Aconcagua December 2010

On Sunday the 5th of December I’m taking a few weeks off training to go take a hike. About a year ago I decided I wanted to climb a mountain; no, not that figurative mountain that all athletes climb, but an actual mountain. I’m not a “climber” but I can haul a heavy bag for a long time so I needed something non-technical, I also wanted something high and challenging. I settled on Aconcagua in Argentina, it’s the highest mountain outside of Asia and sits at around 23,000 feet or just fewer than 7,000 meters. It’s high enough to pose some very real dangers; the most significant of which is altitude sickness. People die every year on the mountain from succumbing to AMS and not getting off the mountain quickly enough. The weather is the other extreme factor as it gets very cold when you’re very high and there is a notorious wind the rips across the mountain occasionally that brings with it terrible weather and temperatures that even someone from Saskatchewan would find cold.

With these dangers in mind I approached climbing this mountain as an exercise in over preparation and calculated risk. I knew I didn’t want to be guided; as one of the seven summits, (the highest points on the seven continents) and a relatively accessible mountain it can be quite crowded. I like trying things alone and the prospect of sharing a tent with a stranger at 19,000 feet when peeing in a water bottle in the tent is generally the smart way to go to the bathroom, wasn’t exactly appealing. The guides mostly take care of logistics, and prepare tents and meals, which are all things I’m very comfortable with. As for leading people up the mountain this shouldn’t be too much of an issue as most people I’ve spoken with who’ve been there say that often you’ll be waiting in line on the mountain and that you’re never on your own. With all this in mind I choose to forsake the guide and go solo, again ensuring that my approach would be overly cautious.

My brief itinerary is as follows: A three-day hike into base camp from about 8,500 feet to 13,500 feet. A few days at BC to acclimatize and then up to do a cache at camp one (to adjust to altitude most people climb up to a higher camp and leave some gear and then sleep at the lower camp). After a night back at BC I’ll head up to camp one take a rest a day and than carry to camp two and sleep at camp one…etc. Finally I’ll be either at camp two or a higher third camp, depending on my route, waiting for the weather to give me an opportunity to try for the summit. After about 14 days on the mountain I’ll hopefully have had a chance to summit safely at which point I plan to rip down and off the mountain as fast as I can. Ideally, I’ll be off the mountain and in the city close to three days after summiting.

I guess I haven’t said why I’m doing this. I paddle a canoe for a living and spend most of the year in Florida. Why on earth would I live on dehydrated food and a headache for a two to three weeks? I’m not clichéd enough to say because it’s there, in fact not only would that be clichéd it would be a lie. The short answer is because I want to. I’ve always had a thing about climbing high mountains and this will be my first foray into that world. The way I look at it, if I’ve got an opportunity to do something that shouldn’t negatively impact other parts of my life, I’m going for it.

So with the drama behind me here are some links that may be of interest:

– Follow me here: Aconcagua Adventure this will give you my location on a map. The locations automatically disappear after seven days.

– Web cam/weather: here is a link to a site that should have a webcam going soon. It’s at the other base camp, Plaza Del Mulas but the weather at the BC’s is the same. My base camp is Plaza Argentina, and it is the jumping off point for the Polish Direct or Traverse routes. I’m doing the Traverse route, and may come down the mountain on the other side via, Plaza Del Mulas. The reason why I’d go up one side and down the other is because it’s interesting and it’s a shorter hike out from Mulas (one day) than Argentina (two days).

– Weather two: Here you can find a more detailed, in some respects, weather report. On the left below resort info, there are three altitude you can choose from. Choose one and get the report below, to switch to metric it is on the left next to the days of the week. The webcam link is the same image as the one I’ve linked to above.

– Guiding Company: here is a link to a guide company that is starting their trip around the same time as I am. You should be able to read their updates and get some idea of what I’m experiencing in terms of weather…etc. Mountain Trip

Alright that is it. I’ll probably manage to do an update at base camp via very pricey satellite internet. That should be around the 11th-12th of Dec. I hope to summit around the 19th-20th and should be able to do another update on my way out on the 21st or so. These dates are obviously subject to the whims of…a lot of things, so don’t worry if I don’t update. Same goes for the spot messenger that I’m using, they can and do break, or simply run out of batteries so if it isn’t updating don’t worry about it.