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JBL adventure on Mt Death
Author: John Layfield
Mt Death lived up to its nickname unfortunately. We just got off of Aconcagua (nicknamed Mt Death) in Argentina, we were on the mountain for two weeks, was both a great time and a very tough time.
By the time we arrived in base camp the high camps were empty due to the storms, most had given up and left the mountain.
After 10-11 days of climbing, including the one to base camp that was 13 miles into a 55 mph, freezing headwind that had so much dust in it our visibility was minimal at times, we were arriving into Camp 2-Nido, at 18,400 feet. We arrived on Thursday March 7th.
We arrived late in the day and were greeted by word from the Park Rangers that we were to get off the mountain due to the storm approaching. Unfortunately, that was impossible as we had just made camp and didn’t have time to take camp down and get back down, so we prepared for the storm.
We found out that one climber had died and another lost (still not found) in this storm and that two tents at high camp (the next camp, Cholera, at 19,700 feet) had been destroyed causing more problems. So we secured our tents as best we could and hunkered in them for two days as the storm felt like it was about to blow us off the mountain. We had a small thing of plastic and rope that was keeping us from a massive amount of trouble. Being inside that tent at night and listening to the tent roar in the wind was an unreal experience.
After two days in the tent, on Saturday, March 9th, we received word that a potential weather window was opening on Sunday. So, we packed up and climbed in some terrible weather to high camp hoping for some good luck.
This may sound insane to climb up in a storm, but we knew we would have some kind of weather window and while it may not be enough to make the summit we could use it to come down from high camp just as we could from camp 2.
Weather at high camp was cold and windy. At this freezing altitude and higher while climbing, you lose a glove you lose a hand-its very unforgiving.
We woke on Sunday at 3am hoping to find a better weather picture but it didn’t happen. We needed 20 hours or so of good weather to make it because we had to summit and return to base camp because another storm was bearing down on us and we didn’t have the provisions to stay at 20,000 feet for the days we could be stuck in that next storm.
Normally you can summit and return to high camp, but this was not possible due to the approaching storm-so there was no real safety net once you decided to go for it.
Summit was an 8 hour climb on a good day from high camp and return to base camp was another 7-8 hours. However, this wasn’t a good day-we could be out there 20 hours or more and one wrong turn in this storm and you might never be found.
Our guide Ian Nicholson from Mountain Madness and Gaspar (from Ecuador) did a superb job of helping us to not make mistakes, huge praise for Mountain Madness as this is my third mountain with them.
Remarkably, Ian and a couple from Canada (a married couple-both Doctors-who had competed in ironmen races and marathons), Drs. Jason and Carolyn, made the summit in that weather in almost 20 hours of climbing-being much faster than me, I would have been at least 25 hours and maybe as much as 30-which means I would not have made it down. I’ve been around some great athletes and these young guys were as hardy and tough as any I have ever seen, very proud of them-and all great people to be around.
The guys who made it talked of stepping close to one of the dead bodies to get to the summit.
No one else made it or even came close.
The whole cause of this is to raise money for great young people I work with-you can learn more at www.SevenSummitsforKids.com and because of WWE 100% of money raised goes to these wonderful young people. I can’t wait to get back to Bermuda to see them all!!!
We teach our kids that life is about trying and trying again and never giving up. I almost made it this year, next year I will. I am already planning on coming back and planting a WWE flag on the summit.
As far now? I’m in Argentina and soon heading back the the US to get on the Road to Wrestlemania! And to torture Michael Cole some more. BTW, he snuck his doll (I have an action figure, his is a doll) in my briefcase and I was planning on sacrificing it on the top of the mountain, but since I didn’t make it I have to think up another horrible fate for it.
Also, just took my first real shower in 2 weeks and laid down in my first bed-simple things right now are really cool!
Sgt Scott in Bermuda (my favorite huge Scot Police officer and a true credit to Bermuda) said there would be a heck of a party, if I died it would be a great wake-if I lived I was welcome to come…..Looking forward to seeing him and Coach Patrick, Coach Kelly and the rest!