Category: Charity

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Climbing Aconcagua – Summary

I have come home from my attempt at climbing Aconcagua, one of the Seven Summits, and highest peak outside the Himalaya. I’m working on transcribing my notes now from my phone and little notebook into a document to prepare as another book. In the meantime, here are a few interesting key points.

Climbing Aconcagua - view from Horcones Lagoon
Aconcagua from Horcones Lagoon

Climbing Aconcagua: Failure?

I left the Horcones Ranger Station, 9,185′ elevation on my attempt at climbing Aconcagua on the morning of November 26. I spent a cold night at Confluencia, and barely passed the medical check to permit me to ascend to base camp. I left the next morning for Plaza de Mulas base camp at 14,110′ elevation early on the 27th of November. I took a very long time to arrive. The ranger in attendance told me to go to my hut and rest for the night. I was to check in on the 28th and do my Medical Check then.

The next day I checked in and did the Med Check. My results were poor enough that the doctor suggested I wait another day and do a second check. Climbing Aconcagua with the blessing of the doctor at base camp is a requirement now. My original plan was that I would already be carrying loads for my camps. I would be behind by two days waiting for the second check.

Climbing Aconcagua - loading the mules
Loading up the mules to descend after storms.

Others had bailed on their attempt at climbing Aconcagua, primarily due to poor weather conditions above Nido (Camp 2) . They loaded their gear onto the mules and descended before the weather got worse. A large lenticular cloud cap on the mountain brought winds in excess of 100 km/hr (about 60 mph) to basecamp. Conditions were bad enough above Camp Canada (Camp 1) that the rangers “closed the mountain”. They insisted no one go above Canada until Sunday or Monday (four more days).

That would put me about 5 days behind on my schedule, leaving me only 3 days to accomplish the gargantuan task of climbing Aconcagua. I had calculated about 8 days to acclimatize, a very short time actually. I was pretty sure I could not do it in 3, but I hung out for the next Med Check. Finally I went in, and my numbers were even lower. The doctor thought maybe it was the storm system messing me up. She recommended I go another day and decide then. If I’m weaker or sicker, I should descend. If I feel better it was just the weather.

Climbing Aconcagua - 100km/hr winds above base camp
100 Km/Hr Winds above Plaza de Mulas base camp on Aconcagua

Climbing Aconcagua: Grim Reality

I had not mentioned something to the doctor, primarily because I do not want it documented. I was having symptoms very similar to those I had on Denali. With the weather this bad there was no chance of a helicopter evacuation. I had to decide quickly if it was going to get better or not. On Denali I was out of action for 3 days with my team taking care of me. Here no one could take care of me. I called Angie, upset that I was going to let down all those offering Skate For Hope donations. She pointed out that I’d also let them down if I died.

Overnight the symptoms became worse, so I decided to load up my gear for the mules and descend while I was still strong enough. I had to quit on this attempt at climbing Aconcagua. I made it down in time to check out after hours at the ranger station, amid blowing snow and sand with high winds almost knocking me over at times. Others descending were hiding among the scarce boulders large enough to block the wind. I did not see them again.

Climbing Aconcagua - grim reminder of death
A grim reminder along the trail that in this remote environment rescue would be difficult. Mule skull.

I spent a couple days recovering in Penitentes then flew home. I am still very weak, and still having symptoms. But here I know I am among family, and am being taken care of.

Climbing Aconcagua and Skate For Hope

I had asked people to challenge themselves to donate for my attempt at climbing Aconcagua. I did not succeed in the whole project, but I was able to ascend 4,925′ from Horcones to Plaza de Mulas. If you pledged a penny a foot, that’s $49.25. If you pledged for any section of trail other than Horcones to Plaza de Mulas, then of course I did not go there.

For anyone that already donated, or will go ahead and donate anyway in recognition of the attempt I made at climbing Aconcagua in spite of several serious setbacks, I have an offer.

Angie’s Donation Page at Skate for Hope: Click Here

I will be publishing a paper version of the journal I kept, and photos I took from this trip. I will send a signed copy of my book about climbing Aconcagua to anyone who has already, or will before the end of the month, donate $50 or more to Angie’s page on Skate For Hope. Leave your name on your donation, and we’ll get in touch to send you the book when it’s published in the next 60 days.

Thanks, and I sincerely apologize.

Climbing Aconcagua and Skate for Hope

My wife has been a wonderful asset in my training. Encouraging me in my efforts at climbing Aconcagua and other peaks around the world. She puts up with all my training and my closet packed with gear. Even the overflow into the garage and my home office. I couldn’t do it without her help.

