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Holidays Walks

Aconcagua – flying to Buenos Aires

Breakfast was a bit crazy. All the 300+ passengers from our jumbo arose at the same time and expected the breakfast staff to cope – which they didn’t. There was no food in the breakfast buffet for most of the time, and when new food was brought out there was a scrum as everyone rushed forward for the bread rolls or ham slices.

Back at the airport we boarded our flight around lunchtime and this time there were only minor problems and we left without further incident.

The jumbo was quite spacious – probably compared to a Ryanair plane, so no complaints there. There was a limited bar service of a few average quality meals and accompanying drink. The biggest disappointment was the entertainment system which consisted of just the old fashioned CRT TVs above the aisles. Thankfully the films were in English – with Spanish subtitles for the predominantly Spanish speaking passengers. Frustratingly the films were terrible – absolutely terrible. However after watching one film about some time traveller who knew he was going to die, Carmel responded by becoming a blubbering, weeping mess (and she had even read the book so knew the outcome). Neil was surprised by this transformation.

After 12 hours or so we landed in Buenos Aires. The delay to the flight meant we had missed our connection to Mendoza and now it was gone midnight so the next flight was not until the next day. So it was off to another hotel. After waiting for hours we eventually got on another coach to another hotel. The transfer from the airport to the central Buenos Aires hotel took about 45 mins. After another lengthy check-in queue it was again 4am. However this time the hotel had put some food on for us, so everyone traipsed down to the restaurant and had a fixed menu of decent food before going to bed. Carmel and I managed our own room and had about 90 mins sleep before getting up again for the morning flight to Mendoza.

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Holidays Walks

Aconcagua – leaving UK

We were up at 7am-ish and headed over to the airport around 8am in preparation for our flight. I had to drop the car off at the Gatwick long stay car park first so Neil and Carmel made their own way over on the shuttle bus which was obviously full of “commoners” and did not include the posh-man I had been next to at reception the day earlier.

We had 3 flights to get to our destination; Gatwick to Madrid, to Buenos Aires, to Mendoza.

In the check-in queue for the Air Europa flight to Madrid we quickly met a few of our group since they generally stood out by being dressed like trekkers and having KE Adventure slapped all over their luggage. Going through security I realised that I had not packed with due care and attention and had a few liquids that I needed to throw away due to the travel limitations (100ml). This included the dry shampoo I had bought to try and prevent my hair becoming a greasy sticky mess during the trip.

The snow on the ground caused no problems and the flight to Madrid took off on time.

On arrival in Madrid we calculated we had 8 hours to kill before the next flight. Many of our group headed off into Madrid city centre, while Neil, Carmel and I remained at the airport and sat in cafe becoming brain dead for the duration.

While sat in the cafe Carmel spotted a scary looking tattooed man. She reckoned he looked pretty hard, but may be doing Aconcagua as he seemed to be on the same flight as us. He turned out to be John and was indeed climbing the mountain in our group but we didn’t find this out until we got to Argentina.

As the afternoon drew on it started to snow.

Eventually at 10pm we were ready for boarding and got on the Aerolineas Argentinas 747. At this time it had been snowing for a few hours and we wondered if we would leave on time. Pretty soon the pilots announced that there were problems with the snow and that we would be awaiting further info on when we would leave.

After waiting in our seats on the ground for 4 hours the pilots announced that we would not be leaving tonight and everyone was to get off and come back tomorrow. We were to be put up in a hotel so we all patiently waited for coaches to take us to our hotel. This process took a few hours. Once at the hotel we all queued up waiting to be allocated a hotel room. Neil, Carmel and I all shared a small room – which was very cosy. However by this time it was 4am and given that we had only 3 hours before we had to get up it didn’t seem such a terrible proposition.

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Holidays Walks

Aconcagua – heading to Gatwick

Our last hours in Cambridge were panicked. Carmel and I had until 5pm to pack our bags and then we were driving down to the Holiday Inn at Gatwick to meet Neil and spend the night prior to our Sun morning flight.

Although we woke up on time and had almost a full day to pack, this was not enough. While Carmel hunted high and low in our house and loft for travel bags, walking trousers, trekking poles and other bits of kit we had not seen for years, I made a packing list of absolutely every item we would need. By lunchtime we had some clue of the items we were short and headed into town for a last minute trip to Open Air to buy the missing bits.

After spending another few hundred quid on more trekking equipment we returned home and commandeered a bedroom each. We laid all our kit out on the beds and wondered how we were going to get this all into the two travel bags we were each taking. After much huffing and puffing we had filled the bags with items still left over, so then had to decide what to leave out. The plastic mountain boots alone took up a quarter of the bag space.

