Climbing with the Czechs

I now know why the Czechs are such strong climbers.  They seem to have an incredible tolerance for pain.  My new Czech  friends, Lucie and Nikola are no exception.  I first met them at a climber’s hangout, La Montana, in Quito, where they confessed the tragic beginning of their South American journey.  Arriving in Buenes Aires in the middle of the Argentina winter, they soon realized that they were starting their trip all wrong.  Given the timing of the seasons, it made much more sense for them to be embarking on their travels from the north.  Despite impossibly high airfares, they were undeterred from correcting their mistakes, and instead suffered through a 7-day non-stop bus journey from Argentina to Bogota.  If they could endure through such an ordeal and then laugh about it, I figured that they surely had the proper attitude to brave the a 6000 meter peak.  We thus decided to meet up once more and joined forces in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru.
We decided to climb Pisco, a technically easy peak, but centrally located and at 5800 meters, it was supposed to have one of the best views of the range.  Admittedly, we weren’t exactly setting ourselves up for success.  Prior to our outing, while my Czech friends were hauling their own loads (rather than hiring burros, which is what most tourists do) on 10-day Andean treks, I was playing with penguins at sea-level in the Galapagos Islands, which was not exactly a good thing for acclimatization.  Furthermore, we arrived to the mountains a month later than what was considered the suitable season for climbing in the Peruvian Andes.  However, daily storms tended to clear up by evening and climbing by night would be our best bet.
On our approach day, we stopped in Yungay, a nearby mountain town, to scout out a hostel for our return.  We were greeted by the lovely Senora Rusula, and soon found out that her hostel was a mecca for Czech tourists and climbers.  After Lucie told her we were from the Czech Republic, she screamed out of joy, and gave us motherly hugs with her one arm.  Before I could admit to her that I was actually from the States, she had already raced to her bedroom to bring us her homemade hats, a gift that she gives to all of her Czech visitors.  She told us of her difficult last two years, suffering through two forms of cancer, and acquiring a severe case of diabetes.  She genuinely confessed that her only therapy in life was her visits from her Czech friends.
Thus, even though afternoon storms would be threatening our 1000 meter ascent to base camp, there was no getting out of soup and juice with Senora Rusula.  Furthermore, I didn’t have the heart to deny my Czech citizenship, although worried that my ignorance of my new homeland would soon reveal itself.  She asked me my name, and I came up with the only male Czech name I knew…Marek.  She asked me where I was from, and my reply was Prague…born and bred.  I was starting to feel guilty, and suggested that we better get on our way.
After a 1000 meter high approach and a rest day at our base camp at 4800 meters, we awoke to our alarms at midnight on October 13th.  I wanted to sleep in a little more, but my Czech friends, who love to suffer much more than I do, wouldn’t let it happen.  We crossed two moraines and a debris-covered glacier (which was quite similar to my research glacier on Mount Hood, Oregon), and arrived to rope up on the snow and ice slopes at 3:30 in the morning.  Lucie was having digestive issues, and I know from first-hand experience, that high altitudes magnify such an aliment. If I were her, I would have turned around a long time ago (of course, I’m not Czech!).  We powered up the glacier, watching the surrounding massive peaks become progressively whiter as the morning sun came across the horizon.  At 6:30 a.m. we crested a 60o slope, and with a first glimpse of the mountains to the north, I knew we were on the summit.  As I belayed Lucie up, I glanced at her face, and could tell that she was in a lot of stomach pain, but smiling nonetheless.  Man, these Czech girls are tough.  We took a group photo for Senora Rusula’s Czech Climbing album, and spent the next hour soaking in the most beautiful, unobstructed mountain views I had had in years.
We cruised down to base camp, and by 4 pm we were 11,000 feet lower, in oxygen-rich Yungay, with more hugs from Senora Rusula.  I brought her some flowers, she prepared us a traditional Peruvian dish of spicy Cuuy (fried guinea pig), and I attempted my best Czech accent for the remainder of the evening.  Our lovely host asked for our emails, and because all of my emails explicitly contain my American name, I had to make one up (feel free to email me at my new gmail account, mareksa23@gmail.com, which I only have to host emails from new friend from Yungay.)  After several celebratory rounds of pisco (the Peruvian national liqour, for which our mountain was named), I looked across the table at my tough, yet extremely positive friends, and confessed that I felt honored to be considered a Czech for the last few days.  Prague was soon placed on my list, which includes Copenhagen, and Vanuatu, as a priority city to visit, solely for my admiration of its people.
Los tres checos on Pisco

Los tres checos on Pisco

I now know why the Czechs are such strong climbers.  They seem to have an incredible tolerance for pain.  My new Czech  friends, Lucie and Nikola are no exception.  I first met them at a climber’s hangout, La Montana, in Quito, where they confessed the tragic beginning of their South American journey.  Arriving in Buenes Aires in the middle of the Argentina winter, they soon realized that they were starting their trip all wrong.  Given the timing of the seasons, it made much more sense for them to be embarking on their travels from the north.  Despite impossibly high airfares, they were undeterred from correcting their mistakes, and instead suffered through a 7-day non-stop bus journey from Argentina to Bogota.  If they could endure through such an ordeal and then laugh about it, I figured that they surely had the proper attitude to brave the a 6000 meter peak.  We thus decided to meet up once more and joined forces in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru.

