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Greetings folks! We're back from the highest point in the
Americas, Mt. Aconcagua! It's a big, cold mountain, nearly
23,000 feet. Just where I'm the happiest! There's not a better
mountain to prepare for climbing Everest.
|Jan. 07 - 10
journey took us to the beautiful Argentinean city of Mendoza,
full of great plazas, restaurants and, of course, the ultimate
life style choice - afternoon siestas! Although our 3-week
expedition started in Mendoza, our destination was the highest
mountain outside of the great Himalaya - Cerro Aconcagua.
Our plan was to establish 04 camps on
the mountain, summit and return to Mendoza via Playas de Mulas
on the other side, therefore making a circumnavigation of
this great mountain.
We departed Mendoza taking the north route
on our three day trek through beautiful desert valleys, Vacas
and Relinchos, dramatically enclosed within the mountains
of the Andes. Mules carried our gear
as we acclimatized. The muleteers, or
"gauchos", brought great life to our trek. These hardened
cowboys rode and maneuvered the loads with great skill and
precision. Watching the gauchos on horses in full gallop negotiating
these winding and narrow canyon trails was like a scene from
the wild west - an amazing and unbelievable site.
As we finished our second day, the dramatic
East Face of Aconcagua finally appeared. Too beautiful! The
Argentine Base Camp, situated at 13,776ft, was a welcome site
after the 30 mile trek-in. On our approach, we experienced
windy weather, nothing too serious, but we generally had clear,
blue skies. We heard from returning climbers that they had
summited with little wind and had hours-long stays at the
top of the mountain. We were pleased to hear this, but knew
that Aconcagua never stays wind-free for long. We had a rest
day at Argentine base camp and prepared for our ascent further
up the hill.
|Jan. 12 - 14
mentioned, our plan was to establish 04 camps on the mountain:
Camp 01 at 16,075ft, Camp 02 at 17,700ft, Camp 03 at 19,200ft
and half night at Camp 04 at 20,600ft on the North Ridge.
This schedule would allow for the best possible conditions
to summit, provided, of course, the weather cooperated.
We established Camps 01 and 02 with little
difficulty, although the Penitentes (ice spires) were a little
tricky to negotiate. Winds pounded us on occasion, but we
still had time on our side and were optimistic about the days
ahead. We prepared to make our move further up the hill.
|Jan. 15 - 22
We established our Camp 03 just below the
Polish Glacier as quickly as possible. I had made an ascent
to Camp 03 days ago with a load of future provisions. The
wind had not diminished since that load carry. We strengthened
an old rock wall that would hopefully give us some relief
from the great winds. Wrong. From here on out, we were simply
pounded by the wind, sleet and snow.
The following day during a few hours of clear
weather, we were able to traverse
to Piedra Blanca (White Stones) and establish Camp 04 at 19,600ft,
lower in altitude than planned. We knew, however, that if
the weather gave us a break, we could summit from this camp.
En route to camp 04 in the short window of clear weather,
we enjoyed lovely views of the Andes, the surrounding valleys
and the Polish Glacier.
We were tired and wind
blown, but generally felt healthy. We had strong determination,
but most importantly, we needed the weather to cooperate.
Throughout the night, we continued to boil water to stay hydrated,
and enjoyed a pretty good meal. But the weather just got worse.
The storm on the mountain hit us hard during
the night with 80 mph winds. We were secure and safe for the
time being, but we had to make a tough decision. We gave it
until mid morning the following day, but decided that we had
to take the safest course of action, which was to break camp
and descend to Playas de Mulas at the very next relief of
the pounding winds. When the break came, we began our long
descent. The hot drinks and the great food was surely enjoyed
when we arrived at Playas de Mulas. The next day, we loaded
the mules and began our trek out via the Horcones Valley,
arriving back in Mendoza late in the evening.
year, unfortunately, the weather was not on our side. Our
summit goal was not reached, but we faced a great challenge
making the circumnavigation of Aconcagua. We returned safe,
strong, healthy and well-fed, though tired. Sometimes the
mountain just wins. We had great laughs together and we'll
be back soon enough.
I thank all our TE '03 friends for your support
during this expedition. Also thanks to my colleagues and business
friends - there were some truly good folks on the mountain
this year - it was nice seeing you all. We'll see many of
you on Everest in a couple of months! Cheers,