YOU Have the Power: Our Alpamayo Adventure

By Di Westaway | CEO Wild Women On Top

Always look on the bright side of life …” Life of Brian

One team of Wild Women; one stunningly beautiful wilderness trek around the highest tropical mountains in the world; twelve different journeys.

I’ve just returned from paradise: a Wild Women On Top trek high in the Peruvian Andes; named after the Most Beautiful Mountain in the world, Mt Alpamayo, 5,950m.

We had 12 days climbing up nearly 10 vertical kilometers of high passes and scrambling down freakishly exposed slippery scree with intoxicating glacial vistas. We had emerald lakes, ice blue crevasses, majestic snow-capped peaks with fluted meringue cornices, dramatic ridges, luminous full moon wee stops & mouth-wateringly fresh gourmet cuisine.

And of course, we had the unexpected.

We lost a team member for 9 days, got sick from altitude and bugs we carried from Sydney, brought out the inner child when least expected, rescued baby lambs and rode horses when we were exhausted.

But, as a team, we did it. More ups than Everest, more cups of cocoa tea than ever before and more moon bathing than most people have in a lifetime.

We did it because we all said “YES” to adventure.

It wasn’t all fun. Being taken completely out of our comfort zone overnight exposes us to extreme highs and lows. We face unexpected fears.

But it’s the way we choose to manage these challenges that creates our reality: some of us experience moments of extreme exhilaration, some the opposite.

We had 12 different journeys but the ones that brought the most happiness and fulfilment came from looking on the bright side.

On day one, Heather Feather unexpectedly got carted off to the local Huaraz Medical centre for a small operation which required 5 days recovery horizontal. Undaunted, she lay on the banana lounge, read 4 books, climbed a few hills, then bounced onto the back of the resupply van for 6 hours to meet us 9 days later.

Josephine arrived under the weather as a result of a very stressful few weeks and a last minute Yellow Fever vaccination that sent her immunity tumbling.

Oh my God,” she said. “What on earth am I doing here?... I should have listened to my friends. They said ‘Why are you going trekking in the high altitude mountains of Peru Jo, when you could be having a five star relax at the Grand Hyatt.’”

Not another high pass… Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh.

A few days later she was happily marvelling at the cascading green valleys and turquoise lakes hanging below ancient rivers of ice, capped by majestic pyramids of snowy peaks eating steamed fresh trout, stir fry garlic vegies & quinoa risotto. And skipping down the passes.

Then there was Sej. Nursing bursitis of the hip and an upset tummy, she found it tough at first. But, by day 5, Sej had become Surge as she powered up every high pass for the next amazing view.

And Carole… Carole is Positive Power personified. Suffering a bad knee from 58 years of healthy wear and tear, and fluid on the ankle from a big training session a couple of weeks before, Carole decided to take on a ‘real’ challenge.

She spontaneously decided to join me to climb the spectacular Mt Vallunaraju, 5,650m, after the trek. No mountaineering experience, no rock climbing or abseiling training, no technical gear and no extreme weather clothing but a healthy amount of fitness, mental tuffness and fear.

Carole said “YES” to adventure because she knew she had the power. She knows the power of a positive “can do” attitude.

She practiced her knots, hired some ill-fitting gear, had a day of focused training on the glacier, did everything she was told by her super cool international mountain guide, Carlos, then went to bed early.

Carlos said Carole could do it. And Carole believed him. He would keep her safe on ropes in the tricky bits, and she would do the climbing.

After surviving the well below freezing conditions of a 3am start in her two sizes too big boots, the final challenge was stepping across a gaping crevasse before traversing a sheer exposed 60 degree snow slope along the lip of an icicle encrusted cave with Carlos’s snow stake anchor protecting her from above.

“Just dig your crampons points into the ice and use your ice axe,” he said. So Carole did.

Half an hour later, just after sunrise, she stood on the top of the stunning peak, looking out over the Cordelliera Blanca range, and the highest mountains in Peru including Mt Huascuran, 6,890m.

Of course the descent was scary, back over “that crevasse”. But Carole has strong legs, years of fitness training in the bank, and she’d hired an expert.

Safely back at Base Camp 12 hours later she was exhilarated. She realised that at 58, she had discovered a new passion. And it was addictive. She was immediately planning the next mountain and how she would prepare her skills for an even bigger challenge.

Heather, Jo, Sej and Carole, and the rest of our incredible Alpamayo team, all shared one common belief: if you stay positive, you have the power to overcome all manner of challenges, and experience the grand exhilaration that comes from challenging yourself in the wilderness and succeeding.

And so do YOU. You choose: stay home snuggled in under the doona with excuses, or say “YES” to adventure and live life to the full.

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