Here’s my kit:

And Carmel’s:

After much huffing and puffing I managed to get my bits into the following two bags (one for the plane’s hold, one for the cabin):

For the 24 hours of flights we had to wear our hiking boots – as they would not fit into the bags. It could have been worse, we could have been forced to wear the high altitude plastic boots.

This was the packing list we used – be warned, it is not at all exciting.

Before long though we were done and, after persuading the bulging bags that they did want to close, we loaded the car. Shortly after 5pm we said goodbye to our house for 3 ½ weeks and set off for Gatwick.

The Holiday Inn at Gatwick was heaving but after quizzing the staff this seemed to be a typical Sat night. The car park was piled high with snow and I had to guess where the parking spaces were when I left the car. Check-in was fun since a well-to-do chap next to me was having a small fit at the terrible situation he was in. I think he expected the airport hotel to be attached to the airport, and not be ½ mile away via a shuttle bus. He was refusing to mix with the common folk and get a shuttle bus to the terminal, instead insisting on a private taxi for his family. The receptionist was trying to tell him that it would take longer to get a taxi than using the shuttle bus but he was having none of it.

Neil had arrived at the hotel 5 mins before us, having made his way across London on public transport. His main bag was fairly heavy and cumbersome but he had managed. The 3 of us spent the evening in the cheap hotel bar drinking fizzy beer before having an only half-decent meal in the restaurant. It was a nice enough evening though.

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Holidays Walks

Aconcagua – Twitter commentary

The following is the Twitter commentary I typed out, predominantly on my Nokia E71 phone, while on the trip.

@cyclingamericas Love the updates! Good luck with the final 2.5km of “up”… We start from Mendoza on Tue and now know what to expect!

8:52 AM Jan 9th via web in reply to cyclingamericas

@cyclingamericas Good luck for Aconcagua! Myself and two friends will be a week behind you – will look out for you on your way down.

1:15 PM Jan 2nd via web in reply to cyclingamericas

Trip has started to plan. Having a couple of pints at a Gatwick airport with Carmel and Neil. Everyone comparing how close to bursting t …

8:57 PM Jan 9th via txt

About to leave Gatwick for Madrid on quite a small Embraer 195. Massively beats Ryanair’s misery experience so far.

10:01 AM Jan 10th via txt

Neil won the bag weight competition with a kit bag of 28kg! Carmel and I were weak runners up with 16kg.

10:03 AM Jan 10th via txt

Going crazy at Madrid airport. 9 hrs wait for Buenos Aires flight. Decided against a trip into city, instead sat in rubbish cafe.

3:56 PM Jan 10th via txt

Met 8 of 12 in our group so far. Trying to suss out if we are the most inexperienced. We think we are.

4:03 PM Jan 10th via txt

Snow in Madrid not affected the departure of our 12hr, 6,000 mile flight to Buenos Aires. Hope for good movies and complimentary wine.

8:16 PM Jan 10th via txt

Ah balls! Snow has caused hassle with the plane or the airport. No one, inc. cabin crew, can translate what the Spanish captain said.

9:36 PM Jan 10th via txt

So I guess we’ll just sit in our seats on a plane with its engines off under a pile of snow in Madrid. No drinks service either 🙁

9:38 PM Jan 10th via txt

Bored, bored, bored. Plane still not going anywhere 4 hours after we boarded. Neil and Carmel still fast asleep which is annoying too.

11:59 PM Jan 10th via txt

We’re off… the plane. Now hanging around Madrid arrivals waiting for buses to take us to hotel. Maybe another flight at 2pm today?

1:20 AM Jan 11th via txt

Nice. It is 4:45am and we are finally checked into a hotel room in Madrid. Getting up at 9am for a bus back to the airport. Not fun.

3:49 AM Jan 11th via txt

Back in our favourite Madrid terminal after a few hours sleep. No fresh snow so flight should be leaving around 2pm.

11:21 AM Jan 11th via txt

Claire: We think this will be a very, very hard climb! Only 1 in 4 people succeed due to either stormy weather or altitude sickness.

12:53 PM Jan 11th via txt

Back on the same plane in the same seats. Sun shining. Nothing can go wrong. Other people in group found Kili non-trivial. Reassuring…

1:11 PM Jan 11th via txt

Claire: Kili was rushed in 6 days up/down. Aconcagua trip is 16 days on the mountain so the slower pace should help us. Fingers crossed.

