Tag: Aconcagua

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 Logistics Flights and Visa

The key to Aconcagua logistics is planning before you go. Flying to Mendoza Argentina is relatively painless. I went before in March of 2010 during the earthquake in Chile that closed the Santiago airport. LAN (the airline) was really accommodating to get me back to the states. If you book with American, you’ll most likely end up on LAN anyway at least from Santiago to Mendoza. Some people fly in to Buenos Aires with the intention of switching to a local flight to Mendoza. Be aware that there are two airports with a 90 minute bus ride between them. One is primarily International and the other local. Plan accordingly.

Aconcagua Logistics select airport carefully
Buenos Aires Oceanside Airport View

Another important consideration for Aconcagua logistics is planning for your Visa. From the United States there is no particular requirement except the Reciprocity Fee. In Santiago Chile, if you will be leaving the terminal you will have to pay the Chilean Reciprocity Fee. This fee represents what a citizen of Chile would pay for entry to the USA. You shouldn’t have to leave the terminal though. Most of the flights I’ve looked at on LAN have reasonable layovers in Santiago. The International Terminal had quite a few shops, though I haven’t been there since the earthquake.

Aconcagua Logistics airport information Santiago Chile
Santiago Chile Airport

Aconcagua Logistics Reciprocity Fee

In Argentina you have to pay their Reciprocity Fee. In years past they would often only collect this if you were to fly in to Buenos Aires. Now they require you to pay online previous to your trip at the Provincia Pagos website. You are required to create an account and pay online. When you get to Mendoza then you are to trade in your online printout for an official copy.

Aconcagua Logistics Argentina Reciprocity Fee
Log in for Argentina Reciprocity Fee

I just now got my flights for November 24 – December 8 and haven’t had a chance to complete my Aconcagua logistics by applying for my Argentina Reciprocity Fee online yet. I will post an updated article when I have.

Aconcagua Higher Now

According to a cooperative research project report, Aconcagua is now 6966.4 meters tall, about 2.4 meters more than the 6964 meters measured in 1989. Further research is planned to determine if this is due to plate tectonics or more accurate modern equipment.

Aconcagua 6964 meters or 6966 meters - 2 meters higher
Aconcagua from near the Horcones Trailhead

“We know it is moving, but it is millimetres per year, not two metres,” said Maria Cristina Pacino, a member of the engineering faculty at Rosario National University.
South African Times Live

While I don’t have access to the original Spanish, and it could be a translation error, but this appears to state that Aconcagua is growing by 2 meters per year? 2.4 divided by 24 (approximate years since the 1989 measurement) equals .1 meters – we’re looking at .1 meters per year here, or 100 millimeters. Anyway, ripping on either the math, logic, or translation aside, how long will it be before it’s a 7000 meter peak in our own Western Hemisphere? Are you looking forward to it?

However tall it is, it’s currently on my Winter 2012/2013 list.

World Water Day 2012

Today is World Water Day 2012. According to this report:

There are 7 billion people to feed on the planet today … each of us drinks from 2 to 4 litres of water every day, however most of the water we ‘drink’ is embedded in the food we eat: producing 1 kilo of beef for example consumes 15,000 litres of water while 1 kilo of wheat ’drinks up’ 1,500 litres – Unwater.org

Elbrus water source needs to be boiled
Water Pipe above blue building below Elbrus summits. Use at own risk.

And naturally, there’s a solution available for all of us:

Coping with population growth and ensuring access to nutritious food to everyone call for a series of actions we can all help with:
· follow a healthier, sustainable diet
· consume less water-intensive products
· reduce the scandalous food wastage: 30% of the food produced worldwide is never eaten…
· produce more food, of better quality, with less water.
– Unwater.org

Having been in regions with serious major clean water issues, and having suffered the debilitating effects myself, I have to offer my own opinion on this. On Kilimanjaro, the highest point of Africa, one of the Seven Summits, as well as one of the Seven Volcanic Summits, the cooks supposedly treated the abundant surface water by boiling, but it became apparent quite quickly that they did not want to waste porters on carrying stove fuel, so they actually didn’t treat it. As a result, I ended up with diarrhea on summit day and my tentmate ended up puking in the tent all night on the eve of summit day. We both managed to summit.

On Elbrus (the highest point of Europe and also a Seven Summits and Seven Volcanic Summits) in the Spring, they had to melt snow for water, so it was fairly safe, but in the Summer they got their water from a pipe tapped into the water runoff from the glacier. A lazy cook with very poor English skills who wasn’t really all that considerate of the long-term effects just gave me some water right out of the pipe. I ended up with serious diarrhea that lasted for four days and I barely finished the qualifier with one pit stop in the rocks, but was so wasted that I contracted AMS and could not complete the Elbrus Race 2010.

Water is abundant on Kilimanjaro
Abundant water along the trail for drinking on Kilimanjaro

On Aconcagua, another Seven Summits peak, highest point of South America, water came off the glacier in a large pipe that forked all over the camp to each of the outfitters. My outfitter let it collect in a barrel so the sediment could settle out, and we were each on our own for treating it. I used a SteriPEN Classic on mine, and that worked well enough.

Aconcagua Base Camp water supply
Water tubing and tanks at Aconcagua Plaza de Mulas Basecamp

I’ve suffered from the effects of unclean water, so I know it exists. For myself, I will carry the Steripen with me wherever I go, but worldwide, I’m not quite certain how to fix this problem, aside from a treatment plant on both Elbrus and Kili, or maybe education, if it will stick, or somehow making the guides and porters and cooks really care one way or the other, which probably has less chance of sticking. That would have the longest-lasting effects, IMHO – getting people to even care.

