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.

One thought on “Climbing Aconcagua – Summary

  1. I am definitely still planning on donating for Angie.  I loved that you did that for her.  I’m also glad you made it home safely.  

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