Aconcagua: Almost to the Mountain
Hi all! I’m writing you from a hostel in Mendoza, Argentina. It’s been quite a journey to get here.
I flew out of Denver Wednesday afternoon, barely making it out before a massive snowstorm. I’m so thankful. From there my climbing partner, Matt, met me in Dallas and we boarded an overnight flight to Santiago, Argentina.
A friend back home had told me to be sure to get a seat at a window on the left side of the plane, so I splurged on the extra $60. (Thanks, Cam!) Sunrise over the Andes? Wow it was worth it. Plus, I saw our destination, Mt. Aconcagua, for the first time. I’ve literally never even seen such a tall mountain!
Matt and I were pretty nervous about the transition to bus for the last leg of our trip to Mendoza, Argentina. We only had four hours to land, get through customs, find a taxi that wouldn’t rip us off, and locate the correct bus platform. Plus, you know, eating! It turned out there was no problem at all. Plane was early, customs officer was asleep, and a great taxi driver pointed us in the correct direction. We were three hours early. Then our bus was an hour delayed. I was hesitant to go anywhere because we were each hauling small backpacks plus two large duffels per person. Between the two of us we were schlepping around 200 pounds and my arms already hurt (wah wah, right). So we sat on the crowded bus platform for four hours.
This turned out to be a huge mistake. We took turns bag sitting, and I was making sure I had a limb on each bag at all times. But after awhile we were so focused on finding the right bus, and Matt walked the platform again, and when he came back his backpack was missing. We had a moment of absolutel panic, to say the least.
One of Matt’s wallets was in the bag, plus 2,000 USD. All of his electronics including his phone, iPod, and satellite messenger device for the mountain. The absolute worst part is that Matt lost his sister in a car accident a few years ago, and there were sentimental items from her that he always carries with him.
What do you do?
We flagged down the security guard who was kind but said he couldn’t really do anything. We frantically searched the platform…as if we just dropped the bag somewhere. But no, it was gone.
Our bus was boarding and we only had a minute to decide. Finally we just got on the bus. Staying in Santiago wouldn’t bring back the belongings.
The bus ride accross the Andes to Mendoza should have spectacular, and it was, but obviously we were too preoccupied to enjoy. We had cash concerns, logistical concerns, and Matt was devastated with the grief for his sister completly ripped open again.
Lately I’ve noticed this strange thing where everytime something shitty happens, someone else does something so incredibly kind it restores my faith in humanity. There were three American women on the bus, and one of them happened to have an extra iPhone on her just in case. When we arrived in Santiago – exhausted from traveling 30 hours straight, plus emotional from the bag ordeal – she handed the phone to Matt. It’s incredible how awesome people can be.
Mood was still low Friday morning when we woke up in the hostel. Yes, a stranger had given Matt a phone, but that didn’t bring back the thousands of dollars we had lost…or Matt’s sister. Piece by piece though, we put plans in place. Matt has been able to download his music account onto the new phone, and that means a lot to him.
We were off then into the city of Mendoza. First we had to go to a government office to apply for a climbing permit. Then, the next stop was to hire a mule from a guiding company to bring 60kg (130 pounds) of our weight to base camp for us. With proof of that transaction, we went to another government office to pay for the permit. The bad news was they didn’t accept credit card. We had been aware of this. That’s why we brought cash! …half of which was stolen. Fortunately, we barely had enough left – 1600 USD. Phew. Back to the first office and we had our permit!
We still have errands to run. We need more food and propane, plus cash for on the mountain (there are services at base camp!). We will also have to split up what we are each hauling up to base camp versus what the mule will take.
Tomorrow morning we will take a bus back to the trailhead, which we passed on our initial bus ride. It’ll take about three hours. From there we drop off our duffels with the mule service and begin trekking.
We’ll cover the 22 miles to basecamp in two days, so we plan to arrive Sunday evening. Basecamp will be a home for up to two weeks, and we will leave that initial tent with most of our gear there while we climb the remaining 8,800 feet to the summit.
It’s been quite an emotion-filled few days but spirits are high again. I’m incredibly psyched to get on the mountain and experience more of the Andes.
Plus here’s one other piece of wonderful news: 30 hours of traveling and now almost 24 hours in a hit, congested (but beautiful) city with unfamiliar to me and NO MIGRAINE. Just my usual low level throb. Frankly is a miracle which gives me some confidence I’ll be able to stress out my body and go to such a high altitude without dire consequences, headache wise.
Off we go!
I hope to post from basecamp, but we will have to see how strong the wifi is. Hopefully!