Entries By walter hailes

Aconcagua: Nugent & Team Forced to Turn Back on Summit Attempt

Posted by: Katrina Bloemsma, Billy Nugent, Walter Hailes | January 18, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Aconcagua
Elevation: 21,500'

It’s a cold, cold world.

We woke up and fired the stoves at about 3:30 this morning and things were looking good: clear skies, bright moon, and calm winds. We scarfed a quick breakfast, had a quick cup of coffee, packed up, and hit the not so dusty trail. The consistent snowfall of the past week has blanketed the mountain so what is normally a gravelly trail out of Cólera was a very snowy sendero. Our team moved well, per the norm, despite the large number of other climbers clogging the route and before too long we had climbed past the Indepencia Hut (ruins) and hit the traverse into the Canaleta. At some point along the way we found ourselves no longer enjoying the clear skies but instead traveling under consistent snowfall. In fact it was snowing heavily and visibility was poor. Despite the worsening weather the snowpack seemed ok until we reached the center of the traverse. Walt and myself headed out further without the group and found the normally gravelly trail under several feet of snow. In fact the whole Canaleta was smoothed over with the storm snow. Every other team on the mountain had already turned around due to avalanche hazard but we hadn’t seen anything worth turning around until the deep storm layer that we encountered in the lower Canaleta. While the snow didn’t seem super reactive the steeper part of the Canaleta was surely more dangerous and there was no way to see without exposing ourselves to the hazard. With worsening weather and continued snowfall we decided that the dire consequences of an incident were too much for us to shoulder. We weren’t willing to bet our lives on it so we did the smart thing and turned around at 21,500’. Now we are back at high camp and the weather is still crappy. So much for the forecasted sunny day…

RMI Guide Billy Nugent

The traverse to the Caneleta en route to the summit of Aconcagua.  Photo: RMI Collection

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Dawn & Len, what a huge disappointment for you and your team but we are glad you didn’t take the risk! We hope the weather improves and you get another… read more

Posted by: Sue & Jack on 1/18/2014 at 3:16 pm


Aconcagua: Nugent & Team at High Camp Ready for Summit Bid Tonight

Posted by: Billy Nugent, Walter Hailes, Katrina Bloemsma | January 17, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Aconcagua
Elevation: 19,600'

We’re at high camp, poised and ready! Last night we had quite the snowfall, almost 8”, which is quite a lot for Aconcagua. We spent the morning digging out and packing up for our move up. The large majority of the climbers who were queued up at Camp 2 made the move up to Camp Cólera with us today so trail breaking wasn’t so bad. Our team stayed together and moved smoothly through the terrain despite very hot temperatures. Blue skies and direct sun at almost 20,000’ coupled with the reflective blanket of new snow made for some serious UV exposure not to mention the high temperatures. It felt like being in the Mega-Tan 9000 industrial strength, Baywatch endorsed tanning bed all day. Then as we arrived at Camp Cólera the clouds rolled in and it started to snow again.  If the last seven days are any indication, the snow should stop and the clouds should lift sometime overnight. We have our fingers crossed for a clear and comfortable summit attempt tomorrow.

We’ll check in tomorrow after the hurly burly’s done!

RMI Guide Billy Nugent

Views of the Andes while approaching High Camp on Aconcagua. Photo: RMI Collection An RMI Team at High Camp on Aconcagua. Photo: RMI Collection

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Aconcagua: Nugent and Team Wait out Weather at Camp 2

Posted by: Billy Nugent, Katrina Bloemsma, Walter Hailes | January 16, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Aconcagua
Elevation: 18,000'

Today marked the passing of yet another rest day. We hung out at Camp 2 along with many others; Katrina counted more than 67 tents in camp today. We sat the day out watching all sorts of crazy weather over the course of the day: Intense sun/heat, chilly breezes, pelting graupel and hail, puking snow, and continual thunder and lightning all afternoon… Pretty exciting. It seems the horde of other climbers have a very similar strategy to us. Our team is well-rested and ready to move up to Plaza Cólera (our high Camp 3) in what looks to be marginal weather tomorrow putting us in position to take a crack at the summit in better weather on Saturday. A strong wind event is forecasted to begin ramping up with moderate winds on Sunday and over 60 mph winds forecasted for Monday. Hopefully we can nail it but it certainly has been a bit of a chess match with the mountain and the weather.

Wish us luck as we roll out on our summit push over the next two days,

RMI Guides Billy, Walt, Katrina, and the Whole Gang!

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Aconcagua: Nugent & Team Move Up to Camp 2

Posted by: Billy Nugent, Walter Hailes, Katrina Bloemsma | January 15, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Aconcagua
Elevation: 18,000'

Greetings friends, relatives, loves ones, roommates, neighbors, acquaintances, enemies, stalkers, etc. We’ve made it safely up to a crowded Camp 2 (Guanacos Campo, Chopper Camp) and settled into our tents. The move from Camp 1 was largely uneventful except for partly cloudy skies which made for rapid, drastic temperature changes… Freeze or fry, as they say, never comfortable.  We moved extremely well despite the slightly funky weather and big loads and were greeted by the many Camp 2 inhabitants. We actually had to use our snow shovel and a borrowed McCloud to grade out new tent platforms in the dirt. Moving earth turned out to be quite a bit more taxing than the actual climbing!  Anyway, we are all here feeling the altitude a bit but doing well nonetheless. Tomorrow’s plan is largely dependent on the weather forecast we get tonight, wish us luck and good favor with Mother Nature!

