LAX-MIA-SCL-MDZ. After a long flight, the adventure truly started at Mendoza where I got my bags and finally met the Team! We arrived quickly to the Hotel and began the process of laying out our gear and planning logistics. We only had 3 short days to get our permits and acclimate to the local time before we headed up to Penatentes / Refuge. Casey and Sabine decided to take a short hike to around 10,000elv. This is when Casey decided his knee was not strong enough to make the journey to the summit of Aconcagua. We all felt very bad but knew the rest of the expedition must go on. With permits in hand and gear in the back of the truck, we headed to the start of the Vacus Valley Trailhead. What followed was a lot of trekking followed by more trekking and even more trekking with a few freezing river crossings in-between. It too 3 long days of trekking before we would even see the site of the beauty that was the peak of Aconcagua. Wow- what a site! It stood at the end of the long valley covered in snow. Smiles could be seen on all of our faces as we made our way to basecamp. Basecamp was also truly an amazing site with the summit of Aconcagua just above us moving in and out of the clouds. Soon after we arrived at basecamp it was time to set up our tents and start checking in with the locals. Weather, trail conditions, and health were the main concerns from here on out. It was also time to rest. Our team would stay in base camp for 2 days before making our first carry up to High camp 1. Basecamp was about 14,500elv while high camp 1 was about 16,500 elv. Climbing to High camp 1 is anything but a paved road. It was a narrow trail full of loose scree and the winds were strong. It was a process of “take 1 step forward and fall back 3 steps.” Doing this with 60lbs on your back and we became aware that this journey was the real deal.
We all preserved and made it to High camp 1. We scouted a location for two tents and start prepping for dinner. Light winds and temps below freezing meant eating in your tent and with 3 people and 2 two man tents, this made our campsite arrangement challenging! Combined with a water supply that was not close to the tent arraignment, this proved to be a logistical challenge. Day 2 at High camp 1 was spent getting our gear together and getting ready for a carry to High Camp 2. This would prove to be another day of carrying a heavy load on a steep trail. The clouds were off and on and we encountered more wind. It was a nonstop game of putting layers on and then taking the same layers off. High camp 2 here we come.
High camp 2 is somewhere around 17,500elv.. I noticed that everything became difficult- breathing, blowing up your Therma-rest, taking a drink of water, etc. Let’s not forget that I am constantly monitoring my sugar levels and taking my meds during this trip. Overall my numbers seemed to stay high but I had plenty of meds to fix that. The amount of stress I was putting on my body was pushing my numbers in the high 200's on some days. This meant more insulin and I was constantly mentally recalculating how much I had left in my Kit. I keep my meds in a sock and all inside a mini Nalgene bottle. This kit had to be kept from freezing and getting too hot. This method I had concocted seemed to work just right. I also slept with my meds inside my sleeping bag a night to keep it from freezing. Many nights were below zero but I kept my body warm thanks to a -20 degree sleeping bag and warm socks.
A load of gear was successfully stashed at High Camp 2 and we returned to High Camp 1. Camp 2 was crowded with other expeditions. We even ran into a group from the USA. "SMI" (Sierra Mountain International) was a few days ahead of us. Having fellow friends from the USA at Camp 2 was fun and we engaged in lots of good conversation and sharing stories about past expeditions. Back at High Camp 1, we were getting ready for dinner and the weather started to get cold quick, making hanging outside of your tent very cold. Tomorrow we would move to High Camp 2 for good. Our team seems to be moving quickly and the weather was holding out. A long and steep climb to High Camp 2 with tents on our backs made for a long haul but we made it without any issues. At 17,500elv we really need to monitor our health and the Team is starting to get oxygen deprived at this point. No one had complained about getting headaches yet. We all seemed to be in good health and good spirits. We quickly found a spot for our tents at High Camp 2 and settled right in.
Tomorrow came quick and this meant carrying on to High Camp 3 at 19,600elv. Things were getting serious now and it was time for another long and steep climb with lots of weight. This seems to be the routine on Aconcagua! Headaches started to became an issue with the Team. A team member was not feeling well and this meant possibly going back down to a lower camp to acclimate. After lots of water and a nights rest, things turned around towards the positive and there were no more headaches. It was now time to talk about our Summit Attempt. With just 4000ft to go we were all excited. It was time for the final push. This was going to be the hardest thing we have ever done! It was discussed that 4am would be go time.
Just like on Kilimanjaro, it snowed very hard the night before our summit attempt. We woke up to cloudy but calm skies around 330am. It was time to get ready. Ice axe, Check. Crampons, Check. Absolute zero mitts, Check. Let’s Do This!!!
At Last we were standing at 22,841elv! SUCCESS… we were on the Summit of Aconcagua December 16th! So amazing!!!
After a brief celebration on the summit, we headed back down to 19,600elv to rest for the night before we pack up and head down to Plaza de Mulyas at 14,500elv. (Basecamp #2.) We have now climbed up one side of Aconcagua and down the other side. Words cannot describe how happy the Team was! Beer and wine was on the menu for our celebratory dinner!! 1 long day of trekking out in a hot and dry valley, crossing one last bridge, and we were checking out with the Ranger.
Thanks to all that supported our Team and donated to a great cause. Diabetes is a horrible disease. Live healthily, control your sugars and you can do anything you put your mind too. Edgar, Sabine, Casey thanks for being such a great Team!