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Entries By ben luedtke

Aconcagua: Cifelli & Team Descend from Base Camp, Return to Mendoza

Today we walked.

It was a dusty, rocky, hot, and dry 15 miles from Mulas Basecamp to the park trailhead. In front of us sprawled an immense valley. Behind us, clear views of the summit we stood upon just a few short days ago.

A perfect setting for reflection.

Some thought back to the summit bid with all the challenges and struggles that came with it.

Others looked forward to the Michelin Star dinner that awaits us in Mendoza tonight. With FKTs being broken to meet the reservation.

Still others spoke of future climbing plans such as Mt. Vinson or Denali.

All in all we started this journey as strangers just a few short weeks ago. But we leave the Park as friends, by our shared experience of climbing Aconcagua.

Thank you for following along, we can't wait till we're back out in the mountains for our next objectives.

Climber Jon Honda 

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Aconcagua: Cifelli and Team Return to Basecamp

Well well well. After a dusty walk downhill we have arrived back at basecamp, albeit a different basecamp on the other side of the mountain, we are back to the land of three course dinners, soda, wine, and real toilets (sort of). A welcome reward after our hardwork on the mountain the last few days.

I have said it before and I will say it again, while summits are great, my favorite part of these trips is seeing a group of individuals come together to create a family and work together towards a common goal. It has been an honor to work with this team and even sweeter that we were able to go 100% to the summit.

We will all be heading home with our heads held high knowing we accomplished what we set out to do.

That being said our adventure is not quite over. Tomorrow we will complete the 15 mile hike (downhill thankfully) back to civilization and end up back in Mendoza for a delicious closing dinner. We have negotiated a deal with the mules to get one more day of help carrying our gear which is greatly appreciated.

To everyone back at home who have been following and supporting our journey, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. The support means more than you know, and you will be seeing us back stateside before long.

RMI Guide Michael Murray & Team

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Congratulations to the whole team ! It’s been a privilege to follow along with you! Enjoy the pleasures of the simple things! Cannot wait to see you Myles!

Posted by: Fionnuala Walsh on 1/30/2024 at 6:21 pm

Congratulations to you all on making it to the summit! We can only imagine how hard it was especially the last day with the wind and snow. For those of us who have never done anything like this we cannot even imagine how amazing it must be to stand at the top and feel such an accomplishment. You should all feel very proud of yourselves. We are very proud of our son Ben for helping to lead you up to the summit too. You are all awesome!!

Posted by: Karen Luedtke on 1/30/2024 at 8:16 am

Aconcagua: Cifelli & Entire Team Reach Summit!

It’s a beautiful thing, to challenge yourself to something you truly don’t know you can accomplish. You figure out truths about yourself that otherwise would be lost behind the comforts of home and the assuredness of monotony. It’s a beautiful thing to know that despite the outcome of an expedition, you’ll return with a lifelong memory. 

A lifelong memory we sure had. Today was a hard fought battle full of wind, clouds, and sideways snow. On typical summit days we revel in the brief reprieve from the cold at two rest stops, Independencia and the cave. Today, we were met with swirling clouds and snow; nothing but glimpses of the sun as the clouds whipped over Aconcagua. Though we weren’t treated to the views that Aconcagua had to offer we weren’t short of a sense of accomplishment. I am so proud to say that 100% of the team stood on top of the Americas today. We were more than likely the highest people touching the earth at the time. Congrats team. 

I do owe the team an explanation though. Ever since I was a kid, i hated the attribution of the saying “ that’s Just my luck” to mean bad luck. Ever since, whenever something good would happen, I’d say the line. The team heard plenty of it during the trip. Saying “ just my luck” to getting an extra lunch, or when the weather forecast was in our favor. Except you just read the above, the forecast wasn’t exactly in our favor, so what gives. Of course some things don’t go in my favor all the time, weather included, but the team showed up in the best shape of their lives, need I remind you we went 100%. The team showed up ready to mentally handle the hardship and discomfort of the wind, snow, and cold. The team gelled and laughed the entire time. So who gives a shit about the weather. If that’s not “ just my luck” I don’t know what is. 

 Congrats again, Team! For a hard fought summit and an excellent trip. 

RMI Guide Dominic Cifelli

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Congrats & strong work to all!! Shout out to my boy Koch for conquering South America! Have a safe trip down.