1:14 PM Jan 11th via txt

Claire: Neil will split his bag and leave some stuff at the bottom of the mountain. Can only carry max 18kg per day. Will be hard!

1:23 PM Jan 11th via txt

Buenos Aires is a toasty 24C here at midnight. Looks like we get one more unplanned hotel stay before flight to Mendoza in a few hours.

3:51 AM Jan 12th via txt

Should probs point out that Claire is representing a class of year 6 pupils and has asked a few questions on their behalf.

4:44 AM Jan 12th via txt

Claire: Yes, we have pee bottles. No one wants to leave tent & walk in dark in minus temps. Some girls have “adapter” they hope to use.

4:50 AM Jan 12th via txt

Carmel just realised she tipped guy at hotel £20 to keep her bag at reception. One zero out… Now at Buenos Aires domestic airport.

9:34 AM Jan 12th via txt

Phew! Made it to Mendoza at last. Was concerned we’d never get to the start of the trek, never mind the end of it. Sunny and dusty here.

12:50 PM Jan 12th via txt

Mendoza is nice..! Just had a big steak and a few glasses of wine for lunch in a restaurant on a busy pedestrian street. This is easy.

6:05 PM Jan 12th via txt

Had kit inspection by the guides. Had to invest in better gloves & sunglasses. Carmel gloves & warmer fleece. It’s going to be v. cold.

9:44 PM Jan 12th via txt

Claire: No rope skills required but the high altitude tests the physical and mental limits. Altitude sickness is a big problem for many.

9:47 PM Jan 12th via txt

Acute Mountain Sickness is biggest worry. Need to drink 1 litre of water for every 1000m above sea level, per day. Lots of toilet stops!

9:50 PM Jan 12th via txt

Leaving the nice city of Mendoza for the ski resort of Penitentes which will be our first trek on Aconcagua. All looking forward to it.

12:19 PM Jan 13th via txt

Claire: No I don’t think we’ll all reach the summit. The altitude will affect some of us too much. No predictions on who though.

12:31 PM Jan 13th via txt

Claire: On the mountain we expect to eat simple but normal food, eg. pasta, corned beef. Have to carry all food so it must not go off.

12:36 PM Jan 13th via txt

We did our first trek today, a small one up the barren, snowless pistes in Penitentes. Nothing too difficult, but good preparation.

10:13 PM Jan 13th via txt

Claire: Reaching the summit of Kili was an emotional relief. No more climbing! I don’t recall being ecstatic, just very content.

10:17 PM Jan 13th via txt

Claire: Everyone prepared differently. I did an hour of stepping in house each night for last few months. Am sure I should’ve done more!

10:20 PM Jan 13th via txt

Hmm. Rumour seems to be that phone coverage ends tomorrow until we leave the mountain. I may use the internet at base camp once or twice.

10:23 PM Jan 13th via txt

Definitely drank enough water today. I managed about 4.5 litres. I have been to the toilet many many times. Apparently this is good.

1:08 AM Jan 14th via txt

Went to toilet 5 times during the night last night. Drinking litres of water has its side effects. Hope we acclimatise perfectly now!

11:06 AM Jan 14th via txt

Walking from 2950m to 3350m today to camp Confluenza. Spoke to people yesterday who turned away 500m from summit due to v windy weather.

12:31 PM Jan 14th via txt

Just got internet access after a few days on the mountain. Zero phone signal on mountain. Following updates are in chronological order.

6:28 PM Jan 17th via web

Walked 3 hours to Camp Confluencia. Pack felt very heavy. Lots of time around camp to relax. Put up tent for first time since Scouts!

6:29 PM Jan 17th via web

Camp Confluencia is pretty comfy. A mess tent and decent toilet. Put tent up with help. Only people that needed help, mind.

6:30 PM Jan 17th via web

Water in Cofluencia full of magnesium which gives sever case of “runs”. Having to mix it with bottled water that mules carried up.

6:31 PM Jan 17th via web

Carmel wants to point out that we are being fairly spoilt with the food. Had low expectations but food v good, inc. veggie stuff.

6:31 PM Jan 17th via web

First night with the pee bottles. Mixed results. Girls are having a harder time than boys of course. Tents could do with being a bit bigger!

6:32 PM Jan 17th via web

Acclimatisation trek today to a view spot overlooking Acon south summit. Took us from 3400m to 4100m then back down for dinner.

6:32 PM Jan 17th via web

Group had a medical check tonight. Think mine was 84 oxygen sat, 84 pulse and 150/90 blood pressure. Not amazing but ok. Carmel & Neil ok.

