Final Dispatch from Aconcagua Team
Before Tino headed off to Ecuador yesterday for his next expedition, he summarized his awesome experience on Aconcagua with our first team of the season.
“The first Mountain Madness Aconcagua expedition of the year was a wild success. Last night marked the final meeting of our team in Argentina and ended much the way we started together, with smiles and laughter over delicious local beef steaks and red wine. This time around we added champagne to celebrate our successes. There was also one other difference in this last meeting of our team. Our first meeting was characterized by apprehension, we did not know what to expect in our future together on the adventure ahead. It was a feeling that precedes any great adventure — the journey into the unknown.
“In our celebration dinner we felt uninhibited. Our team grew from a group of individuals with a common goal to a cohesive unit of good friends. A team. We joked and laughed and remembered the moments we shared on the mountain: good food, great company and, of course, a grand adventure.
The team heading up the mountain. Joshua Jarrin photo
“Being one of the seven summits, Aconcagua may seem to lack a sense of mystery. Do not be fooled. We explored a desolate moonscape on the approach hike, passing skeletons of mules that carry equipment in to basecamp. We weathered thunder and snow storms while enjoying the hospitality of a basecamp staff that included a gourmet chef. All the while working to scale a peak of nearly 7000 meters.
“We worked hard everyday after leaving basecamp to move equipment and camps up the mountain. Porters hired from Plaza de Mulas basecamp made the task a little less daunting. But still, we were climbing at high altitude and the work leaves you breathless and light headed if you fail to measure each movement and step.
“As summit day approached, things were lining up for us. The team was tired from the previous days work, not to mention the difficulties of simply living at altitude. But overall everyone was feeling good, ready for the challenge of a summit attempt. The weather, which had been unsettled earlier in the trip with afternoon convective storms occuring on a daily basis, was stabilizing. It appeared we would have a short window to squeeze in a summit push.
Sunny summit day. Joshua Jarrin photo
“2:00 AM came way too early. It always does. Outside the tent it was dark, cold and windy. One teammate woke up with a throbbing headache, a typical side effect of altitude, but definitely something of concern considering the 3000 ft gain to the summit and the possibilty of the high altitude edemas. After some deliberation we decided to give it a cautious go.
“Bundled up in every possible layer, puffy pants and down parkas, the team set off for the summit. In the dark hours of the morning we kept warm by moving slowly up, chipping away at the highest mountain in the western hemisphere. Soon, sunrise arrived and we were stripping layers. Just as soon as layers came off we reached the Cresta del Viento and replaced layers and added balaclavas and goggles to beat the wind.
Tony nearing the summit with part of the South Face in the background. Joshua Jarrin photo
“Finally, the canaleta, the most tedious, continuously steep part of the climb was reached. Step after breathless step led up the canaleta until the summit ridge appeared. Disapearing and reappearing amongst the blowing clouds, the summit looked impossibly far away. Fatigue and altitude have a way of changing your perception. The summit was less than 500 vertical feet above. Still, it took close to an hour to dispose of the final bit of climbing.
“And then, we were on top. Alone, just 3 of us at first. It was stunning, disorienting and we looked around and at each other to make sure this was actually the top. There was no higher point around.
“In total 8 of 9 members of our team stood on the summit. The other member made it to within 300 meters. Her flag representing her fund raising for the fight against breast cancer traveled to the top with the rest of the team.
Tony and Joshua on the summit! Joshua Jarrin photo
“We had summitted. And with nearly the entire team. Yet my criteria for a succesful climb extend beyond the requirements of the namesake of the activity. In fact, I have had many trips, both guiding and climbing for fun, where I have not stood on the summit, yet considered the trip a success. The most important criteria, for me, is the experience.
“Considering the experience on Aconcagua, our expedition was a success.”
Our second Aconcagua team has arrived with Joshua in Argentina and is making their way towards the mountain. They will be climbing the Polish Traverse. We have another client with the SPOT tracker so we will be able to track their progress on the mountain again. Wish them luck!