Climbing Aconcagua and Skate for Hope Donation Page
Angie’s Donation page at Skate for Hope

I’d like to return that support now and help her with her efforts for Skate for Hope. This is her fourth year with the Breast Cancer Charity Skating event. Her third year as a fundraiser and skater. She’s been a group organizer for two years now, and will be skating in the 2013 performance in June in Ohio. This is what I’d like to do now in climbing Aconcagua. Help Angie exceed her goals for fundraising.

Angie’s Donation Page at Skate for Hope: Click Here

Climbing Aconcagua for Angie - here on Elbrus in the Russian Caucasus
Angie above the Barrels Huts on Elbrus.

I have a friend who climbs for a charity, and his challenge is to offer a penny per foot to assist with his charity. I’d love to help Angie by climbing Aconcagua and asking you to donate a penny per foot too. Here is a graph of simple elevation stats for Aconcagua:

Location Elevation From Last From Horcones From Base Camp
Horcones Trailhead 9,185
Plaza de Mulas (base camp) 14,110 4,925 4,925 0
Camp Canada (camp one) 16,075 1,965 6,890 1,965
Nido de Condores (camp two) 17,715 1,640 8,530 3,605
Camp Berlin (camp three) 19,360 1,645 10,175 5,250
Canaletta (crux) 21,325 1,965 12,140 7,215
Summit 22,855 1,530 13,670 8,745

The first column shows the approximate elevation of the standard camps used while climbing Aconcagua. The second column shows the elevation gain for each segment of the climb. The third shows the elevation gain for each camp starting from the trailhead. The fourth shows the elevation gain for each camp or landmark from the base camp.

Climbing Aconcagua for Angie - here crossing a snow bridge on Rainier
Angie overcoming fear of crevasses on a snow bridge – Muir Snowfield, Rainier

Climbing Aconcagua Success

I may or may not make the summit. I will be climbing solo with no support after base camp. I will be climbing Aconcagua Alpine Style – meaning I intend to move from camp to camp until I hit the summit. I will have a SPOT Connect with me, and will make the link available to follow my progress.

What I ask from you is that you commit to a target goal of a penny a foot. I suggest you set a target for a penny per foot for my total elevation above Horcones, the trailhead. If I am successful in climbing Aconcagua, you will commit to $136.70 for your Breast Cancer donation. If that won’t work for you, try to set a target from base camp. If I summit, you will commit to $87.45. Even if you commit to the segment from the Caneletta (loose gravel chute) to the summit, that $15.30 will be a blessing and a benefit to the cause.

Climbing Aconcagua for Angie - here on Mount Fuji
High Five on Fuji – Angie is a hit with the locals

You can commit in public, posting on my Facebook Page. You can commit in public in the comments below. You can commit in private, and just be accountable to yourself. All I ask is that you commit, and lend a hand, no matter how small or weak. Together we can make a difference.

Update: November 13
I wanted to point out that the donations are made at the website of the Skate for Hope organization, and go directly to them. It passes through Angie’s page, which is just so that they are able to track her fundraising efforts. At a certain level of fundraising success, she is able to present flowers to a headliner. I am solely responsible for all costs of climbing Aconcagua. Angie is responsible for all costs associated with her skating performance, including costumes, travel, and lodging. Thanks for your commitment to help.

Aconcagua 2012 – for a cause

After the great success of my wife Angie in her group program at Skate for Hope in Columbus Ohio in June 2011 (she was among the top fundraisers), and my little brush with prostate cancer in the past 18 months, I finally decided to take the plunge and help do my part to help her fight.

Angie Skate for Hope 2011 Fundraiser Award
Angie in Fundraiser Award Line at Skate for Hope 2011 Columbus OH

I decided to learn to skate with her, which is awesome leg cross training for the various stabilizers and other muscles I didn’t know I had until I started. Apolo Anton Ohno has awesome legs, right? So I will participate in the group program in 2012. For my fundraising, I will donate proceeds from donations to my climb of Aconcagua this February 2012. Click the yellow “Donate” button to the right if you’d like to help support my efforts to help this great cause. If you leave your name, or name of the loved one you want to donate for, I will make sure to mention it here, and take their names with me to the summit of Aconcagua, one of the Seven Summits of the world.

Angie and I learning to pairs skate
Angie and I learning to pairs skate

I also have a fundraising site within Skate for Hope that you can donate to directly if you’d like to assist there instead CLICK HERE

Angie with the Hughes sisters, Emily and Sarah
Angie with the Hughes sisters, Emily and Sarah

Either way, it’s a great cause, with great support from pro and Olympic skaters from around the world. I will post video of my training on another blog that I’ll mention later, since this isn’t really a skating blog 😉

Thanks.