6:34 PM Jan 17th via web

One of our group had blood pressure of over 210 so hasn´t been permitted to continue. He has tablets and has another test tomorrow.

6:35 PM Jan 17th via web

Walked to Plaza de Mulas, aka Base Camp. A long walk in the sun along a dried up river bed. Now at 4300m, sun still warm & strong.

6:36 PM Jan 17th via web

Fairly exhausted after 8 hour base camp trek. Tomorrow is a rest day so time to check the kit and make any adjustments.

6:37 PM Jan 17th via web

Base camp pretty busy, must be 100 tents here with bars, cafe and internet. Buzz about camp. Longer beards = more mountain experience.

6:38 PM Jan 17th via web

While we have a rest day the final member of group has passed his medical at previous camp and is on his way to join us. Good news!

6:39 PM Jan 17th via web

Saw Mark Beaumont on his way down. He made the summit, but had passed us before I realised it was actually him. Mixed success rates at camp.

6:40 PM Jan 17th via web

@cyclingamericas Amazing! Congratulations on the summit! Passed you on the long trek along river bed but had passed you before could say Hi.

6:42 PM Jan 17th via web in reply to cyclingamericas

Having another medical later. All of us at Base Camp are feeling pretty good, just a few headaches between us.

8:55 PM Jan 18th via web

In my first Base Camp medical I got 87 pulse, 84 ox sat and 155/80 bp. The latter is a bit high so told to stay off salt and caffeine 🙁

8:56 PM Jan 18th via web

Also my lungs weren´t perfect and I was asked if I had asthma. Hopefully will improve over next 2 days. Neil and Carmel both ok.

8:57 PM Jan 18th via web

So the guy delayed from first camp has made it to Base Camp, but now one of us has been told they have a irregular heart beat and must stop.

9:10 PM Jan 18th via web

Acclimatisation trek today to 5000m. Was a tough start and a bit hairy on steep slopes with very loose scree but fab views from the top.

7:28 PM Jan 19th via web

Had fun scree running on the way down. Was quite cold today never getting above freezing. Back down at Base Camp for dinner.

7:29 PM Jan 19th via web

Popped to the internet tent and stood in front of the webcam for 5 mins so hopefully Rich can spot us. Internet is $10USD per 15 mins,.

7:30 PM Jan 19th via web

Climbing to Camp 1 (Canada) today and then back down. Will be carrying a share of food supplies to cache at the camp until we return in 2d.

7:31 PM Jan 19th via web

The Mess tents here are pretty good. We have high calories grub and then play cards. There is free wine but we all behave and refrain.

7:32 PM Jan 19th via web

Just back from trek to Camp 1 at 5080m. Started off ok but last hour or so was a killer even though we were moving at a snail´s pace.

7:34 PM Jan 19th via web

Weather at 5000m is typically v windy. Windy means cold. It is quite a bit below zero. I think one loses 6C per 1000m climbed.

7:35 PM Jan 19th via web

We all have intermittent headaches but not many have had bad nausea yet. A lot of discussions about pee bottles and bowel movements.

7:36 PM Jan 19th via web

Internet tent we use is also the one responsible for the webcam at www.aconcaguanow.com, so you can check the weather at Base Camp.

7:37 PM Jan 19th via web

We are sharing Base Camp facilities with Jagged Globe group who are two days ahead of us on itinerary. They seem a good bunch.

7:38 PM Jan 19th via web

We have only 2 more nights at base camp before we head off on our 4-7 day summit attempt. Quite scary really. 2000m higher to climb,

7:39 PM Jan 19th via web

Practised using crampons and ice axes on some ice this morning. V nice sunny day here at Base Camp. Unfortunately our last day…

7:21 PM Jan 20th via web

Just had a first attempt at packing summit rucksack. It pains me to leave thermals behind but space is at a premium,.

7:22 PM Jan 20th via web

One set of clothes will last us over 4 days. I will try and squeeze in some spares though. Now wishing I wasn´t carrying so many gadgets.

7:23 PM Jan 20th via web

At Base Camp for last 4 days now and we all feel pretty good. Still get odd headache but have good appetities & no mntain sickness symptoms.

7:24 PM Jan 20th via web

Just one more medical test to pass. i have borrowed an asthma inhaler from one of the group to see if that helps placate the doc.

7:24 PM Jan 20th via web

Will be out of contact for at least 5 days now while we attempt the summit providing we all pass the medical.

