Entries By katrina bloemsma
For the past two winters I’ve traveled to the south side of the globe to join RMI’s teams on Cerro Aconcagua (Argentina). Despite being a skier and winter-lover through and through, each fall I find myself eagerly anticipating my trip to Argentina. Thanks to the Andes, the cuisine, and the new friends I make there each year, I’ve fallen in love with Aconcagua. Here are the top five reasons I look forward to making the long voyage south each winter:
Mules: Aconcagua is a unique mountain in that it is exceptionally dry. Its base camp at 13,800’ is reached by hiking twenty-seven hot, dusty miles along the Vacas river which sits deep in a rocky and sparsely vegetated valley. We rely on mules to carry our heavy expedition equipment to Base Camp over the course of our trek. The mules, loaded with two or three 30 kilogram duffels a piece, run along the river kicking up dust with the southern flanks of Aconcagua as a backdrop. Unlike horses, which expire quickly without water, the mules can run the 27 miles to basecamp fully loaded in a single morning and make the return trip to the trailhead that same afternoon. The mules are cared for and driven by Herrieros, the predecessors of the iconic South American Gauchos. The Herrieros ride the largest and sleekest mules and wear a traditional red cap that looks like a wool beret. They tie large patterned sashes around their waists and tuck a large, leather-sheathed blade in the back. At night the sashes are used to cover the eyes of the younger or more rambunctious mules in camp while the riders sit around a fire and grill in the Argentinian style. Which leads me to another part I love about an Aconcagua expedition…
Asado: A traditional grill that sits just off the ground. Slow burned hardwood provides the coals to cook large slabs of heavily salted steak. There is simply nothing better than coming down from climbing to a camp dinner of fresh steak and wine. Over our Asado dinner the last night on trail, the team has a chance to reflect and enjoy each other’s company, knowing they’re reaching the end of a successful expedition.
Mendoza: This small city nestled in Argentinian wine country is our jumping off point for all Aconcagua expeditions. Mendoza draws tourists of all sorts: wine connoisseurs, climbers, fly fishers, horseback riders, and a host of others. But all of them find in Mendoza some of the best cuisine and wine South America has to offer. The rise in popularity of Argentinian wines complements a rich food culture that descends from a mélange of European and native cultures. Whatever you crave after three weeks in a tent, whether steak, authentic Italian pasta, empanadas, fusion, or just pizza, you’ll find it in Mendoza. I promise, it will be delicious.
The View from Chopper Camp: So far everything I’ve mentioned about climbing Aconcagua has been about food and culture (forgive me, I love a good meal!). And while the cultural experience in Argentina is undoubtedly one of my favorite parts of the Aconcagua expedition, the view at Camp Two on Aconcagua takes my breath away every time. Sitting below the Polish Glacier on a small ridge at 18,600ft, Camp Two (or Chopper Camp) offers up the first views of the greater Andean range. From Base Camp on up, climbers see Aconcagua towering above them day and night, until suddenly we come around the final traverse into camp and the Andes stretch out as far as you can see: to the north and east toward Mendoza and west all the way into Chile. It is here, at Chopper Camp, that the expedition picks up energy: the summit is close, the final push on the horizon!
The Team: As the old adage goes, it takes a village to climb a mountain, or something along those lines. Aconcagua requires a tremendous amount of teamwork every step of the way. Our broader team includes the mule drivers who make sure our equipment arrives, the porters who help a climber with an especially heavy load, the Base Camp staff who cook us our first dinners, the drivers, expedition providers, hotel staff and numerous others who work with RMI year after year to make sure climbers and guides are cared for along the way. These people become part of our team. They have become friends and mentors and I look forward to seeing them each year. And then, there is our expedition team: the three guides and ten climbers who live together, work hard building camp together each night, eat every meal together for almost three weeks, and learn more about each other in that time than most people learn in a year. This network and the chance to be part of a new climbing team, more than anything else, calls me back to Aconcagua year after year.
Katrina Bloemsma hails from the mountains of Colorado, but now calls the Pacific Northwest home. She guides in Washington on Mt. Rainier and the North Cascades, and further south, on Aconcagua. An avid skier and climber, Katrina can be found chasing deep snow and warm rocks when she isn’t guiding.
May 30, 2015
Four Day Summit Climb
The Mount Rainier Summit Climb team led by JJ Justman topped out on Columbia Crest at about 7:30 this morning. JJ reported great weather and light winds of about 15 – 20 mph. After spending some time on the summit, the team began their descent about 8:20 a.m.
Congratulations summit team!
