February 23, 2010
Believe it or not the folks here at IMG let me out of the office long enough join our most recent Aconcagua Expedition! Below is a peek into our trip…
Day 1 – Mike, Greg and I sort group gear, hit the grocery store to shop for local specialties to bring on the mountain then re-package the group food.
Day 2 – All of our fellow climbers arrive in Mendoza clean and shiny and ready to climb. Gear-check that afternoon and a “get to know each other” dinner that night. Steak and wine is the way to go in Argentina!
Day 3 – We walked to the permit office in Mendoza to take care of a little business. Permits- check! The National Park does a great job of checking in and tracking all climbers on the mountain.
Day 4 – Load up – it’s time to go to Penetentes. This is the jumping off point and last call for checking your gear. We sorted the gear into Mule loads for the first 3 days and grabbed a good night’s sleep in a bed for the last time for quite awhile!
Day 5 – Let the journey begin! Started the 3 day hike into Basecamp. Great day that ended with some grilled beef at camp. Perfect! Beautiful walking in a spectacular valley. Everyone feeling really good.
Day 6 – Day 2 of the hike to BC. Another great weather day and our first view of the mountain. Most of us were stunned when we saw the mountain for the first time, very high, very big, very rugged, incredibly beautiful.
Day 7 – The day started off with a COLD walk across some glacially fed streams! Brrr. The trail got a bit tougher today but nothing the team couldn’t handle. We pulled into Basecamp in the early afternoon ready for the rest day the following day.
Day 8 – Rest day. Basecamp life moves a bit slower, but there was plenty to do. A short hike for some and long naps for others. The dining tent was great and the meals were awesome. Salad with tomatoes and avocados – who saw that coming? Silver Joe’s coffee brewed every morning in a French press, thanks Greg!
Day 9 – Carry to C1 at 16,000 feet. We loaded up all the personal gear that wasn’t needed at BC into our packs along with our group load and made our first pilgrimage to C1. Not a huge day distance wise but our first big challenge vertically. The trail through the penetentes, while faster than the scree slope, proved quite the challenge with the loads and the lack of 0’s!
Day 10 – Move to C1. Similar weight in the packs but a much easier day given the acclimatization days at BC and the carry the previous day. Felt like we were moving slower but the opposite was actually the case! First night sleeping at serious altitude = headaches and restless sleep… Pound the water and keep eating!
Day 11 – Carry to C2 at 18,000. Heavy loads again but a reasonable day distance wise with some vertical gain and traversing through the wind to camp. Arrived in camp, made the drop, took a break, and went right back down to C1 for the night.
Day 12 – Move to C2. Packed up camp and made for our new digs at C2. Second windy day in a row but that’s normal for Aconcagua. We set up shop on one side of the water source and called it home. Quesadillas anyone?
Day 13 – Carry to C3 (19,500) aka Cholera Camp. Tough day with a heavy load. We didn’t cover a ton of distance but we’re getting up pretty high at this point. After a short steep incline to start the day, the trail lengthens out before a steep section right before camp. Dropped our gear, piled rocks on top and back down we went.
Day 14 – Rest day at C2. Spent this day cleaning up, hydrating and healing up the best we could. Simple, everyday tasks are hard at 18,000 feet but our acclimatization schedule of climbing high and sleeping low helped our bodies adapt.
Day 15 – Move to C3. A cold and windy day! Made the move to C3. A little faster than the day before and everybody’s feeling reasonable which is good for 19,500ft! Ate as much as we could and hopped in the sleeping bags early in preparation for our summit bid.
Day 16 – Summit day! Cold night and a 5am wake up call got us out of the tent moving pretty quickly! A perfect summit day for the folks that made the top! Congratulations to Mark, Jim, Ann, Mike, Ian, Tim and Larry (ok and Mike and Greg too!)!!
Day 17 – Slept in a bit, but it was soon time to move on down to Plaza de Mulas (Basecamp on the other side of the mountain). Some crampon work and some loose scree didn’t stop us from getting down to a glass of wine and some strange pizza! Tim said it best – “only in mountaineering do people give congratulations the day before an 18 mile walk out to the trail head!” The team knocked out for a dusty nights sleep in the dining tent while Mike, Greg and Martin sorted the mule loads for the last days walk out…
Day 18 – Pancakes, coffee and an 18 mile walk! Started at 9:30 and arrived at the trail head at 4…we were moving pretty quick – the awaiting beers and showers back in Mendoza were quite the motivation. Ate and drank like kings in Penetentes as we waited for the mules to bring the rest of our gear down… loaded the van and trailer up and we were back in Mendoza 3 hours later. In the shower by 1am!
Day 19 – A restful day in the beautiful town of Mendoza. Sleep, eat, shop, clean and wrap it up with the celebration dinner Argentinean style which means a late reservation, several courses and some great wines to match! The prefect ending to an incredible two weeks on the mountain.
Day 20 – Some folks headed for the airport while others took a day to check out some wineries and relax one last day before re-entry into the real world…
Day 21 – Home….and ready to be there!A great trip and some great new friends!
A special thanks to IMG Guides Mike Hamill and Greg Vernovage as well as our local Aconcagua guide Tincho – these guys worked their tails off and deserve some recognition – not too much though or it’ll go to their heads!