Sitting here in Banos, Ecuador 3 days after the end of our Huairasinchi attempt and I still feel a little numb about the race and how it turned out for us.
We have gone over the decision we made to use our radio on Sunday morning to call the rescue team of the race over and over again and we still feel that we had no other option at that time. We often take big risks as adventure racers but one risk I and I hope the team I race with, will never take, is compromise someones safety and health.
Huairasinschi began on Saturday morning with a bike stage of about 25 km.
We fared ok on the bikes and came in at about 11am to transition to change into our trekking gear, load up on fuel and embark on what we knew was going to be a punishing 40km trek, the hardest stage of the race, through part of the Ecuadorean Sierra.
We made a mistake with navigation though the first valley of the stage which cost us about one hour. But we were moving well, comfortably and felt as though we were advancing on some teams ahead of us after the bike stage.
However, about 2 hours before we reached CP 2, after 5 hours of trekking in the rain and cold, Lars, our captain and principal navigator began to feel very dizzy and nauseous.
Often we feel bad during treks in AR. Low blood sugar can be a big culprit. But this time it was the altitude. We all felt its effects, we were all dizzy but able to continue, but Lars was not getting any better. We plugged on through some really tough terrain including bush so overgrown that we had to go on all fours for about an hour…
and river crossings up to our waists until we reached checkpoint 4 at about 20.15 – 45 mins inside the cut off. We carried on into the night determined to finish the stage and trek through a long valley of moorland to a pass leading up to CP 5, 6 and 7, again at altitude.
We continued into the night. It was 7pm. It took us about 5 hours to advance only 5km due to the fact that the valley floor was a mess of mangrove, moorland, trees, high bush and sticky muddy trail and river crossings. At about 11pm we decided to climb up and traverse one of the spurs that would bring us to the pass we needed to reach in order to get to CP 5. However at 12pm Lars said he needed to rest, he couldnt continue. We finally found a place that was less steep than the surrounding hill (it was all very steep) and we took out our bivvy bags and set up camp
I got really cold and at about 6am I made the guys get up to move on so we could warm up. Lars was still really pale, with low blood pressure, a high pulse and contracted pupils. After climbing about 100 mtrs Lars began to puke. His altitude sickness had now hit an all time low. We decided to call the organization after a long discussion. We couldnt go up, and we needed to in order to reach CP5, if we went down and back towards CP4 there would be no one there, 5 hours away. We didnt have much choice. To carry on and push Lars would have meant putting his health at risk.
A very low moment….