Excerpt from the chapter “Day 10”:
We took brief rest stops along the way for water and to catch our breath. Honest was just fine but Wilson had been sucking up trail dust and it was evident in his raspy respiration. Wilson said to me at one point, “I can hear you breathing,” and I assured him that I was doing fine; I could hear my breathing too. My lungs were congested but it was to me a curiosity much more than a concern.
I allowed myself to very briefly look straight down . . .
I allowed myself to look straight up . . .
But only when we were seated or stopped.
I refrained from looking up or down while we were on the move because frankly, it was one seriously steep wall of boulders. Looking anywhere other than in my immediate proximity, in any direction, even when seated, helped me understand what vertigo must feel like. I thought it best just to focus on what was near and next. There’s a picture of Wilson and me at a rest along the way and though the incline is visible, I don’t think it adequately captures the feel of the pitch.
If I were to do it again, I’d push myself to appreciate this place more; I’d risk the panic and feel the fear of looking down and up more frequently. Before I knew it, we were crowning the Western Breach and stepping into the crater. I couldn’t believe what I saw: HUGE glaciers, directly in front of me!!! I ran over to see them, leaving Wilson and Honest to wonder, as they told me a few minutes later, “Who is this woman with all the energy at 18,800 feet after a seven hour climb?!” In that moment I was thinking about how incredibly beautiful it was.
We made our way to the right, to the camp, and my energy sapped quickly. The headache was a raging one and I knew it was from the altitude. Fortunately it was tea time—with popcorn, my favorite—and then I had about an hour to take a nap in my tent. I took some ibuprofen for the headache and tried to get some rest but the pounding in my head was unrelenting.