January 31, 2015
Hi all. Billy here with the last installment from our riveting series of blog posts documenting one of this year’s RMI Aconcagua expeditions. We officially wrapped up our program last evening with an amazing dinner at Francesco Barbera complete with all of the pageantry you’d expect from a fine dining experience in Argentina: cocktails, wine, delicious handmade pastas, dessert, coffee. We deserved a little luxury after so much hard work in such a harsh environment and indeed there was much rejoicing. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the members of the team for their patience, dedication, and hard work all along the way and to thank Katrina and Billy Haas for being exceptional guides and teammates the whole trip too.
I’ve had tons of fun and can’t wait to come back next year…
congrat’s to Billy, Katrina, and Billy Haas ! super job to all !
Posted by: Bill Nugent on 1/31/2015 at 2:58 pm
January 30, 2015
We made it off the trail today and after a quick lunch and a semi-successful sage sauce recipe aquisition in Penitentes we loaded all of our duffels onto the van and hit the road for Mendoza. We got into town around 5:30 or 6, checked into the hotel, and finally got those showers we´ve been dreaming of for so many weeks. Our sunburned, dirty faces definitely make us stand out among the normal people of the city but what can you really do? We´re headed out for a brew pub and a casual dinner tonight before we have our official celebratory dinner tomorrow night at a fancier restaurant. I´ll check in one more time tomorrow evening to officially wrap the expedition up.
Ciao, headed for some cervezas…
RMI Guide Billy Nugent & Team
So, Glen, you are back on semiI level ground. Havel a good meal and shower, bet that feels good. Have a safe trip back home. See ya soon!
Posted by: John and Kathy on 1/30/2015 at 6:23 pm
January 29, 2015
Well, we made it back to Basecamp. Big loads and tired feet made for a tough day but we were greeted at Basecamp last night by a spread of snacks and cold drinks, but more importantly, hugs and congratulations from Anita and Grizzelda the Basecamp managers. We dined on steaks and real salad and vegetables which were absolutely delicious after over a week of mountain food. This morning we woke up had a quick breakfast before readying the mule loads and are now about to hit the dusty trail for Pampa de Leñas. The herrieros will be preparing a traditional asado there for us tonight but I anticipate that we´ll be out of touch for the evening because it´s hard for the satellite phone to stay connected down there. The canyon walls are just too narrow. The long march home continues…
RMI Guide Billy Nugent & Team
January 26, 2015
12:45 pm PT
Billy called the RMI Office from Camp Cholera: Everyone is safe and sound. We will stay here tonight and descend to Plaza Argentina tomorrow afternoon.
Thank you for all the blog comments and congratulations!
8:48 am PT
Hey there, it’s Billy Nugent of the team El equipo de dos Guillermos, checking in from the summit of Aconcagua. I’m up here right now with six climbers and three guides, 22,800-something feet. So what do you guys think? [Team cheers!] As you can tell a happy but tired bunch. Everyone is doing extremely well. We are definitely winded up here at extremely high altitude. We’ll give you guys a jingle when we are headed back into our high camp at Plaza Cholera.
Other shout-outs. [Brief loss of transmission]
Carter, Walker, and mom I love you guys so much. Thank you for everything.
Erica, Thurston, Bella, Brent, Ally, Christian, everyone. We made it! Hurrah!
Hey guys, it’s Lindsay, I made it. Thank you so much for the support and love. Love you guys. See you when I get back.
Tanya, Benjamin, and Abby- love you and I’ll see you all soon.
Kathy, Kelsey, Eric, Ailie- I love you. I’m on the top of Aconcagua- woohoo! Jerry and Rhonda, John and Kathy- thanks for the support. I’ll be seeing you soon.
Babs and Phil- much love from Katrina.
That’s all I got unless Haas has something. I love you mom and dad [from Billy Haas].
Sorry mom and dad, love you guys too. Signing out. We’ll call you from high camp.
RMI Guide Billy Nugent and team call in from the Aconcagua summit!
On The Map
Hey Glen congratulations you made it! Fridolin
Posted by: Fridolin on 1/28/2015 at 2:52 pm
Sorry just had to post… We are just so proud:))) sounds like an amazing team… can’t wait to hear about it all. Sleep well under the stars. Xx
Posted by: Aliki on 1/27/2015 at 4:47 pm
January 25, 2015
Hey everybody. It’s Billy calling in from Camp Cholera at19,600 feet here on the side of Aconcagua. We’re all settled into camp and melting snow, filling water bottles right now. We are looking forward to dinner and early to bed tonight. Hopefully take a crack at the summit tomorrow. Right now the weather is partly cloudy and just a gentle breeze. Things are pretty nice, other than the fact that camp is bone, bone dry. We have to hike almost 20 minutes out of camp to fill garbage bags full of snow and bring them back just to fill water bottles. Other than that nuisance, things are going well, the teams in great spirits and hopefully that weather forecast holds true and we have a perfect day tomorrow. We’ll check in again during the day and let you know how it’s going. All for now, bye.
