Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Expedición Aconcagua
Dec 2011

  • Location:  Andes Range, Argentina
  • Highest Peak in the Americas:  22,841 feet,  6962 meters
  • Highest Peak outside Asia
  • Available oxygen at summit: 40% of sea level
  • Climber success rate:  approx 30%
  • Deaths per year:  5-7
  • Major Hazards:  Extreme altitude, weather--wind and cold
  • Route:  Target:  Polish Glacier route, actual:  Polish Traverse route.
  • Expedition members:  Pete and Rob
  • Expedition Length:  18 days total: 9 days to summit,  12 days on Mountain

 Our first glimpse of the mountain on day 2.  The hike into base camp starts at 7800 feet and is 25 miles into base camp.  We took three days going in--being in no hurry--hoping to let our bodies acclimatize. 
We had mule take most of our gear to base camp--this is the only way to go!  Believe it or not we had far less gear than most. 
From around 12,000 feet.  Getting close. 

Plaza Argentina:  Base camp at 13,700.  One can get showers, a bed, a meal, send emails, see a doctor, buy stuff that you need, get beer and cigarettes if you are nuts....suffice it to say it is not a wilderness experience. We stayed here for three nights--doing one carry to camp one at 16,400, then moved up to camp one.  At camp one we stayed there for three night as well till we felt we had acclimatized well enough.  A word about altitude.  Acclimatizing has little to do with fitness--it just takes time.  Most people if dropped by a helicopter on top of Aconcagua without acclimatizing would be in serious trouble--even dead in a matter of minutes.   Pete and I spent 12 days on the mountain as compared with the 18days most expeditions spend on the mountain so we were really pushing the envelope with the altitude.  Both of us agreed that next time we would budget more days to acclimatize and for possible storm days.  As it turned out we were pretty lucky with the weather but could have very easily been shut down. 
100km wind over the summit.  Lots of stories of tents being shredded up high and nasty conditions. 

Lonely and somewhat grip camp 2 at 19,000.  Looking up the Polish Glacier.  The Polish Direct goes up the right side.  Conditions on the glacier were post holing in breakable crust.  We moved up to camp two on Dec 26th planning to climb the next day.  The weather report suggested that it would be the best day of the next few.  As it turned out the 27th was cloudy with light snow but with light wind.  I was not feeling %100 and visibility was poor so Pete and I opted to climb the easier Polish Traverse route--the bird in hand.  There had not been a good summit day in a while so there were quite a few groups chomping at the bit.  There were about 50 other people climbing on our summit day.  Did I mention this was not a wilderness experience?   It took us 10 hours to summit from our high camp and four hours to descend.  We saw a number people being assisted down--some who were barely conscious and having trouble walking.  Pete an I summited around 2:30 well within our turnaround window.  On the way down Pete an I were almost hit by falling rocks--four times.  Kind of scary to hear the shouting but not be able to see anything till rocks appeared out of the mist.  So we could understand one mishap but four times?  These were big rocks--basketball and beachball size.  Not cool. 

Summit:  22,841   A worthy adventure.  But nice to be back. 

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