Is This Your Brain on Adventure?

In June of 2009 I had a pivotal experience on Liberty Ridge on a trip guided by IMG guides Mark Allen and Jeff Ward. We barely survived summiting in 60 + MPH winds, wandering along steep cliffs and crevasses in a whiteout to spend the night in a moat (ice cave) 120′ below the surface of the glacier. Over the course of the trip I realized my own comfort level was off a bit compared to “normal” people, including sleeping 6″ overhanging the edge of a 75 degree ice slope:

The camp is basically a couple of tent platforms on a 45 degrees slope, beautiful and exposed; with very little room to move around. Blue-bagging will be a challenge here; but we all do our duties. We cook dinner, and I try to eat as much as I can. Little that I knew at the time, I would not have another meal in 30 hours. We settle again for the night, I am glad I am sleeping on the uphill side; Ann is in the middle and Rick just over the edge. His position does nothing to prevent him to quickly fall sleep and soundly snore throughout the short night. Thankfully I am well equipped with drugs and earplugs. Jeff announces start time for 2:00am. – Dodging Bullets on Liberty Ridge – Claudio Argento – Alpine Lines Blog


I also realized my own comfort level on Alpine Mixed terrain of steep slopey blocks of rock and ice and mud, and shallow (AI 2-3) ice. My climbing friends all say this is not normal. I normally don’t think about this too much, and just take it for granted, but today I received a notification for an article on Outside Online Magazine about the differences in brain chemistry or physiology for abnormal risk takers, quoted here:

There are three major emotional ingredients to risk taking … all driven by individual brain chemistry. One is desire for adventure (“sensation seeking”), in what’s known as the reward pathway of the brain, the mysterious mechanisms where happiness juices flow; high-risk takers may simply get a bigger bang than other people, leading them to seek more intense experiences. Another is a relative disregard for harm, meaning, basically, that they’re not as afraid of negative consequences as regular folks. The third is impulsivity, or acting on your desires without fully thinking them through. — What distinguishes an everyday adventurer from an extreme or foolhardy one lies in the interplay of these factors. Mountaineers may be adventurous and well able to handle stress, but they tend not to be impulsive, often carefully planning their expeditions for months. – This Is Your Brain on Adventure – Outside Magazine

While on my Seven Summits Quest, I have had all 10 fingers nearly to the wooden stage, been stopped dead in my tracks unable to breath, been struck by the static discharge of close lightning, been up all night gasping for breath, had nearly non-stop diarrhea for days, spent the night in a tent with a puking partner, twisted my ankle with a 16 mile hike out, frost-nipped my face so I stopped shaving, lost and blackened toenails, endured bleeding blisters, nearly exploded gall bladder. Yet I persist on this pursuit, and have plans for more summits in the coming years.

While training Mixed Climbing (dry tooling) in Ouray last week, I managed to pop off a very vertical (read: overhanging) cliff face and swung out inverted (upside down) about 60′ from the ground, and as I swung out, still hanging onto my ice tools, silent, I thought to myself “I don’t seem to be sliding out of my loosely-worn harness. Good. So if I can tap the wall when I come back in, maybe I can straighten up and sit right.” It worked and I managed to come back into the wall on a shelf and shake it out. Picture below is just after I tapped my right foot, flagging my left foot as I swung back upright at the end of the pendulum. I had fallen from the left wall under the ice curtain.


Was/am I in denial? Are you in denial? If you’re going to consider the Seven Summits, please consider the risk with an open mind. People die every year on almost every one of the Seven Summits, even the so-called easy ones. I was saddened to hear about some recent deaths on Elbrus, for climbers I met during the Elbrus Race 2010:

Rescuers have found a body of a Ukrainian climber, Maryna Khytriakova, at the height of 4,700 meters on Mount Elbrus – Ukrainian female climber found dead on Elbrus – Kyiv Post

Anyone who climbs for a long time will eventually have lists of friends and acquaintances who were crippled, maimed or killed while climbing. Denali and Everest are particularly notorious among the Seven Summits for annual deaths. Aconcagua has many deaths as well, though not being so much in the headlines. Do yourself a favor and think, consider where you are on these lists, where you could be, and plan appropriately.

How tall is Aconcagua now?

Recently I read an article pointing out that Aconcagua, being in an area along the Chile/Argentina border with very high seismic activity that generally has caused many of the nearby peaks to gain elevation, is probably higher than the currently accepted height of 6,962 meters (22,841 ft), which is somewhat higher than the last official measurement (in 1956) of 6,959 meters (22,831 feet).

[pin url=”http://www.pinterest.com/pin/156851999491915358/”]

In the article it mentions that an expedition is currently on the mountain attempting to use the latest technology to get an accurate measurement. There are a lot of reasons why both barometric and GPS based measurements can be inaccurate, so we’ll see. Interestingly, the second tallest peak in South America is also along the Chile/Argentina border, Ojos del Salado at 6,893 meters (22,615 ft) – less than 100 meters difference. Every few years some measurement comes up a couple hundred meters higher, making it the second highest peak in South America. This is a recently active volcano, considered the highest volcano on Earth, and is grouped in both The Second Seven Summits, and the Volcanic Seven Summits list.