The stakes are raised
The visibility is now down to a few meters all I can hear is the clinking of ski poles as they strike the rocks. A blanket of snow has now totally covered the surface of the wall. Every now and then the wall peeps through the mist; the snow has made it look as if it has been wrapped in white silk as it lazily follows the mountain ridges. It’s now a case of feeling your way over the rock, every rock and bolder is hidden under the snow, waiting to trip you up or twist an ankle. Our progress is down to 2km per hour and this has been going on for days now.
With 5 layers of clothing on, protecting me from this never ending wind ,which persists to find ways into our every joint and sap us of warmth and energy. It’s a permanent daily juggle, we have to make our daily target, but with caution, we have a few hundred kilometres to go; I would hate something to happen. If you attack the mountains too quickly you start to sweat, that means wet clothes. Bad news! Then that wind just eats you up and freezes the clothing onto you, you can forget getting warm again.
The walls assents and descents are getting steeper as we get deeper into the big Beijing Mountains. Most climbs are about 1km+. You just get to the top and down the wall goes again, snaking off into the mist, popping up the other side and up it goes again, a highway to the clouds, with no end in sight.
It’s been a slog up this last mountain, the wind screaming over the wall above, dragging a curtain of snow with it, and dumping it behind me, the last section has been about 200 mini steps winding up the rock face, they are just too small and steep to attack front on, so you have to crab walk up them. This has unsettled my balance because of the side on angle and I can now only use 1 pole to support yourself.
The angle has now got so steep that I have had to fold my poles and use my hands to pull myself up. Having to brush the snow off each step as I climb up. I am starting to get that exposed feeling, “Damn, I really don’t need this.”
From the years of weathering there are now some steps missing, making the task even harder as I climb. This is really becoming treacherous. On a clear day I would have thought twice about it, maybe gone around. I looked down, that nauseating feeling came over me, and it looked concave from where I had just climbed up. I would never be able to descend, I had to move on. Braam was below looking up, shouting something, I could not hear in the wind. I just hugged the steps and slowly oozed forward like a Chameleon “What the hell am I doing here?”. I just looked up into the vertical steps and carried on climbing. I can’t explain that feeling, you know you can’t go down, and you know you really don’t want to go up! You have to continue.
I slid my hand up for the next step, there was nothing, just loose stones which came rushing down beside me and rained rocks onto Braam. This was what Braam was trying to tell me, the section of wall had fallen from the rock face and I had to go to my left. I didn’t need this; I closed my eyes and put my face onto the cold stone to refocus. Looking up there was 50m to go. I moved to the left, and slowly continued my ascent. How did the Chinese soldiers move along here, let alone build it?