7:25 PM Jan 20th via web

Last few days have been terrible for summiting. V bad winds. One person who came down yesterday got frostbite on their cheeks from it.

7:26 PM Jan 20th via web

Am not confident I will see the summit given the pain of climbing just to 5000m, but the saying is that you take one day at a time.

7:26 PM Jan 20th via web

Looking forward to the challenge though. And we promise ourselves we will not give up easily. No plans to go through this again!

7:27 PM Jan 20th via web

As we sit here at Base Camp staring almost 3km up at Aconcagua south summit it honestly looks so close you can almost touch the top.

7:28 PM Jan 20th via web

Can´t wait for the wine, beers and steak in a week´s time. It will be good. Very good. For now, adios!

7:28 PM Jan 20th via web

Trekked (back) up to Camp 1 today. And sleeping here at 5000m. This is the highest Neil, Carmel and I have slept at. Fantastic sunset!

9:02 PM Jan 27th via web

We are still 2000m short of the summit and are easily short of breath. Just walking around the camp site requires very slow movement.

9:03 PM Jan 27th via web

Camp 1 perched on hillside behind a big rock. Quite exposed but not windy today. About 30 tents. We will get up only when sun is up…

9:04 PM Jan 27th via web

Nothing decomposes here so we have been given kits with plastic bags to contain any number 2s. Imagine a dog´s poop-a-scoop kit.

9:05 PM Jan 27th via web

Only just passed medical today. BP was same at 155/80 but lungs were problem. O2 sat was good so doc said ok providing I take extra care.

9:06 PM Jan 27th via web

Carmel had high BP too, so had to be tested a second time before she got the ok. Neil and rest of group passed the test more easily.

9:07 PM Jan 27th via web

Whilst sat in our tiny 2 man tent it is hard not to think of the snowboarding holiday that was sacrificed for this mountain. Ah well.

9:08 PM Jan 27th via web

In case it is not obvious, the trek to Camp 1 was very hard work. The path got steeper and the last 200m were quite a torment.

9:09 PM Jan 27th via web

We walk so slowly that there is never space between the back foot toe and the front foot heel. Idea is never to be out of breath.

9:09 PM Jan 27th via web

Before we even got going today, one of the group had dropped out. The challenge had become too much of a torment. He´ll wait at base camp.

9:10 PM Jan 27th via web

Started off ok today from Camp 1 heading to Camp 2. Neil was complaining of a headache at the first rest stop.

9:11 PM Jan 27th via web

However at next stop Neil´s headache was pounding and after trying more painkillers it was clear he had to descend. Summit attempt over.

9:11 PM Jan 27th via web

Our 12 was now 9 and we persevered on to Camp 2 in about 4 hours. The walk was hard but the pace slow and exhausted we made the next camp.

9:12 PM Jan 27th via web

Shortly after we said goodbye to Neil we saw the final part of the ascent to the summit. Looking deceptively close it´s still 1500m up/away.

9:13 PM Jan 27th via web

Thanks to the unfortunate drop outs today Carmel and I have inherited a 3 man tent. It´s much bigger than our 2 man one and is v good.

9:14 PM Jan 27th via web

Wow, was a hard night last night. After struggling to eat dinner I spent the whole night with a killer headache. Hardly slept.

9:14 PM Jan 27th via web

Altitude taking its toll. Headaches and massive shortage of breath all the time. Even eating and drinking leaves you short of breath.

9:15 PM Jan 27th via web

Weather forecast is uncertain around our summit dead. Snow is due on the 2 days prior to it. Stormy winds would be the worst weather.

9:16 PM Jan 27th via web

Acclimatisation walk to Camp 3 (Berlin) at 6000m. Quite tiring and we were only carrying a light load. Back down to Camp 2 for late lunch.

9:17 PM Jan 27th via web

The youngest in our group, 18, turned back to Camp 2 shortly into the acclimatisation walk. Hope he as more energy tomorrow.

9:18 PM Jan 27th via web

Trek to Camp 3 was short but steep. Just over a mile long but still took around 3 hours. We are higher than every mountain around us.

9:19 PM Jan 27th via web

At Camp 3 we saw 5 of the Jagged Globe bunch who had turned back on their summit attempt today. That left 10 who hopefully made it.

9:19 PM Jan 27th via web

The 5 that turned back were ok with situation. The mountain had just beaten them and they made no excuses.,

9:20 PM Jan 27th via web

As soon as we returned to Camp 2 it started to snow very hard. By the following morning everything was covered in snow.

