Setting the record straight
BRECKENRIDGE – It’s an ongoing debate – which South American peak is the highest in the Western Hemisphere? Three Breckenridge mountaineers are headed to Bolivia to set the record straight.
Dr. Kendrick Adnan, nurse Holly Gryczkowski and ski patroller Quentin Keith are part of an Outpost Wilderness Adventure team that will map Bolivia’s Ancohuma. Some almanacs and satellite photos estimate Ancohuma is higher than Argentina’s Aconcagua, the 22,831-foot peak most mountaineers consider the highest in that half of the world.
The three from Breckenridge will meet with 19 other American team members in Miami Monday and fly to La Paz, Bolivia’s capital city. There, they will join a Bolivian team and begin two weeks of climbing and acclimatization.
Living and training in Summit County gives Adnan, Gryczkowski and Keith an altitude advantage. The other Americans, several of whom are teen-agers, are from California, Texas and the East Coast.
Adnan and Gryczkowski have been training together on their days off for the past five or six months, climbing carrying heavy packs and ice climbing.
“We’re as ready as we’ll ever be. I’m a little anxious as we finalize everything, but I’m more excited than anything,” said Gryczkowski, one of only two women in the group. The other female climber also is American.
“I know she’s been training hard. I expect we’ll bond,” Gryczkowski said.
After climbing and acclimating, the group will spend a couple of days at a 17,000-foot base camp. The climbers then move to high camp at 19,000 feet, where they will have a couple of days to make summit attempts.
Adnan said he hopes the attempts will be successful.
“We have a strong group of experienced climbers. We just want everyone to stay as healthy as possible, especially the younger climbers,” he said. “If everyone stays healthy and the weather holds, we have a good chance.”
If the climbers reach Ancohuma’s summit, they will use state-of-the-art global positioning system equipment to measure its altitude and end the highest mountain debate once and for all.
“It’s nice to find places in the world that are still untamed. Trying to figure out how high a mountain is is like what the original mountaineers did almost a millennium ago,” Adnan said.
Adnan, who specializes in family practice and emergency medicine, and Gryczkowski, a nurse at the Breckenridge Medical Center and Summit Medical Center’s Birth Place, will work with a Bolivian physiologist to monitor the team members’ health throughout the expedition. A stock of medicines will be on hand for any number of illnesses that could arise.
Again, the altitude gives Adnan and Gryczkowski a Summit County advantage.
“At the Breckenridge Medical Center, we treat more altitude sickness than anywhere else in the country,” Adnan said. “We know what to look for.”
Gryczkowski is excited by the prospect of proving the almanacs wrong.
“There’s so many sources that say different things. Hopefully we can set things straight,” she said.
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