exciting journeys.