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Aconcagua 2/2/2010

 
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Zach
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 18, 2010 7:59 pm    Post subject: Aconcagua 2/2/2010  Reply with quote

Hello All,

My friend Megan (who has been living in Santiago, Chile for the past 6 months) recently had the opportunity to climb Aconcagua. Thought you'd all get a kick out of it. Here's here account of the experience:

"Today, the 11th of February, I am home in my Santiago apartment again, comfortable, a little psychologically damaged for a few days and sleeping on and off. I have blisters on my feet, sunburned skin and my eyes are sensitive to the light. I told my mom and Zach last night that I had pain in my left lung but if feels much better now. I think I just stretched my body past anything it and my mind both had ever fathomed.

I kept a journal so I will take some excerpts from it as well. We left at 5AM, 2 of February from Santiago, of course my alarm didn't go off and I woke up at 4:50. Lucky for me, mountaineers aren't known for doing anything on time meaning that my guide woke up 45 minutes late as well. So with random pieces of gear flying about and me running up 7 flights of stairs twice to go back for things, we made it to Mendoza, Argentina early afternoon to pick up Aconcagua park entrance permits costing both an arm, a leg and my big toe. Oh and of course the banks are closed for 'siesta' from 1:30-4:30 so we found some hidden shanty, perhaps not quite legal 'bank' to transfer money to all the right places and away we went with our permits.

We rented mules and had everything packed up and found out that we couldn't enter the park until the next morning, which meant that we would have to walk 11 hours the first day instead of 4. So, we went for beers and slept in a dorm with other smelly backpackers and at 6 AM we set off and arrived at the main base camp, Plaza de Mulas 11 hours later. It wasn't a tough beginning, just a long, boring walk on plain after plain but a beautiful one at that.

It was incredibly windy at PDM (4260 M) and a rough night but we ate good food and talked about the summit day with other groups. It looked like the day to summit was Monday so we decided to stay another day in PDM because we had time to kill. We took stuff up to the next Camp that day and came back down, taking a second load the next day and staying the night there (Camp Canada 4930 M). It was a little colder at Canada but not bad. The next day was a pretty tough day because we hiked for about 4 hours with all of our stuff and those malditas mochilas (backpacks) fit both Jelenia and I really bad. So, we finally get to Campamento Nido de Condores (5380M) which means Condor's Nest in Spanish and my group had a running joke with me the whole time because the word 'condor' has an accent over the first O and I kept saying it with an accent over the second O which comes out sounding like 'Condon' which means condom in Spanish. Not terribly funny to me seeing that they didn't finally correct me until the last day of the trip after I had told at least 5 or more people that we were going to the 'Condom's Nest'----yeah. So, next, we arrived at Nido with our huge, heavy double plastic boots and we were setting up our tents slowly (everything slow due to the need to acclimate as fast as possible in our case since we didn't have the luxury of weeks on the mountain). A very good looking Argentinian man came up and offered us some hot (sh)erba mate and both Jelenia and I jumped on the opportunity of hot tea and a guapo argentine and somehow forget about the tent. Long story short, huge gust of wind comes up, tent takes off, I run about 100 ft in my double plastic boots (this is over 17000 ft mind you) to catch it and I was given a pat on the back and a 20 minute breathing session in which I saw a lot of blue colors and had to drink a liter of water to function again. Kind of funny now. Lots of things are sort of funny now that weren't funny at all up there.

At 17000, your appetite diminishes and you don't sleep as well. Nightmares and very strange dreams become normal at this point. Unfortunately, my partner Miguel didn't sleep at all for 2 days and couldn't stomach anything so we sent him down to Plaza de Mulas after a storm hit us for a whole day. We went for the summit on the 9th which was Tuesday, the day after the perfect day to summit. There were some logistical problems that I won't get into but Tuesday ended up to be a pretty good day too. Instead of leaving from the highest base camp 'Berlin', we sended straight from Nido to the summit in one day which can be described in two words- 'completely insane'. We hiked for 17-18 hours that day. Here is the account of the craziest day of my life:

