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!
February 19, 2010
Phil Ershler called from Puebla, Mexico after a tough run at Orizaba. He said that the team wasn’t able to make it out of the hut due to 6 inches of snow and high winds that brought visibility to zero. To make matters worse, the conditions were as such that the team was forced to carry down the mountain 2,000 feet because the road became impassible. Too bad for these unexpected challenges, but once they got down the hill they were picked up and are now resting in Puebla. The team will depart for home tomorrow. Everyone continues to be in good spirits and good health. Good job, team, for putting up a good fight!
February 17, 2010
Phil called from Orizaba. They had a good training day today in spite of the snowy and windy weather. They hope that the weather will clear for their summit bid tomorrow. Because of these factors, this will be a close call. They plan to take a shot at the summit if the weather allows.
February 17, 2010
We made it back to Mendoza late last night after the long hike out. We’ll have our celebration dinner tonight and then most of the team takes off tomorrow. All is well.
February 16, 2010
Phil Ershler called from Mexico. The Orizaba team is currently settled in at the Piedre Grande Refugio (hut). It’s a little windy with gusts of about 25 mph, but not to worry the group will be staying at the hut for the next day and a half. They’ll be training tomorrow and will get to bed early. The plan is to get up and climb in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Everyone is doing well and in good spirits. A full day of acclimatization and rest will prepare everyone for the long summit day, which is at least 12 hours round trip: hut – summit – shower (oh and they’ll need one too!).
We wish the team luck!
February 14, 2010
Mike Hamill, Aconcagua team leader called in the past two days during the holiday weekend. On February 13 he called at approximately 3pm PST. He reported that all was well on the mountain. A couple of team members were feeling some mild effects from the altitude and overall effort of the trip, but everyone was OK. If weather permits, the team will summit in the morning.
On February 14 Mike called to report that the team was back at high camp having successfully reached the summit! 9 of 13 team members reached the actual summit, but all gave it their very best and are now resting at high camp after a safe descent. Tomorrow the team will head down to Plaza de Mules Base Camp. All is well and the team sends their love and good wishes to friends and family back home.
Congratulations to the team for a job well done!
February 11, 2010
It’s always nice to hear from our teams in the field when there’s good news to report. Mike Hamill called in this afternoon (our time), just prior the team’s dinner (their time). Camp 2 is in, everyone’s there and weather is still holding. One camp remains and then it’s time to take a stab at the summit. This is when things start getting tough. Aconcagua is a VERY big mountain. It tends to wear people out. Heads, stomachs, lungs and legs have taken a lot of abuse already and there’s more to come. Such is the nature of high altitude mountaineering. Camp 2 is high, pushing 18,000 ft. Getting there is an achievement in itself. Each member is trying to do their share for the team and part of that means taking care of themselves. You have to work at drinking, eating and generally doing all those things which allow you to get up the next morning and keep climbing.
Mike also reports that the weather is still holding. It can’t last forever, but it doesn’t have to. It just needs to last long enough. That’s the big variable which is hard to control. So, you work hard to put yourself in position to take advantage of any good luck the mountain gives you. It’s the old idea of opportunity meeting preparedness.
We’ll hear next when the team hits high camp. It’s almost crunch time.
February 10, 2010
IMG Kilimanjaro leader Eben Reckord reports that the team enjoyed a celebration dinner back at the hotel in Moshi, after their successful climb and descent. Now they are heading for the Serengeti! Over the next three days they will experience world class wildlife viewing and some amazing luxury lodges and tented camps as they visit Serengeti and Ngorongoro, two of the world’s most spectacular game parks. So far so good!
February 8, 2010
The news continues to be good from Argentina and the slopes of Aconcagua. Team leader, Mike Hamill, just phoned in. The team has made their move to C1 at 16,200’. The weather is perfect and everyone’s doing well. It has been quite windy the last couple of weeks. Weather now is excellent and forecast is favorable for at least another several days. All that’s excellent news. Lots can change between now and the summit bid, but all’s as good as we could hope for at the present. We’ll take it.