Day 3 was no less than hellacious. Besides the Summit Day, this day, Day 3, was the hardest. We left Shira camp after breakfast, heading towards Barranco camp by way of Lava Tower. This six hour acclimatization hike took us up to 4642 meters (15,229ft) at Lava Tower and then we descended to sleep at 3900 meters (12,800ft) at Barrranco.
On the way up, through the alpine desert, I was feeling pretty good. I could sense the lack of oxygen and felt a bit tired but other than that, I was fine. I did immediately notice the drop in temperature as we ascended. When we made it to Lava Tower to stop for lunch it felt unbelievably cold and it actually even started to snow a bit. I really felt bad for the folks camping there. After lunch, we started our descent, and let me tell you, if anyone says going down is easy, DO NOT BELIEVE THEM. The knees and legs were aching by hour one but I will admit that going down is much faster than going up. We crossed about twice as much distance in half the time going down as we did going up. We descended into a beautiful little valley, complete with waterfalls and crazy boulders and then just as we caught our first glimpse of camp at the valley bottom, the first drop fell. The rain began. Oh so subtly at first that we didn't even notice. And then, just a few hundred meters from camp, the heavens opened. We hobble-ran those last few meters and luckily our Team had made it before us and the tents were already up. Unfortunately for us though, the plastic tarp underneath was not-so-underneath and we had a nice stream running through our Casita. My Colombian Tent Expert hurriedly tucked the tarp under, dug little gullies around the tent to redirect the flow and I thanked my lucky-stars that the "bathroom" was not too far away.
I thought things were a bit under control after we got the tent sorted out and nestled in to keep warm from the cold mountain air, and that is when the headache started. Just like the rain, oh-so-decieving at first. I thought I must just be a bit dehydrated, so I drank. And the headache continued. I took a Voltaren, and the head ache continued. We went to go eat dinner, and I just set my head down on the table. I could not eat, I felt nauseous, my head might explode. I have only one time in my life had such a headache before (that was from sinusitis + SCUBA diving), and that time I went to the hospital and got a pretty awesomely powerful painkiller injection. 12,000ft up a freakin' mountain, I was thinking it was going to be pretty hard to find a hospital. But, our Guide gave me some large Panadol pills and I choked those down and laid down hoping the sleep would come. Sometime in the night, I the headache subsided and I fell into a deep deep sleep. Altitude sickness is a bitch.