Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cerro Aconcagua

A climber at sunrise on Aconcagua
It was our first morning at Basecamp Plaza Argentina.  I was awakened by the thumping beat of an approaching helicopter coming in to land.  I popped out of my tent to see a man being assisted into the helicopter.  Later, I would find out that he was a Polish climber with severe frostbite.  His partner was still missing on the upper mountain *.  It was a reminder that Aconcagua, considered by experienced mountaineers to be an easy 'walk up', should never be underestimated.

Frostbitten Climber Being Assisted to the Helicopter at Basecamp

Aconcagua, at 6962m, is the highest mountain in the Americas, as well as the highest mountain in the world outside the Himalaya.  Esther Tan and I chose to climb the False Polish Glacier Route on Aconcagua with Project Himalaya as preparation for our Mt. Everest bid next month.  We wanted to get some high-altitude experience, and get some training value (but not do something so hard it would leave us drained, physically and mentally, for Everest), as well as to evaluate Project Himalaya, as they would be managing logistics for our Everest climb.

Esther (back) and me carrying a load up to Camp1.  Photo by Jamie McGuiness/Project Himalaya
I wasn't disappointed.  Jamie McGuiness from Project Himalaya has a wealth of information that he is ever willing to share.  Having done mainly technical rock and ice climbs at lower altitudes, I knew little about high-altitude mountaineering.  Jamie quickly brought me up to speed on things like high-altitude medicine and acclimatization, as well as provide many small tips that only someone with extensive experience at high-altitude can provide.
The Guru: Jamie McGuiness
After spending four nights acclimatizing at Plaza Argentina, we left for the higher camps.  This being a non-technical climb, we were lightly loaded, carrying just crampons, but no ropes, harnesses or pro, and I didn't even have an ice-axe.  This worked out well.  The climbing, as expected, was basically a slog, but it was one tough slog at altitude, and it was made harder by unpredictable weather conditions, and an unseasonably wet and cold summer.
Ice crystals in the wind high on Aconcagua
On the bright side, I did manage to summit, and made a quite a few friends along the way :o)

Summit, Aconcagua
More photos on the climb Here.

*The missing Polish climber was found dead near the summit of Aconcagua on March 2nd.  The 6 climber deaths on Aconcagua this season makes it one of the most deadly on record.

2 comments:

Jungle Runner said...

Looks like a great climb Kenneth.
Best of luck on your Everest bid!

Peru said...

Nice pics Ken. Would like to see similar ones from your Everest climb!! :)