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 C√≥lera 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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Sorry to hear you didnt make it to the top this time but I’m glad you made a smart decision and did what was best.  I’m sure it was still quite an adventure and Mike, can’t wait to see the pictures when you get home.  Safe travels back to the States!

Posted by: Rich on 1/22/2014 at 10:47 am

Billy k- you have accomplished so much on this trio. Even without the summit you must have so many stories. I can’t wait to hear all about!  Now get you butt home :) !

Posted by: Libby on 1/19/2014 at 12:30 pm

Hi Jeff!I know your motto: Summit is optional getting down, mandatory. Glad your group made the smart decision. Can’t wait for you to get home. Love, Debbie and kids

Posted by: Debbie on 1/19/2014 at 11:52 am

Way to let prudence drive the smart decision, although I would expect nothing less from such stellar guides. May the mountain experience be rewarding in itself, whether the summit is a part or not. Stay safe up there amigos!

Posted by: G on 1/19/2014 at 8:09 am

I’m sorry it was t the way you had planned. I admire and appreciate your courage, honesty and wisdom.
Sending you lots and lots of Love, Barbara

Posted by: Barbara on 1/18/2014 at 10:07 pm

It takes tremendous courage to make a safe and smart decision.  I’m sorry the mountain just didn’t grant you passage this time.  Congratulations on a great effort and glad you are all safe.
Meredith, see you soon :)

Posted by: Geoff on 1/18/2014 at 7:41 pm

Think of you and hoping you have another opportunity soon to reach the summit!  Miss you tons and lots of love!!


Posted by: Colleen on 1/18/2014 at 7:19 pm

Glad you’re all safe! sounds like a crazy trip!

Posted by: Rachel on 1/18/2014 at 6:09 pm

Hello Team,

Glad you are keeping yourselves as safe as you can and hope the weather will offer another opportunity.

“Courage and strength are nought without prudence”
Edward W.

Posted by: Rocky on 1/18/2014 at 6:06 pm

Hi Len & Dawn

Can’t wait for you to come home we have followed your journey.  Good job team.

Shyllo says she’s quite happy here   Shyllo, mom & dad

Posted by: Shyllo on 1/18/2014 at 5:53 pm

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 opportunity to try again.Mom & Dad

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

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