After you reach 4500m, making every single move becomes a challenge. You have to focus on inhaling and exhaling, force yourself to breathe and to make a step. Small step, baby step, next step. You don’t think about anything else, just to breathe and to move your heavy legs. You don’t feel the cold, you don’t t feel the wind throwing wet snow in your face, you don’t feel a little stone which imperceptibly slipped into your shoe, you don’t feel thirst. You feel rock-hard muscles and heart palpitations. You’re wading forward at a snail’s pace, trying to control your nervous breath and prevent your heart jumping out of your chest. Step by step, slower and slower, feeling more and more like you cannot make it to the top, but also more and more like you strongly want it, like you just can’t turn back.
Tunupa volcano which I chose as my first 5000m challenge, stands on the northern side of the Salar de Uyuni. The legend says that all mountains are gods (Tunupa is considered as a god of volcanos and lightening) and that long time ago all mountains used to live like humans (that’s a bit complicated, I know). According to this legend, Tunupa was a woman who lived with her husband and kids. When she lost her family, her tears turned into the largest salt flat (which is Salar de Uyuni).
You can believe in this story or not, but for sure you should at least try to get to the top of Tunupa volcano if you visit Salar de Uyuni. Doesn’t it look amazing? This shining white field with shores falling outside the horizon? So try to imagine how it looks from 5152m. Just don’t choose a cloudy day for your hike as I did. Have fun and remember: you can do it!