Alpenglow on Pisco

Alpenglow on Pisco

We decided to climb Pisco, a technically easy peak, but centrally located and at 5800 meters, it was supposed to have one of the best views of the range.  Admittedly, we weren’t exactly setting ourselves up for success.  Prior to our outing, while my Czech friends were hauling their own loads (rather than hiring burros, which is what most tourists do) on 10-day Andean treks, I was playing with penguins at sea-level in the Galapagos Islands, which was not exactly a good thing for acclimatization.  Furthermore, we arrived to the mountains a month later than what was considered the suitable season for climbing in the Peruvian Andes.  However, daily storms tended to clear up by evening and climbing by night would be our best bet.

The Huandoys...could make for a great traverse one day!

The Huandoys...could make for a great traverse one day!

On our approach day, we stopped in Yungay, a nearby mountain town, to scout out a hostel for our return.  We were greeted by the lovely Senora Rusula, and soon found out that her hostel was a mecca for Czech tourists and climbers.  After Lucie told her we were from the Czech Republic, she screamed out of joy, and gave us motherly hugs with her one arm.  Before I could admit to her that I was actually from the States, she had already raced to her bedroom to bring us her homemade hats, a gift that she gives to all of her Czech visitors.  She told us of her difficult last two years, suffering through two forms of cancer, and acquiring a severe case of diabetes.  She genuinely confessed that her only therapy in life was her visits from her Czech friends.

Thus, even though afternoon storms would be threatening our 1000 meter ascent to base camp, there was no getting out of soup and juice with Senora Rusula.  Furthermore, I didn’t have the heart to deny my Czech citizenship, although worried that my ignorance of my new homeland would soon reveal itself.  She asked me my name, and I came up with the only male Czech name I knew…Marek.  She asked me where I was from, and my reply was Prague…born and bred.  I was starting to feel guilty, and suggested that we better get on our way.

Climbing the glacier by perfect weather at night

Climbing the glacier by perfect weather at night

After a 1000 meter high approach and a rest day at our base camp at 4800 meters, we awoke to our alarms at midnight on October 13th.  I wanted to sleep in a little more, but my Czech friends, who love to suffer much more than I do, wouldn’t let it happen.  We crossed two moraines and a debris-covered glacier (which was quite similar to my research glacier on Mount Hood, Oregon), and arrived to rope up on the snow and ice slopes at 3:30 in the morning.  Lucie was having digestive issues, and I know from first-hand experience, that high altitudes magnify such an aliment. If I were her, I would have turned around a long time ago (of course, I’m not Czech!).  We powered up the glacier, watching the surrounding massive peaks become progressively whiter as the morning sun came across the horizon.  At 6:30 a.m. we crested a 60o slope, and with a first glimpse of the mountains to the north, I knew we were on the summit.  As I belayed Lucie up, I glanced at her face, and could tell that she was in a lot of stomach pain, but smiling nonetheless.  Man, these Czech girls are tough.  We took a group photo for Senora Rusula’s Czech Climbing album, and spent the next hour soaking in the most beautiful, unobstructed mountain views I had had in years.

On the summit...early

On the summit...early

We cruised down to base camp, and by 4 pm we were 11,000 feet lower, in oxygen-rich Yungay, with more hugs from Senora Rusula.  I brought her some flowers, she prepared us a traditional Peruvian dish of spicy Cuuy (fried guinea pig), and I attempted my best Czech accent for the remainder of the evening.  Our lovely host asked for our emails, and because all of my emails explicitly contain my American name, I had to make one up (feel free to email me at my new gmail account, mareksa23@gmail.com, which I only have to host emails from new friend from Yungay.)  After several celebratory rounds of pisco (the Peruvian national liqour, for which our mountain was named), I looked across the table at my tough, yet extremely positive friends, and confessed that I felt honored to be considered a Czech for the last few days.  Prague was soon placed on my list, which includes Copenhagen, and Vanuatu, as a priority city to visit, solely for my admiration of its people.

Marek and Rusula celebrating a great day!

Marek and Rusula celebrating a great day!

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4 responses to “Climbing with the Czechs

  1. U R amazing. I want to go with you to Prague… only I will divert to Budapest to visit friends.

  2. What a journey!!! I bet you can do more push ups than your Czech friends though.

  3. Great story Jeff. Been a long time that I visit facebook. I will do it more frequently to get updatet. You are a real funny guy didn’t I tell you that. A very kind and good hearted man to pretend to be a Chez to make Rusala happy.

    Have a great trip friend. Keep following!

    Mischa

  4. Awesome, I laughed a lot, what a story-teller! Yep, we should compare the push-ups :))) Hope to see you soon again. Trek in Bolivia? We head to Lima 2mrw evening…kisses

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