RMI Guide Billy Nugent calls in from Aconcagua High Camp.
On The Map
Looks gorgeous there - cannot wait to hear how the ascent goes
Posted by: sasha hogan on 1/26/2015 at 10:55 am
Lucy, Corell and the whole team- good luck tomorrow and let the force be with you! So proud of those Team Waki girls!
Posted by: Kathryn LeBey on 1/26/2015 at 7:39 am
January 23, 2015
Wulp… Here we are settled in to camp up here at Aconcagua Camp 2 at over 18,000ft enjoying beautifully clear skies and a nice gentle breeze. Haas and Katrina are outside whipping up a tasty meal and hanging out with the team enjoying the afternoon. Not much else to report… The team is in great spirits and hoping for this great weather to hold!
On The Map
Glen, the scenery gets better as you guys climb higher and higher. We hope the weather holds good for your next two legs of the journey. At night, I bet the sky is beautiful and full of stars! Have a good rest then onward….
Posted by: John and Kathy Papile on 1/24/2015 at 8:11 am
Glen, mi amor, have you been doing some star gazing? I bet the stars are so beautiful. It snowed this morning in Texas and has been really cold. It’s been clearing this evening and the stars are bright. Miss you lots. Love, Katalina
Posted by: Katalina on 1/23/2015 at 5:56 pm
January 22, 2015
Aaah, the rest day. El equipo de dos Guillermos is sun bathing, snacking on turkey jerky and guacamole, and letting our minds and legs recover from the carry yesterday. The team is in great spirits today, and since we have some extra time, we thought we’d have every climber give their own little shout out! Here it goes:
Glen: Mi carino. Te quiero. Abrozos y besos.
Lindsay: I’m feeling great and miss you all! Guess which limerick was mine?
Gerald: Missing me yet lol. Missing you! Charlotte, good luck Saturday.
Lucy: I miss you all and love you all so much. Walker, have you heard?!
Floyd: Feelin’ great. Working hard at resting and sitting still. Tanya, hope you’re feeling better. Miss you all and see you soon!
Corell: Feeling fine, weather is nice. Miss you all! Hope the hunting trip was good and the Eagle Scout manual is progressing. Thurston, remember to study! Love to everyone.
RMI Guide Billy Nugent & Team
What a treat to get personal notes with today’s update. I’m recovering, and the kids and I wish you all the best on the rest of your journey. XOXO
Posted by: Tanya on 1/23/2015 at 3:58 pm
Corell - Thurston stayed in Arkansas and got a job at Mack’s Prairie Wings selling AR-15s. Says he has found his true calling in life. I am going to sit in for him on his Eagle board and try to do his homework, though the math may be challenging. We just had long addition and subtraction when I went to school. Those ice formations in the picture look really cool - like terra cotta warriors of penguins, or midgets in the Klan, right? Love you!!!!!!!!!
Posted by: Thurston on 1/23/2015 at 3:42 pm
January 21, 2015
Windy today… After an all-things-considered-decent night last evening at Camp 1 we woke this morning to clear skies and calm winds. Perfect, we thought, for a push up to Camp 2 to drop off another cache of supplies. The team made good time and dispatched the uphill portion of the carry in three stretches moving smoothly and in good style. The wind beat us up a little bit but in the end it was nothing but a nuisance as we passed through Ameghino Col. We saw some of our first views of other big peaks in the range as we passed underneath the toe of the Polish Glacier. The mountain is VERY dry right now and we’ve heard that getting snow for water up at high camp is problematic, at least there’s still a good flow of water coming through the stream at Camp 2. We are all back down at Camp 1 safe and sound, looking forward to a rest/acclimatization day tomorrow!
Ciao, for now.
On The Map
Thank you for the updates. I loved your song!
Lots of Love from 8000
Posted by: Barbara Lynn Bloemsma on 1/22/2015 at 9:18 am
Linz - I’m getting a desperate feeling that I need to walk on some rocks. Does walking down the gravel road in Indiana qualify as scree? Wish I was there. Rock on girl! Pop
Posted by: Les on 1/21/2015 at 6:14 pm