Aconcagua Expedition: Team Returns to Mendoza

Posted by: Anne Gilbert Chase, Pete Van Deventer | January 25, 2012
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Aconcagua

Hello again from team Aconcagua. Sorry it has been awhile but the last few days have been very busy on our end. Now that we are back in Mendoza sipping red wine and eating great beef we can fill you in on the mountain adventures.

Last Thursday, the 19th, we moved from our Camp 2 at 18,000’ to Camp Colera (meaning: anger) at 19,600’. It was a short move under beautifully clear skies, but we were tired nonetheless from the thin air. We set camp, ate dinner early, and prepared for the early start of our summit push.

The stoves were kicked on early at 3 am to start the long process of boiling water for breakfast at altitude (I believe we are picking up a theme: the length of time it takes to do anything at high altitude is very, very long). We had a beautiful, warm, calm morning for the culmination of our goal. The moon was a sliver, but showing at the bottom, like a saucer, rather than the side as we usually see it in the northern hemisphere. At 5 am, bags were packed with food, water, and extra clothes and storm gear for our day. Crampons were on our feet, and we began the ascent from camp under the light of headlamps, wearing our parkas.

There were many groups headed for the summit with us since the weather was supposed to get worse the following day and for several days after. Many groups, like us, had moved their schedule up in order to take advantage of the end of our weather window. The climb travels many switchbacks up a series of benches to our second break at the Independencia Hut, elevation: 21,000 ft. As we reached it, streams of headlamps from fellow climbers stretched below us. Taking a break here, we refueled our bodies with hot cocoa and alfajors, an Argentine treat. As the horizon began to show signs of light, we started the long traverse to the base of the Canaleta, which is a large snow couloir that takes you to the summit.  Despite the thin air and tired legs, the team was feeling strong as we climbed the last couple of hours and last 1,000 ft to the summit.  It was 1:40pm as the last of our boots stepped onto the top of the tallest mountain in the western hemisphere. We celebrated together with hugs and cheers and relished in the moment for what we had just accomplished.  Although we could have stayed on top for hours, the clouds and snow were rolling in and forcing us to start the long descent back to our camp and our sleeping bags.

We arrived back at camp at 4:30pm, just as the wind was starting to pick up and our bodies were starting to fully tire. Everyone quickly jumped into their sleeping bags and enjoyed an evening of ramen noodles and an early bedtime. The next morning we woke with sore legs and headaches from dehydration, but everyone was ready for another long descent back to base camp. We broke down camp and at 11am we headed back to Camp 2 and eventually Camp 1 to pick up both personal and group gear that we had cached days before. This is the worst part of any expedition, since our packs get heavier with each previous camp we visit. As we left camp 1 to make the last push down to base camp, our packs were weighing upwards of 25 kilos. We walked into base camp at 4:45pm with huge smiles on our faces and were greeted with tang and fresh fruit from the Grajales crew. As we chatted and laughed about where we had just been the previous day, we realized that the hardest and most dangerous part of our trip was over and we had all made it down safely.  We feasted on steak and papas fritas that night and toasted to our 14 days on the mountain. We slept well that night with full bellies and happy hearts, resting up for the 21 mile walk out of the valley and back to the entrance of the provincial park.

Fourteen days doesn’t seem like that long a time, but Sunday we realized how deprived of color we had been, as we walked past brilliant green and yellow clumps of flowers descending the Relinchos valley towards home. Our packs were light and birds were singing nearby, making our steps light and quick. As the day wore on however, our steps slowed as the 15 miles we had to walk that day ticked past. An exciting river crossing of the Vacas river found many of the group in their skiveys, wading through thigh deep glacial waters. The late afternoon temps made the cool water dip welcome however. The last few miles were a long affair, but we arrived in camp to the smell of the arrearos cooking us a feast of an asada. One pound of slow cooked steak per person, tomato salad, fresh baked bread, and local malbec wine sent everyone to bed with full stomachs and a beautiful, uninterrupted view of the stars. Most chose to sleep outside of the tents, for views of the southern cross, and beyond!

Six miles of walking the next morning brought us to Punta de Vacas and the end of our walking! Everyone piled into the van for a tired drive to Mendoza. Showers, and shaves brought everyone back to life, and Monday night the group enjoyed a celebratory dinner at the “patio,” a local parilla (Brazilian style steak house but Argentinian!). The group dreamed up a wonderful way to commemorate the climb: a locally published coffee table book of Aconcagua that each signed to everyone else, so that we’ll remember the faces, friendships, experiences, and stories that we have grown over the last three weeks.

The guides
would like to thank an incredible team of climbers for their dedication, strength, perseverance, and laughter. Gabi’s 25th was a special one. And further, the team would like to thank everyone for their notes, thoughts, and positive vibes while we were headed to the highest point in the western hemisphere!

Goodnight and good luck,
The RMI Aconcagua Crew

Enjoying the views from Camp 3 at 19,600'.  Photo: Gilbert Chase The Aconcagua Team ascending to Camp 3. Photo: Pete Van Deventer

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Comments

Way to go Wally Glover and the rest of the team!
Dan in Indy.

Posted by: Dan Meno on 1/27/2012 at 3:31 pm

Can’t wait to hear all about this adventure Tom. From all accounts (including the bloggers reporting) you had a wonderful time and share an experience only a limited few understand. What a memory! Safe journey home tommorow and Saturday.
Love Mom and Dad

Posted by: Daisy on 1/26/2012 at 1:51 pm

Congratulations all - it sounds like a fabulous trip and we’re glad you’re all down safe & sound!!  It was great to read “the rest of the story!”
Paula & Bill VanDeventer

Posted by: Paula & Bill VanDeventer on 1/25/2012 at 5:12 pm

That was quite an adventure, reading the blog really made it very real here in Bend, Oregon. So glad everyone reached the summit & feels the elation of doing what was set out to do!!  Yeh, team, & looking forward to hearing all your stories, Jeff. Luv mum

Posted by: Norene on 1/25/2012 at 2:35 pm

Congratulations Wally & team on a tremendous accomplishment!  Looking forward to seeing you back in Indiana, Wally!

Posted by: Ed & Vivian on 1/25/2012 at 10:29 am

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