All for now,
RMI Guide Billy Nugent

An RMI Team on the move to Aconcagua's Camp 2. Photo: Linden Mallory

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Aconcagua: Nugent & Team Rest Day at Camp 1

Posted by: Billy Nugent, Walter Hailes, Katrina Bloemsma | January 14, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Aconcagua
Elevation: 16,200'

The rumor mill was definitely flying around the mountain yesterday about some big, bad weather system coming in next weekend… Luckily it has been pushed back out of the extended forecast and our intrepid team has been able to stick to our prescribed acclimatization schedule.  Which means we’re resting today!  Laying around in the tent at over 16,000’ isn’t as exciting as it sounds but the rest will serve us well as we climb higher tomorrow.  We are in good spirits and hopeful that the weather will cooperate as we move in to striking distance over the next couple days.

Laying around, eating jamon y queso, drinking coffee…
It’s a grand life,

RMI Guides Billy, Walt, Katrina, and the gang

Enjoying the views from Camp 1. Photo: RMI Collection

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Aconcagua: Nugent and Team Carry to Camp 2

Posted by: Billy Nugent, Walter Hailes, Katrina Bloemsma | January 13, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Aconcagua
Elevation: 16,200'

We are continuing to plod our way slowly but steadily up this mountain. Our team woke to beautiful blue skies this morning and took advantage of the good weather by putting in another cache up at our Camp 2, which also goes by the names “Guanacos Camp 3,” and “Chopper Camp.” No matter what you call it, it sits at over 18k’ and is one of the last spots with running water as you ascend. We made short work of the carry, climbing the 2,000’ or so in 3 stretches and made even shorter work of the descent back to Camp 1. The skies clouded up this afternoon so we got to enjoy some comfortable napping temps in the tents. We spent the rest of the day eating napples, reading, and listening to tunes. Rumors of deteriorating weather have us pondering our next move but our plans call for another rest and acclimatization day.

We’ll see what Mother Nature has in store for us,

RMI Guide Billy Nugent

An RMI Team carrying to Camp 2. RMI Photo Collection

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Aconcagua: Nugent & Team Move to Camp 1

Posted by: Walter Hailes, Katrina Bloemsma, Billy Nugent | January 12, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Aconcagua
Elevation: 16,200'

We said our bittersweet goodbyes to the good life at Plaza Argentina this morning as we headed up on the mountain to begin our climb. No more steak or lasagna dinners but it sure feels good to be finally doing this! The team climbed extremely well and made even better time up to Camp 1 than we did on our carry a couple of days ago. Everybody is a bit tired but in good spirits… Looking forward to a good night’s sleep and another work day tomorrow as we try and push a load of supplies further up the mountain.

Also wanted to make a shout out to Garrett’s team, who made the summit today! Nice work guys…

Buenas noches de campo 1,

RMI Guide Billy Nugent

Camp One on Aconcagua, 16,000 ft.  Photo: RMI Collection

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Aconcagua: Nugent & Team Enjoy One More Rest Day at Basecamp

Posted by: Billy Nugent, Walter Hailes, Katrina Bloemsma | January 11, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Aconcagua
Elevation: 13,800'

Another rest day here at Basecamp… Not much to report other than that the team is enjoying a beautiful day resting up after a longer day yesterday. The R & R down here at base is definitely going to pay dividends as we climb higher and higher. Tomorrow, if the good weather continues, will see our departure from base onto the upper mountain for good…

Talk tomorrow after our move to Camp 1!

RMI Guide Billy Nugent

Looking out over Aconcagua Base Camp. Photo: RMI Collection

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Aconcagua: Nugent & Team Carry to 16,200’ Camp

Posted by: Billy Nugent, Walter Hailes, Katrina Bloemsma | January 11, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Aconcagua
Elevation: 13,800'

Today saw our first dose of real work above Basecamp as the gang carried up a load of food, fuel, and cold weather gear. It was a long day with big loads up to elevations over 16,000 feet, so we were certainly working hard but the team was generally unfazed. The carry definitely helps supply us on the upper mountain but also serves as a good stimulus for our bodies as they try and acclimatize to the higher altitude. The physiological changes are happening and the headaches most folks reported on our first night at Basecamp are now long gone. Higher oxygen saturations and lower resting heart rates are also the norm. Another rest day tomorrow and a fat steak dinner tonight here at Basecamp should give us an opportunity to get stronger and stronger and set us up well for the hard work that lies ahead as we move up.

All for now,
RMI Guide Billy Nugent

On the trail to Aconcagua Camp 1. Photo: RMI Collection

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Aconcagua: Nugent & Team Rest Day at BaseCamp

Posted by: Billy Nugent, Walter Hailes, Katrina Bloemsma | January 09, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Aconcagua
Elevation: 13,800'

Not much to report from our first full day at Basecamp. The team is enjoying a rest day filled with such exciting activities as sleeping in, eating a big breakfast of bacon and eggs, lounging around our weather port drinking coffee, getting checked out by the Argentine medical staff, and packing up for tomorrow’s carry up to Camp 1.

We’ll check in again tomorrow after our carry,
RMI Guide Billy Nugent

Tents at Plaza Argentina. Photo: RMI Collection

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