Posted by: Jeff Vos on 1/29/2024 at 10:11 am

Congratulations, Mikayla and the rest of the team!  Looks a little warmer there than AK

Posted by: Katherine Forsyth on 1/29/2024 at 9:14 am

Aconcagua: Team Ready for Final Push to the Summit!


If you had, one shot, or one opportunity, 

To seize everything you ever wanted,

In one moment.

Would you capture it or just let it slip?


My face is dusty,

I'm not weak, pack feels heavy,

There's something on my puffy already,

Dom's spaghetti, we're nervous.

But on the surface, we are calm and ready,

To rest step, but we keep on forgetting,

What snacks we bear,

How many puffy's should I wear?

We open our mouths, to get the pressure breath out.

I'm not choking, how,

We are not joking, wow,

The time is now, breaks up, 

Over, pow!


Snap back to reality,

Ope there goes vanity,

Ope was that rabbit? Beef stew,

It's that bad, but it's all that I got,

So I guess I'll just have it.

We know we've gotta get up and go, 

It don't matter, we're dope,

We know that, and we're tired, 

But not stagnant, we know,

When we go back to our mobile homes,

That's when we check on our snacks again,

Yo, I'm going choclatey.


Better go capture this moment and not let it pass us and,

We're gonna lose ourselves in the moment,

These moments, we own it,

And we'll never let them go.

If we only get one shot, we won't miss our chance to go,

This opportunity comes once in a lifetime,

Let's go."


All MC lyrics aside, this team truly is ready to go. We are ready to make one final push towards our ultimate goal of standing on the summit of Cerro Aconcagua. Here we are at 19,600 feet with our packs packed, our bellies full, and our excitement unable to be contained. Tomorrow's summit day will test us both physically and mentally, but we are ready to rise to the challenge and give it our all. I want to give a huge shoutout to all friends and family who have been following us on this journey. Stick with us a little longer as our biggest day is right in front of us. See you all tomorrow!


P.S. - Happy Birthday Eddie :)


RMI Guide Ben Luedtke & Team

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

I am so excited for all of you! Today is a great day for up! 

Go get your summit!

Posted by: Michelle DeMers on 1/27/2024 at 6:50 pm

Best birthday song ever!  Thank you all. That was simply amazing.  I’m very thankful and humbled. 

You all are going to do it. All the training, studying and planning leads up to the next 24 hours. 

You’re all such strong athletes and you will dig deep inside of yourselves for what is going to be an epic finish.

Posted by: Eddie DaPra on 1/27/2024 at 6:38 pm

Aconcagua Expedition: Cifelli & Team Take a Rest Day at Camp 2

Rest day

Two things sprung to mind when I was asked to do this post. First what my wife would say “another rest day, you go on vacation and you need rest days?” The other was why me - am I the best rester, is that my speciality?

This put me to think about this. Am I incapable of discussing the climbing/trekking days?  Is that just too technical for me - walking uphill on a pile of gravel and sand everyday - left, right, breathe, left, right, breathe. Yeah, that is super technical so I’m never going to be out in that brigade.

However, am I the best rester, what about the rest of the bunch?

Start with the guides.  They are never going to be assigned as superior resters.  Job security with RMI suggests they’ll never get the rester job.

What about Norm, my tent mate? Norm never rests.  Whether it’s out shooting beavers to make his wife’s world famous beaver stew, or do DIY around the house - shelves and presses to keep everything in place (he could do with some shelves in the tent!). No, not Norm.

Mikayla , hmmm?  No not her either. On rest days Mikayla is off negotiating world peace and post Cold War detente with any passing Poles or Russians Mikayla is too focused on world peace.

Chris, surely an option.  However, Chris is the best dressed person on the mountain. As we crawl from our tents every morning, covered in dust and stained with the remains of last night’s dinner, Chris is like James Bond - clean, sparkling. I’m positive he gets overnight Amazon deliveries of new gear. But I digress, is Chris a rester?  No, Chris spends his rest time searching for the latest gadget or piece of gear. What’s the next 360 degree camera?  Also Chris is an inventor and an environmental evangelist- something we didn’t know at the outset of this trip.  His latest “the Oop stove” provides instant sustainable heat in your tent and solves the blue bag challenge.  Also, even when I wake in the middle of the night I hear Chris doing some wind experiments. No, Chris’s rest days are his busiest days.

