Mt. Aconcagua (January 20, 2010 – February 15, 2010)

Monday, February 15, 2010

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Mt. Aconcagua is the summit of South America, the highest peak outside of Asia and rises to 22,841 feet above sea level and was my first experience on an over 20,000 ft. mountain. It is also my first experience climbing by joining someone else’s expedition Despite the fact it was a fantastic group of guys who made for a lot of laughs and fun - large expeditions are not for me. It takes away much of the adventure, decision making and flexibility.

To me another problem with this mountain is its kind of ugly compared to a mountain like Mt. McKinley or even Mt. Rainier and the climbing was too simplistic on our chosen route to be much fun. I always have more fun climbing mountains steeped in history of great climbing epics and technical challenges and beauty - Aconcagua (a big brown mountain) did not provide that. I was hoping this mountain would inspire me after I arrived and it still didn’t and I plan to never climb another mountain I don’t feel the need to climb. There are so many great mountains out there that there is no reason to climb mountains I don’t like. That being said I learned what I needed to learn from this mountain and got some good high altitude training in.

Unfortunately this trip for me was plagued by illness and injury and it didn’t help that my satellite phone that broke on day 2. I suspect a mule fell on it hauling my gear to base camp. My recently sprained ankle (4 weeks old) caused me grief especially as I rolled it again in Mendoza getting on the bus heading out to the trail head. This required me to wear full support climbing boots that were extremely hot in the 30C weather heading to base camp causing a great collection of blisters on my feet. Load carrying was going to be minimized by a porter who got sick by the second carry so I carried my own stuff for the rest of the trip which really hard on my ankle. I had a very bad chest/head cold that kept me up coughing up a ton of mucus even though I was on a general antibiotic, my throat was extremely sore from nasal drainage. Later in the trip I had some stomach issues as my food allergies caught up with me and that required Imodium. All in all I felt like and sounded like crap the entire time.

To sum up my 20 day trip, despite reaching high camp twice we never even had a chance to make a summit bid as 90 kph winds and -70C temperatures made an attempt unfeasible. No one of the more than 300 people on the mountain made the summit during our summit window. We headed down mid February as our permit was expiring. This was a good decision that would have been wise to duplicate on Mt. Rainier’s attempt in May – see Mt. Rainier.

Partial list of completed climbs -

*First ascent