9:21 PM Jan 27th via web

I had a bad night´s sleep. Too many toilet necessities and a bad headache. Carmel not much different. Sick of the altitude to be honest.

9:22 PM Jan 27th via web

Had a slow grumpy breakfast. Can´t eat porridge anymore. Thought of it makes me nauseous. Toast and jam and hot tea good though.

9:22 PM Jan 27th via web

Over breakfast the person who had high BP at lowest camp announced he was going down. He´d had enough worry about stress to his body.

9:23 PM Jan 27th via web

Reluctantly we packed all our kit into our rucksacks for the last time ascending. Off to Camp 3 to prepare for our summit attempt.

9:24 PM Jan 27th via web

Trek to Camp 3 with full load was hardest thing so far. Carmel in particular looked knackered. Lots of snow to walk on, none yesterday.

9:24 PM Jan 27th via web

About 15 mins into trek, the youngest guy had to turn around again. This time it was terminal and he is heading off the mountain.

9:25 PM Jan 27th via web

No shortage of volunteers to carry his Scottish flag to the top. Only 7 of us left now from the initial 12. And we will not all summit…

9:26 PM Jan 27th via web

Once we arrived at Camp 3 we collapsed into our tents erected by porters. Within 30 mins similar storm to yesterday arrived.

9:26 PM Jan 27th via web

We stayed in our tents all afternoon and evening as a vicious storm did its stuff around us. This is really very miserable.

9:27 PM Jan 27th via web

Temp is freezing. In sleeping bag with multiple layers on trying to stay warm. Trip has changed into massive ordeal over the last few days.

9:28 PM Jan 27th via web

Have been told that at 4am there will be a go/no go decision made by the head guide. If go we will be attempting the summit at 6am.

9:29 PM Jan 27th via web

If no go then we wait it out here at Camp 3 for up to 3 days. We all want to go and get off this sodding mountain right now.

9:29 PM Jan 27th via web

Worst night yet. Storm all night and very sore head in a cold tent. Worst part is that there is no summit attempt due to the bad weather,

9:30 PM Jan 27th via web

Had to hang around camp at 6000m all day with nothing to do. Just headaches to nurses. Storms arrived in the afternoon again. Not happy.

9:30 PM Jan 27th via web

Quite miserable with sore heads. Sick of inside of tent. No idea if tomorrow will be a go day. It better had be…

9:31 PM Jan 27th via web

Tomorrow will apparently be a go day regardless. We are being awaken at 3am for a 5am start. Am pleased we will at least be trying.

9:32 PM Jan 27th via web

The weather forecast is not great (snow) so we are not optimistic about making the summit. But at least we won´t be stuck in Camp 3 tents.

9:32 PM Jan 27th via web

Am sick of high altitude camping food. Lots of rice and pasta, i.e. good energy. I crave pizza, chips and burgers. Pizza in particular.

9:33 PM Jan 27th via web

Got woken up at 3:30am into freezing but clear and still morning. Took long time to get summiting pack sorted, but left at 5am on time.

9:34 PM Jan 27th via web

Walking in the bitterly cold night with headtorches is a strange experience. Altitude at over 6000m seems to make me walk in a daze.

9:34 PM Jan 27th via web

7 started summit attempt, the first drop out was within an hour. Exhaustion seemed to be key factor for one chap. 3 girls, 3 boys left now.

9:35 PM Jan 27th via web

2nd to drop out was Carmel after 2.5 hours. She was freezing and feared proper damage to herself. Was really upset to say goodbye.

9:36 PM Jan 27th via web

3rd to drop out was a chap about 30 mins after Carmel. He seemed to be exhausted. By the time the sun came up, just 2 boys and 2 girls left.

9:37 PM Jan 27th via web

The trek to the summit should be 8 or 9 hours. Around dawn we put crampons on to our plastic boots as the slopes were getting steeper.

9:37 PM Jan 27th via web

After leaving 3rd drop out at Independecia then had a 3 hour traverse of steep snowy slopes. Walking on snow better than on scree.

9:38 PM Jan 27th via web

Eventually we ended up at the Canoletta. A very steep gulley at the end of the traverse to the summit. The end was in sight…

9:39 PM Jan 27th via web

According to tradition most people leave their packs at this point and just take the essentials for the 2 hour scramble to the summit.

9:39 PM Jan 27th via web

We dropped our packs and started up Canoletta. This final hurdle was immensely tiring up incredibly steep slopes and did take 2 hours.

9:40 PM Jan 27th via web

Eventually at about 2pm the remaining four made the summit!