Finally the three lads - Andy, Jon, Ben.  (Ben has been a champion sleeper since he reconnected with his sleeping bag).  Whenever I ask Jon how his afternoon sleep went he replies “I had a great sleep”. So the anesthetist, the pathologist and the unsuspecting patient spend their afternoons doing some macabre fiendish high altitude medical research.  It’s important that science progresses

Yeah, I guess I am the obvious choice.

So the rest day was just that.  A quick 90 minute saunter up a nearby hill, that we somehow completed in 45 mins - thanks Ben L.  An afternoon sharing all the excess food we carried to Camp 2.  A charcuterie board, dates, granola.  It was truly a rest day

Climber Myles O'Neil 

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Myles you seem to be the only team member that knows the importance of a good rest day.  Mikayla does like to practice her Russian; who knows maybe world peace can be negotiated on the top of a mountain.

I’m excited for each days blog as you get closer to the summit!  Ever onward, ever higher!

Posted by: Michelle DeMers on 1/27/2024 at 5:55 am

That was a fun post to read.  I think I have your new team name after seeing this set of pictures.  “The Blue Man Group.”  (Sorry Mikayla, I did want to excuse you, so that probably doesn’t work).  Arc’teryx is drone dropping new gear daily.  You all are so close. Time to dig deep.  One foot in front of the other and just envision how good it is going to feel at the top resting while celebrating with hugs and fist-bumps.

Posted by: Ed DaPra on 1/26/2024 at 6:20 pm

Aconcagua: Cifelli & Team Rest-Step their way to Camp 3

Today began with a team meeting at breakfast. Last night there was a possibility that mud slides in the Vacas Valley would prevent us from coming down the mountain the way we came. Fearless leader Dom confirmed we would not be able to backtrack the way we came and instead would go down the other side of the mountain to the Mulas base camp, a route known as the "360." Since we would not be able to go back to our original base camp, we'll have one of the helicopters pick up our duffels and bring them to us at the Mulas base camp. 

Our carry day to Camp 3 today brought many us to new high points, with Camp 3 at nearly 19,600ft. Since we would have to carry all our gear up and over the mountain, as opposed to caching it at Camp 2, we all had pretty heavy packs. As we climbed today, the air got thinner and thinner, for most of us requiring a breath every step. Even though we have been at 18,000ft for almost two days, it still required significant fortitude to keep climbing. 

High elevation does a number on your body. As you climb higher, the decreasing oxygen makes it difficult to even do the very basic tasks, you loose your appetite and have to force yourself to eat, and for most climbers there is a point where they need start taking Diamox to help prevent high altitude pulmonary and cerebral edema. 

After a few days at a particular elevation, we get acclimatized and start feeling good. But we can only bring so many supplies and we have only so many days to get to the summit and back. So our schedule keeps us moving to a new higher point just as we were getting used to our current camp. This is mountaineering and one of the many things that makes it so difficult and the act of doing it so rewarding. Getting to a rest stop on a hike or the next-higher camp on a carry or move day brings a sense of relief that is hard to find in any other activity. 
As we approach our last uphill move day, and followed soon after by our summit bid, it's important to remember what a great feat we have accomplished so far, and how lucky we are to be up here with the best climbing team you could ask for. 

Climber Andy Green

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

This just got even more exciting. Mudslides, helicopter transport and an alternative route. You’re all so close!

Posted by: Ed DaPra on 1/25/2024 at 7:19 pm

Amazing! Difficult! Rewarding! And the VIEW!

Personally could have done without some of the detail on the altitude challenges on the body Dr. Green. I trust the spirit of the team to check on each other.  Difficult day for sure.

And, best of all, The Summit is Just There!

Posted by: Michelle DeMers on 1/25/2024 at 4:04 pm

Aconcagua: Cifelli & Team Ponder the World at Camp 2

Today was a “rest day,” which in Spanish apparently means “do your chores, pack your bag, unpack your bag, repack your bag, go for a hike up a steep hill and move rocks back and forth until you can hardly breathe.” And at 18,000 feet, just putting your shoes on can leave you breathless.

We did find some time for relaxation, however, with euchre, naps, confessions of past dating catastrophes, exchanging pro tips, and the best views we’ve had yet.

We also practiced making our camp look like we’re on a proper expedition rather than having a yard sale.

