Recently I asked for another pair of Meindl boots. With two imminent trips to Nepal (both at low altitude) I knew exactly what I wanted. The latest top of the range Meindl Ladies boot? ……Nope, not for me. I requested exactly the same as I had before, for such terrain: Meindl Softline Lady Top.
Why so loyal, Cress?
Reflecting on why I wanted this model induced an interesting state…I felt intense loyalty. Of course – this pair of boots had been with me on my round the world bike trip, for much of my time in South America: the country where I had spent most time and had enjoyed myself hugely.
How many miles had they done? How many expeditions? I collected the boots in Bolivia, having asked Alastair, the school leader of the team I was leading, to bring them out from the UK. They had been sitting in a rucksack (along with a sleeping bag) for almost a year, waiting to meet me. Prior planning at its peak!
My Softline Top’s looked after me during the expedition treks on Isla del Sol, gazing at Lake Titicaca and in the NE, in the more remote and beautiful region of Apolobamba (stunning 5,000m saddles, blue skies, snow-capped peaks all around.)
Looking back at photos from this era I was reminded of a host of memories….taking silly ‘promo’ pics on the salt plains of Uyuni; one of the lads wanting to create a Daniel Craig inspired pic wearing nothing, but holding one of my boots in front of his privates, as he walked out of the sea…I thought the idea was hilarious, but Alastair had other ideas. The lad was 16 – Alastair had a point!
After Bolivia, I cycled through Peru and walked one of the MOST beautiful routes in the world: the Huayhuash Trek. An 8 day stunner, filled with high passes and a jaw dropping view of the Siula Grande mountains (prompting renewed respect for Joe Simpson and Simon Yates.) I completed this route with a journalist, Tom, who I’d met in a hostel in Huaraz. He was updating a guide book and I was hoping to climb higher peaks. Luckily, we walked in synch and loved every minute – it made a refreshing change to worry about no one else. I walked for the sheer pleasure and soaked up the natural wonder. BRILLIANT.
The next port of call was in Ecuador, having cycled the spine of the Andes. I led another expedition and returned to Cota Paxi, leading an Aussie team to over 5,000m and a photo shoot in ice caves.
On route, I followed the steps of Alexander von Humboldt and attempted to climb Chimborazo, Ecuador’s highest volcano (6268m) – famous as its summit is the farthest point on the earth’s surface from the earth’s centre. Climbing involves a mix of snow and ice – the success rate is low and sadly I had to retreat at 5,800m: the risk of avalanche being too great. I learnt loads about this type of climbing and loved being the only client on the mountain – having a hut to ourselves was a novel experience.
After Ecuador, I took a flight South to Patagonia: it had always been a dream to trek in Torres del Paine. On New Year’s Day, I celebrated by taking a rest day, and went sea kayaking a midst glaciers.
I continued cycling North, and re-entered Chile, devising a route through the Lake District and back to Santiago. From there, I climbed up massive ‘zig zags’ to cross the border into Argentina, reaching the foot of Aconcagua. I will never forget gazing at the mountain – the ONE peak I had in mind to climb, before leaving England, two years previously. At that moment I had no idea that I would tear my calf muscle, have to shelve my plans and suffer a week of depression, before turning my mind around – regaining equilibrium.
Upon returning to the UK, which I did shortly afterwards, I headed to North Yorkshire and walked on the hills, deep in snow. My Meindl boots still on my feet, but no longer able to withstand the damp, wet conditions.
Letting go of the boots was harder than anticipated, but then, I understand why. They had been with me for much of my South American adventure. A mere matter of 6,000+km.