Toes are the first body parts to freeze because they are furthest from the
heart. By 6:00 p.m. it's time to head down to camp—by this time of day the
temperature drops about five degrees every ten minutes. Back at the cook tent,
Zoilo continues his ice-melting vigil and we wait with him until there's
sufficient boiling water to make soup for the 22 of us. Every night we have
soup, (a Peruvian staple) and Francisco (the sheep) in every way, shape, or
form. For lack of anything else to do, and in order to keep from freezing to
death, we all go to bed before 8:00 and suffer through yet another night of
thin air and slowly deflating Thermarests.
Preparing the Mummy for Her Journey
Buried for days in snow, the mummy is frozen solid and ready for transport down
off the mountain. On our final day at the summit, Jose Antonio, Arcadio, and
Walter dig the mummy out of the snow pack, scrape off the excess ice until it
is shaped like a four-foot beach ball, and wrap it in potato sacks and sleeping
pads for insulation. The complete bundle looks like a badly wrapped piece of
oddly-shaped furniture, but it is non-descript enough to deter attention. The
goal is to get the mummy safely off Sara Sara without raising interest or
inquiry from locals, police, or even looters. The textiles alone could fetch a
lot of money on the black market.
Arcadio straps the mummy on his back and moves slowly down from the summit. We
figure his burden weighs about 120 pounds, mostly ice. This is just the first
leg of a journey that this Inca child could never have imagined in her time.
The day is the clearest and warmest we've had yet. We look expectantly toward
the sky which has threatened us throughout the expedition, but no flake of snow
falls, no lightning strikes.