And we continued working on our hand tans.

Most importantly, we had time to ponder the important questions we’ve been debating over the last couple of days:

Why do mountain guides value a Coke more than the Hope diamond?  And why do they carry only one trekking pole while we all carry two? What do they know that we don’t? And why won’t they tell us.

How much stuff can you squeeze into your sleeping bag at night so it doesn’t freeze?

How can 10 Brazilians take up so much space?

What did the Russian climber do with the other Russian climber’s body that night?

Do blue bags come in other colors … or would that be confusing? And why don’t they have scatalogical humor printed on them so you’d have something to read at night?

How can I get rid of all my extra food so I don’t have to carry it up … and then down … the rest of the mountain?

And why do they call this camp TWO, even though the sign says camp THREE and it’s actually our FIFTH camp?

In any event, as much as we miss the daily comforts of home, there is something liberating about simplifying your life down to the contents of a single backpack - a bed that packs down into a cubic foot, one pair of shoes (as uncomfortable as these mountain boots are), a single bowl, a single spoon, one shirt, one pair of pants and in many cases a single pair of underwear. No decisions about what to eat for dinner. No traffic. No TV. No politics. Just endless, unparalleled views and good company. Liberating.

Wish us luck.

RMI Guide Dominc Cifelli and Team


Postscript: What do you call a mountain guide without a girlfriend?


Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Hey, incredible team! We’re so proud of you for taking on this monumental challenge. Remember, few people dare to chase their goals with such determination, but you are doing just that.

As you conquer Aconcagua, know that you’re not just climbing a mountain – you’re proving to yourselves and to the world that dreams are worth chasing!

Keep pushing forward, and know that we’re cheering you on every step of the way!

-Sandra & Marion Champlain (Ben’s cousin & auntie)

Posted by: Sandra Champlain on 1/25/2024 at 6:23 am

That is a hilarious joke. “Homeless.”

Posted by: Ed DaPra on 1/24/2024 at 6:58 pm

Aconcagua: Cifelli & Team Embark on Journey to Camp 2

“It’s a funny thing about life, if you refuse to accept anything but the best you very often get it.”  W. Somerset Maugham

And that’s what we have with this group, the best. Each person brings something unique which together creates something greater,  something which makes the team keep giving their all as we make consistent progress on our push towards the summit. 

Today, the team bid goodbye to Camp One and moved to Camp Two on Aconcagua.  We had a “record-breaking“ moment right before we left Camp One. The team looked forward to moving to Camp Two as we had caught a brief glimpse of the camp yesterday, dropping off our cache, refueling our bodies, maybe sneaking in a little internet and finally heading back down the mountain while surfing the scree on our boots. Now, camp two is our home for the next few nights.

This trip, at least for me and I’m sure this also echoes the sentiments of a few others, has been all about learning, not only learning about each other, but learning about our own individual physical and mental obstacles we face and have overcome and yet to be overcome. The mountain is only there to test the fortitude we already have inside and to make us stronger. 

One of my favorite books is Robert Fulghum’s “Everything I Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarten”, and so, in the spirit of learning, I now present to you “Everything I Didn’t Want To Know But Learned Anyway On Aconcagua”

1.    The words Chardonnay and shower can sound remarkably similar at high altitude.
2.    Adults still love story time.
3.    When you’re having a hard time with the climb and searching for reasons to continue, all you have to do is remember Guide Michael’s words “Whatever motivates you”
4.    No matter what you do, no matter what people may say, always keep your spoon……..and in some cases, your fork. 
5.    Be wary of unknown salt shakers.
6.    Make sure you pass food around the table until it gets back to the person who it was originally handed to.
7.    And finally, the most important thing to remember, the one thing that you must always keep in mind, especially when you need someone in your corner to help you with that final push to the summit…… Andy Always Wins.

Climber Benjamin Koch

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Powerful post and you all have the fortitude to reach the top. Now I’m really curious what is in that salt shaker.  Crushed Diamox?

Posted by: Ed DaPra on 1/24/2024 at 6:56 pm

This has been amazing to read through!  What grit you all have and I am truly inspired! I have no doubt that you are all strong, prepared and will get ‘er done! Looking forward to following the rest of the adventure :-) “Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.”  ~ Greg Child

Ben. Also in the spirit of learning I leave you with this, “Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears and never regrets.” ~ Leonardo Da Vinci
Be badass!
So proud of you!