9:40 PM Jan 27th via web

All groups summit at approx same time so we were only half surprised to see the summit full of Americans, inc, some exhausted ones.

9:41 PM Jan 27th via web

Everyone summits at about the same time so we were only half surprised to see summit full of Americans, inc. some v exhausted ones.

9:42 PM Jan 27th via web

I took some photos and videos, inc. one for Carmel who I really wished was on top of the Western Hemisphere with me.

9:43 PM Jan 27th via web

Amazingly there was no mobile signal on top. Of course this should be a good thing but a part of me was a bit disappointed.

9:43 PM Jan 27th via web

Carmel and the 2 others were waiting for us at Camp 3 which was the best present I could have asked for. I couldn’t face dinner.

4:58 AM Jan 29th via mobile web

Spent the night in our tent at Camp 3. Couldn’t face breakfast. Carmel feeling a bit poorly. We cannot wait to get off this mountain…

4:59 AM Jan 29th via mobile web

Today we have to carry our full packs down to Base Camp. The luxuries of base camp are so in our minds as we take on the 5 hour trek.

5:00 AM Jan 29th via mobile web

I need to relay how much of a torment is Aconcagua. The summit day absolutely exhausted me, in hindsight.

5:00 AM Jan 29th via mobile web

Compared to Kili, the heavy pack carrying is knackering. And the sleeping at 5000m to 6000m means you never get a good nights sleep.

5:01 AM Jan 29th via mobile web

We’ve just struggled back to Base Camp. It was snowing/raining for last 2 hours. But lots of congratulations from the folks at Base Camp.

5:02 AM Jan 29th via mobile web

The descent from the summit to Camp 3 was ~4:5 hours. Weather turned snowy as we were leaving summit and got worse all way back to camp.

5:05 AM Jan 29th via mobile web

Base Camp provided us with pizza. Was sooo good. All other members of group who did not attempt summit are in Mendoza. Am v jealous.

5:06 AM Jan 29th via mobile web

Long walk from Base Camp to park entrance today, ~ 8 hours, + lots of miles. Had to get up early. Was delighted to do so for first time.

5:10 AM Jan 29th via mobile web

Walk out was long but fantastic scenery along river bed. Aconcagua towers above massive peaks on side of river. Seems so far away now.

5:14 AM Jan 29th via mobile web

Stopped off at Camp Confluencia for melon and juice drinks. Tasted so good. not far from civilisation now… Sun out all day, v hot.

5:16 AM Jan 29th via mobile web

At 6pm arrived at park entrance. Mini bus that picked us up gave everyone a cold beer. Fantastic! Driver played AC DC to Penitentes.

5:18 AM Jan 29th via mobile web

From Penitentes the journey to Mendoza is 3 hours. Stopped off for dinner at restaurant en route. Baby goat was my choice of first meal.

5:24 AM Jan 29th via mobile web

Highlight of journey back was that somehow, somewhere I managed to lose my camera. You can only imagine half of my mood right now…

5:25 AM Jan 29th via mobile web

Neil and the youngster were surprised to see remainder of group arrive at hotel tonight. Was great to catch up over beers on street cafe.

5:27 AM Jan 29th via mobile web

Youth, hey? Youngster vows to conquer Acon <5 years. I support Neil in his attitude of never doing a high altitude challenge ever again.

5:29 AM Jan 29th via mobile web

What mountain? Had a good night last night in a buzzing part of Mendoza. Staggered back early at about 3am. On a

4:12 PM Jan 30th via web

Today Carmel and I are on a full day wine tour. First vino was at 10am so had to make an effort but by lunchtime everything going very well.

4:19 PM Jan 30th via web

Leaving Mendoza now after a long 3.5 weeks to Argentina. Flight delayed 3 hours so let’s see if we make the connection back to Europe…

8:38 PM Feb 1st via txt

Categories
Holidays Walks

Aconcagua – preparation

On Sunday 10 Jan Carmel, Neil and I are heading off to Argentina to trek up Aconcagua. My intention is to make use of my phone to send a few text message comments during the trip to Twitter (twitter.com\jonesrobd) which will also be relayed here. We are sure there is mobile phone reception up to base camp, but it is not clear if there is any more reception until we return back to base camp 5 days or so after leaving it for the summit.

I have taken the photo of Aconcagua, snapped on the way up to Camp Confluencia, from Mark Beaumont’s BBC blog (see below for more info).

The official trip notes provided by our travel company, KE Adventure, for our little “holiday” are here.

