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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

Pico Austria

Yesterday we returned from the mountains after camping at the base of a glacial lake at around 15,000 feet. For the past two days we trecked in the area going on day hikes first to the glaciar, some of us drinking from the fresh streams that flowed from the mounds of ice that towered above us.

For most of us however, I think one of our most powerful experiences in the mountains through out this entire trip was summiting Pico Austria on our last day in the mountains. We woke up around 5am, breakfast of oatmeal at 6am and headed out of camp at around 7am to begin our 5 hour treck in which we would be climbing around 3,000 feet. The treck up was extremely difficult. The altitude continued to take more of our breath as we zig zagged through the mountain slowly making our way up. Our legs hurt and with every step the thought of turning back grew more appealing (especially when my hot sauce bottle exploded in my pocket) but we trudged on as we knew once we reached the top it would be worth it.

As we continued up the mountain, the views of snow capped peaks and glaciars only got better. Finally after many breaks  to catch our breaths and rest our legs we made it to the summit at about 18,000 feet. Im not religious but up there I felt closer to heaven (if there is one) than earth. Standing on the highest rock on Pico Austria, we were closer to the clouds than the rivers and lakes that seemed so miniscule below us. We could see for miles and miles below us. Countless mountain ranges, rolling hills, glaciars, flowing rivers and lakes, roads and even sprawling cities.

At the tip top of Pico Austria the views were breathtaking and the only real worry we had was taking in enough breaths to fight off the altitude. That high up nothing else seems to matter.