Last year about this time, Laurel and I were making our way down towards Mexico for a climb on Pico de Orizaba via La Malinche. It was an eventful experience in that she got seriously altitude sick and had to be brought down. Not unusual for someone who had never been higher than 8 thousand feet. After assuring me she was fine upon reaching the relative safety of 8 thousand feet, her previous high point prior to this trip, I returned to finish this climb solo.
While there, sleeping in the hut on what was now to be my third attempt on Mexico’s highest volcano, I met John Stevenson who was to head out the same morning at midnight or so. We exchanged pleasantries and he retired, with his guide, for a small bit of sleep before our traditional alpine start. Midnight was cold and spitting snow, as I remember, and the cold was bone chilling here at the refugio at 14 thousand feet. I donned multiple layers and headed off into the dark abyss. I soon caught up with several guided groups. The sun didn’t start rising until I hit the final snowfield at 17k and began pressure breathing my way to the summit that seemed, with every step, more elusive.
Light crested the horizon in step with my arrival at the caldera, or summit cone. I had passed most everyone in my push from the last great snowfield, having paced well through the labyrinth that had eluded me on two separate attempts. As I reached the familiar cross with no doubt that the summit was now successfully checked, it was John and his guide that came up next and snapped several photographs. John took some great pics of me and I returned the favor.
This is the photograph John took for me. I was not far out of night as my headlamp apparently remains in full beam.
It was an awesome experience. John and I stayed in touch and he invited me to go down and climb in Kazakhstan with him but I was not able to make that work. He was able to climb Khan Tengri which brings me to the point of this post. While ascending this great peak in the communist region at 6000 meters with a guide, John’s attention was diverted to a great disturbance in the sky. It was very curious to both my new friend and his Kazakh guide and I assume they may have thought it extra terrestrial at the time.
Turns out this magnificent photo was a shot of the Soyuz space capsle launching off towards the International Space Station in July of this year. I found the shot so amazing it had to be shared, so here goes! Isn’t it incredible?