I extracted the following from the trip notes to give a clue about where we should be each night (the summit is 6,962m):

Date Camp Altitude
Sun 10 Jan 2010 Flights 11000
Mon 11 Jan 2010 Mendoza 735
Tue 12 Jan 2010 Penitentes 2580
Wed 13 Jan 2010 Penitentes 2580
Thu 14 Jan 2010 Confluencia 3350
Fri 15 Jan 2010 Confluencia 3350
Sat 16 Jan 2010 Plaza de Mulas (base camp) 4260
Sun 17 Jan 2010 Plaza de Mulas (base camp) 4260
Mon 18 Jan 2010 Plaza de Mulas (base camp) 4260
Tue 19 Jan 2010 Plaza de Mulas (base camp) 4260
Wed 20 Jan 2010 Plaza de Mulas (base camp) 4260
Thu 21 Jan 2010 Plaza de Canada 4910
Fri 22 Jan 2010 Nido de Condores 5400
Sat 23 Jan 2010 Nido de Condores 5400
Sun 24 Jan 2010 Berlin Camp 6000
Mon 25 Jan 2010 Berlin Camp 6000
Tue 26 Jan 2010 Berlin Camp 6000
Wed 27 Jan 2010 Berlin Camp 6000
Thu 28 Jan 2010 Plaza de Mulas (base camp) 4260
Fri 29 Jan 2010 Penitentes 2580
Sat 30 Jan 2010 Mendoza 735
Sun 31 Jan 2010 Mendoza 735
Mon 01 Feb 2010 Flights 735
Tue 02 Feb 2010 Home 10

If all goes well we will summit on Mon 25 Jan. If we are delayed by the weather then we have 2 extra days on which we could summit (26 and 27 Jan). Obviously we want to succeed at our first summit attempt so hopefully we’ll have an extra day or two in Mendoza at the end.

Cyclingamericas

Carmel found info about a chap called Mark Beaumont who started on his trip up Aconcagua on Saturday (a week or so before us). He’s approaching the end of an epic cycling trip alone through the Americas and has joined up with a couple of friends to climb Aconcagua. He’s been doing the cycle ride for the BBC, so we expect some  sort of documentary later on this year about his travels. You can read his BBC blog here. I sent him a quick good luck message for the mountain and he kindly sent similar regards back our way.

Mark has posted some good photos on his Twitter page and his BBC blog, and he has posted some interesting comments too. Apparently he’s met lots of people on the mountain and it seems very few if any have been able to summit. Not great news.

Weather

It appears from recent photos that there is plenty of snow atop Aconacgua. It would be great if we didn’t have to worry about blizzards and snow storms, but this seems unlikely. However I do remember some words of wisdom that said that it will always be freezing near the top and sometimes snow is easier to get a foot grip in than icy scree (the temperature will force us to wear our clunky, plastic, non-flexible boots making icy paths very difficult if we can’t put crampons on if there is no snow).

Compared to Kilimanjaro

So we climbed up Kilimanjaro 3 years ago… And found that fairly hard going. It is slowly dawning on us that this trip may be one too far. The final Berlin Camp is higher than Kili and we have to spend at least 2 nights there.  I remember my 45 mins at the top of Kili and amongst a mess of emotions and exhaustion, the thumping headache I had from the altitude cannot be forgotten. Indeed just 60 mins before the Kili summit, I could no longer speak as my tongue would not work, Neil mumbled to the head guide that he wanted to die, and Carmel’s lips had turned a blue colour moments before she turned back. Why are we doing this? How many trips to the Maldives could we have done with the money?

Gadgets

For this trip I think I have excelled myself with a set of suitable gadgets:

  • Canon S90 camera (good little pocket camera)
  • Sony PRS-300 Reader (electronic book reader, meant to last 7,000 pages on a single charge)
  • Sony HDR-CX505VE camcorder (HD & solid state so should deal with the cold a little better than mechanical ones)
  • Nokia E71 phone (uses same battery as my N97, so I have a spare!)
  • Garmin Colorado 300 GPS (a bit power hungry, but I can’t justify money to buy a different one)

And to power these, I have a stack of batteries for the GPS and:

  • Freeloader Pro solar charger (includes a flexible charging mat that hangs from the top a rucksack)

I am quite excited about the solar charger. This has not been used before but appears to come with enough attachments to charge all my gadgets. It obviously relies on the sun being out, but this is not expected to be a problem for the majority of the trip.

I can’t decide if I need a dedicated music player. I probably don’t but can’t decide. In fact I think I will put up with the fairly dreadful music player user interface on my E71.