icons/avalancheicons/bootscompassfacebookicons/gloveshandsicons/hearticons/helmeticons/ice axeinstagramminusmountainicons/pathsMap Pinplusicons/questionicons/guideicons/ropeicons/gogglesicons/stafftenttwitteryoutube

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! 

Pre­vi­ous Aconcagua blog