I’m back on the blog today because I’m off on an exciting trip and wanted to share the details. I’m getting ready to board a plane this afternoon to South America and attempt a climb of Mt. Aconcagua. Aconcagua is 22,841 feet, the highest peak in the western or southern hemispheres. In other words, it’s the highest outside of the Himalaya. EEKS!
While I have lots of Colorado mountaineering experience, the highest I’ve been is 14,440 feet and the longest mountaineering trip I’ve been on is three days. This will obviously be an entirely new adventure for me. I’m beyond stoked.
I’ll be climbing with a long-time friend and hiking partner. No, we aren’t going with a guide, but we will be hiring a mule to carry some of our gear to base camp.
The schedule is highly tentative, but it might look something like this
Wednesday January 4th – Fly out! Denver to Dallas to Santiago, Chile.
Thursday January 5th – From Santiago we only have a handful of hours to board a bus that will take us across the Andes to Mendoza, Argentina. This trip will be made much more enjoyable by the fact that we have front seats in the upper level of the bus! Should be awesome. I’ll start my picture taking here, don’t worry.
Friday January 6th – Errand day in Mendoza. We’ll have to apply and pay for our climbing permits, hire the mule service, and pick up last minute supplies like propane and some additional food.
Saturday January 7th– Bus to the trailhead, and then the first leg of the hike to Camp Confluencia, altitude 11,000 ft.
Sunday January 8th – Early morning for the long hike to Base Camp, Plaza de Mulas, altitude 14,000. (“Plaza de Mulas” because of the convergence of the load-carrying mules there).
Monday January 9th – Rest day at Base Camp? Plaza de Mulas has been called a city on the mountain because so many people congregate there on their climbs of Aconcagua. You can even purchase wifi, showers, and hot meals. For a premium, of course.
Tuesday January 10th – Carry gear to Camp 1, Camp Canada, approximately 16K. We’ll leave our extra tent, stove, and food here, then return to Base Camp to sleep and recover.
Wednesday January 11th – Return to Camp 1 and stay.
Thursday January 12th – Carry to High Camp, Camp Condores, approximately 18K.
Friday January 13th – Summit day?
We’ll adjust this schedule base on how we are feeling, how well we are acclimatizing, and the weather forecast. A friend will be sending us forecast updates based on http://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Aconcagua/ (Thanks, Peter!).
Speaking of thanks, I’m grateful in particular to Sarah Meiser who is lending me a pair of double plastic boots (read: heavy duty mountaineering boots to keep my toes from freezing in the sub zero temps). Sarah is sort of a rockstar mountaineer. And by “sort of” I mean totally and completely. For instance, a few years ago she became the fifth person – and the first woman – to climb all of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks in calendar winter. I can’t even begin to explain succinctly what that entails. But the short of it is, I’ll be wearing some pretty superhero boots up there.
After January 13th, who knows what will happen. If we can summit on that schedule (unlikely) or close to it, we might return to Chile and do another climb. My return flight to Denver is on January 22nd, so we could potentially stay on the mountain as late as Friday, January 20th.
The main challenge of this climb is obviously the altitude. It’s an easy mountain, technically speaking, though we will be using crampons up high. My biggest concern is how my chronic headache and migraines will handle the altitude and being on an extended expedition.
I’ve been doing my best to pre-acclimatize (what an adventure! More on that another day), but who knows what will happen once I’m above my personal record of 14,400. I can’t wait to find out. I’m bringing the toughest version of myself, for sure.
If you want to send some well-wishes to Argentina, my key words are Grit, Stamina, Low Winds, and Feisty Red Blood Cells!