Posted by: Donna (Mackinac/Philly) Scialanca on 1/24/2024 at 8:51 am

Aconcagua: Cifelli & Team Prepare to Move to Camp 2

Here we are, day eleven,

Out on the trail, it is only seven.

This morning brought us cans of spam,

Full of that, I’m sure I am.


Uphill we went to carry more,

Full of jokes and riddles galore.

If you think we're done, you're sorely mistaken,

But there's a mountain to climb and we won't be shaken.


1 bag, 2 bag, 3 bag, blue,

No matter the location, we'll have a view.

We start to feel lost without Dulce de Leche,

Alas, we’ll be fine, as this is our heyday.


Tomorrow, we move, up and up,

Did I remember to put enough coffee in my cup?

On to camp 2, we hear it has Wi-Fi,

No matter, we say, because we have bigger fish to fry.


RMI Guide Ben Luedtke

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

A true renaissance man! What can’t he do?! Thanks for the giggle with the blue bag reference. Keep crushing it out there, brother!

Posted by: Bill Thiel on 1/23/2024 at 8:13 am

Was this also a haiku?  I lost syllable count. Amazing you all are at 16,200 with camp established.  The first Polish explorers across this vast glacier definitely didn’t have wi-fi, but they definitely had the same enthusiastic spirit for adventure as your team does.

Posted by: Ed DaPra on 1/22/2024 at 9:38 pm

Aconcagua Expedition: Cifelli & Team Reach Camp 1, Establish Camp

Today we awoke for an 8am breakfast, the last luxurious basecamp breakfast for a week and a half. Hell has it really only been a week in this dust?! From meeting in peruivian airports to tent mates, how have we only known each other 9 days and in tents for 7?

We quickly ate our food and stashed away our future mountain lunch. Before long we were making our way up the mountain again. This time we kissed goodbye to the sweet creature comforts of basecamp… have no fear the speaker made it on the pack list! Up the winding switch backs, through the penetentes, over the glacier streams, and up the final scramble to our new home, campo uno. We set up camp, acquainted ourselves with our new bathroom situation, and started treating our water.

Tonight we feast on quesadillas and Indian style tasty bites… good thing we have our blue bags at the ready (RMI please take the hint). Tomorrow we have another big day, a carry to 18,000' feet. On this trip we’ve learned many things. We’ve learned why the moon waxes and wanes differently in the southern hemisphere. We’ve mastered the game of euchre. We’ve etched our guides pet peeves into our brains so as not to do those things..purposefully at least. But what we have yet to learn is our future on this mountain, we can only continue to set ourselves up for success, having each others back, and controlling what’s in our power to control. Summit or not, one thing we will walk away from this mountain without a doubt is what we’ve learned about ourselves, our proven strength, our attitude, and our camaraderie as a team of strangers turned friends.

I’d like to make a call out to our two biggest fans Eddie and my mom Michelle, and our other fans the polish team and the burrows. We have yet to decide on a team name, please send your suggestions in the comments, no guarantees we will use it, but we would love your thoughts!

And lastly. Happy early birthday to my ride or die Ambre, I love the hell out of you and I hope you have the best birthday. Lord knows I was thinking of you crossing that river!

Climber Mikayla Demers

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

I’ve been bragging about my bad-ass best friend to anybody who listens… so honored to receive a mountain-side birthday wish!

You have been, and always will be, the shining image of perseverance. I know in my heart that little J will see you as one of his hero’s <3

Also, make sure you share the chocolate!

Posted by: Ambre Judd on 1/22/2024 at 1:22 pm

Thanks for the shout out!  I’m following the team all the way.  I love hearing about your days, food, and team work.  I love the photos as well.

Team names:  I kind of feel like it should include doctor (since there are so many) and burros maybe. Mostly because I like burros and I’ve got ornery, little, Cinderellie the mule. That is if your looking for something fun.  The origin of the name Aconcagua appears to be in dispute.  I found several meanings to include “Snow-capped mountain” - “Stone Sentinel” - and “White Sentinel”. Maybe something with Sentinel? Just some random thoughts.

Looking forward to the next post!

P.S. Love you Mikayla, Captain, Badass, baby girl!

Posted by: Michelle DeMers on 1/22/2024 at 8:40 am

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