We wake up at 2 and leave at 3 AM to hike from Nido (5380) crossing Berlin (5780) up to the summit (6962) (22,841 ft). We fell 300 M (1.5 hrs) away from the summit because of a number of things. First of all, we left at 3 AM and reached the traverse at around 12 PM. I had hiked 9 hrs having eaten a half of a Snickers bar and a few sips of juice. At that elevation you can barely put one foot in front of the other. Stomaching any food is something that I wasn't inclined to do that day. We had our crampons and ice axes out, crossing a very windy traverse over to the bottom of the summit walk and about midway through, my nose started to bleed from both nostrils. It was pretty intense and I was so cold that I couldn't take my hand out of my glove so I just sort of let it bleed and put my glove up when I could. It finally stopped after about 3 minutes of constant flow. Next, I ran into a friend seeking cover from the wind on the traverse, an English friend named Caroline that I had talked to a number of times at different camps. I couldn't speak because I didn't have the strength so I lifted up my goggles and winked at her. She looked at me with a blank stare and it was sort of an uncomfortable moment. 10 steps later, she collapsed and when she came to in about 10 more seconds, she didn't know where she was or what she was doing. We called her guide over and she was going to be okay but he had to get her down right away. I started crying at that point because I knew how much the summit had meant to her. 5 minutes later, my guide Jelenia who had hiked ahead, had descended down and told us that she hadn't been able to feel her toes for 45 minutes and that she had the energy to get to the top but not to hike back down. So, we debated it for a few minutes and I decided to give it up. I just didn't have the energy. I could see the top, I could smell it but I didn't have the energy to go for another hour and a half and then descend. Instead of going down via the same trail, we slid down an icy face for over 1500 Meters, self arresting with our ice axes all the way down.

I'm pretty sure I cried all the way down that ice face. I felt like I failed, or had given up on something I had dreamed about for so long. As I look back on it just a few days later, there are some logistics that should have been changed such as more time on the mountain and better acclimatization. While most groups spend 12-17 days on the mountain, we did the whole thing in 8 days. Fighting over logistics and persuading or pushing a point of view in Spanish is a hard thing to do. I did get us another day at the beginning because believe it or not, my guide had it in his mind to summit and descend in 7 days.

To me, I made it. 300 Meters is nothing in comparison with what I did for 17 hours in
-20C.

I'm not really sure what else to add except that the Andes are majestic. The Andes have something that I have never seen in any other mountain range in the world. It's something that I can't really place or describe but if you ever have the chance to spend some time discovering them, don't pass it up. I've trained, hiked, camped and practically lived in them for the last few months and the 'Cordillera' has changed my life. There is a deep connection and spirituality with mountains that is indescribable and offers this incredible, interpretable bond with nature.

To place a challenge in your life and complete it is a moment of pure, honest satisfaction that no one can ever take from you. There is such pride to be taken in working hard for something and reaping the ending benefit. I challenge all my friends and family to set your own challenge for yourself this week/month. I love you all and hope the light is shining brightly in each and every one of your lives.

Much love,

Meg

5:10 PM, 12 Feb 2010

























Moar Pics: http://s300.photobucket.com/albums/nn30/render14/Megan%20Aconcagua/
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edenooch



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 18, 2010 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Awesome.
Now that's a hike
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lilbitmo
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 18, 2010 10:29 pm    Post subject: Crazy Reply with quote

That's a great trip report Zach, glad she made it back safely, that nose bleed must have scared her badly, that's not something I would have taken lightly at that altitude.

Thanks for sharing that  Very Happy Tell that Meg, cograts, she did a great job, nothing to be sorry about the last 300 meters, the mountain will be there when she's ready to go back.
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mve



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 18, 2010 11:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a story ... thank you for sharing.  And please tell Megan it's the journey not the destination that counts and this one was one that will provide lifetime full of memories.  WOW -- what a journey!

Having worked with people from Spain (who also have 'siesta'), the funniest bit for me was "closed for 'siesta' from 1:30-4:30"  Laughing.  The nose bleed at high altitude was a scary moment -- probably a combination of dry air and lack of water intake caused it?  I used to get these soon after I moved to LA and was drinking very little water --it was impossible to stop them -- I can only imagine what she felt up there Shocked
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2010 12:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zach, thanks for posting!  

What an awesome journey and an amazing feat!!  Meg did not fail, her words... To place a challenge in your life and complete it is a moment of pure, honest satisfaction that no one can ever take from you. There is such pride to be taken in working hard for something and reaping the ending benefit.  Say it all!

I am so proud of Meg, so happy that she had the experience and as a fellow hiker i feel her pure, honest satisfaction of facing a challenge so completely.

I look forward to meeting her when she returns.  Very Happy

Climb on girlfriend!
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Zach
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2010 12:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I forwarded her a link to the board. She also did some backpacking in Patagonia which I am SUPER jealous of. Living vicariously will have to do for now.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2010 1:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

She looks cute. Have her join, fer sure. Cool
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2010 9:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, awesome!!!  Thanks for sharing Zach.  Meg is so right when she says that the Andes have a different feel than any other mountain range.  I spent a few years of my life in Venezuela and had the chance to climb a few 15,000 - 16,000 foot Andean peaks and I totally agree the Andes are very special.  I hope Meg joins and sees all of the positive comments here, she did great.  Of course we all love to summit but it really is the journey that matters and not so much the destination.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2010 11:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Inspirational!  You gals sure know how to write trip reports that bring us along on your journey...
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 6:16 am    Post subject: Aconcagua 2/2/10 Reply with quote

Awesome  Smile  Thanks for posting
For those that like to dream here are more mountains that inspire
http://www.caingram.info/Mountains.htm
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