Team Turned Around at 21,500 ft.
Up at 2:30 AM this morning to start the stoves and go for a climb. It had been a still and calm night until around midnight when a wind began, but it wasn’t a very strong wind and we considered ourselves quite lucky as we set out around 4 AM under starry and clear skies. The team wore crampons from the outset as our “trail” was packed snow on a long traverse to a camp called “Black Rock” on the normal Aconcagua route. We have been climbing the “False Polish” route and this is where it joins the Routa Normal. Everybody was climbing well, the production teams got their sunrise shots (sunrise on the rest of the planet, we were in shadow) and we were making good progress. It seemed just a matter of time until the whole team stood on the summit, but as we reached 21,400 ft we saw the first signs of wind-driven clouds ripping from the summit ridge and the odd sheet of low cloud scudding over the summits far below us. We began the traverse to the Canaleta, the key gulley giving access to the summit ridge, but we were turned back by wind and cold. Peter made the decision to wait for sun in a sheltered spot at around 21,300 ft where the team could recharge and get ready for either a brutal push up into the wind or a quick descent should conditions deteriorate. Conditions worsened before our eyes as a cloud cap built and lowered on the mountain. The smart and easy call to head for high camp was made and we were easily in camp again by 9:15 AM. The snow started at around 10:30 AM and we climbed into our tents to rest and relax. Our hope, of course, is that today’s foray, a record breaker in altitude terms for some of the team, will turn into the perfect rehearsal for our successful summit bid… maybe tomorrow. For now, we are safe and sound and warm… the winds seem to be calming and although it is still snowing, there is plenty of reason for optimism.
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