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Entries By michael murray

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

Aconcagua Expedition: Cifelli & Team Enjoy Day of Rest

"Rest is the sweet sauce of labor"


Today was a day of rest, as well as a day of mystery. Who is commenting on the blog anonymously? Is Alaska simultaneously the most Northern, Western, and Eastern state? Can burros actually type? Cows are eating chickens? We may have answers to some of these questions, but others remain a mystery.

Anywho, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast before taking a nice walk to stretch the legs and spent the rest of the day relaxing, charging devices,  and mentally preparing to leave our sweet base camp sanctuary for the upper mountain. In the next ten days we will test ourselves mentally and physically as we come together to climb higher on this mountain with a goal of summiting the tallest mountain in South America. It will not be easy, but I have faith in this team that we can buckle down and take care of business up there. We sincerely appreciate the love and support we have been receiving from home, it truly makes a difference. 

I will leave you all with a Haiku from our time at basecamp:

Wine, Steak, Starlink, Naps

We Are Not Playing Euchre?

Yeehaw, Uphill Now

- RMI Guide Michael Murray

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Some great rest before some serious climbing.  Love the haiku. I had to read the rules on Euchre and still not sure I understand what that game is all about. Here’s to the entire team working together and sharing in a joy of summiting. Get it Ben!

Posted by: Ed DaPra on 1/21/2024 at 3:34 pm

Good luck Mikayla and the rest of the team! You got this. May the weather be better than Denali ;)

Posted by: Pete Tymitz on 1/21/2024 at 11:39 am

Aconcagua Expedition: Cifelli & Team Carry Gear and Supplies to Camp 1 without mules

El burro sabe mas nosotros?

The mules don’t go past Base Camp but we do. We carried half our supplies and equipment from base camp to Camp 1 today at 16,400ft. Our heavy loads, the elevation and lose footing challenged all of us. We all made it and hopefully will sleep well tonight. The return to Base Camp was much faster and more fun. 

The mules do this for room and board.  Seven of us paid to sleep in a tent and haul gear/supplies up abd down the mountain. 

Personally I am impressed and extremely thankful for the team dynamics. Everyone is so supportive, encouraging, concerned for each other. We met less than a week ago but everyone truly cares for each other. We all have the same goal- for All of Us to have fun and reach the summit. 

Some of the mules don’t seem to play as well together, so, even if we are not smarter, we have that over them.


Climber Norm Cognetto 

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Yeah, carry your own gear

Posted by: The Burros on 1/20/2024 at 6:22 am

You wouldn’t happen to have an extra dome tent would you?

Posted by: Your Polish Friends on 1/20/2024 at 4:42 am

Aconcagua Expedition: Cifelli & Team Enjoy Rest Day At Base Camp

A day of rest, a lie in, coffee in bed, maybe a bagel, a nice long hot shower, a day at the spa for some, a day without kids, we all have our definition, our dream.  A day of rest at 13,800 ft is a little different.  Today is the day where you plan for the carry to Camp 1, gear is divided and camp essentials are split between us all.   It’s first come first served - do I want a frying pan, a grill, 3 bottles of fuel, or 2000 bags of dried spaghetti bolognese?   What will fit in my bag?  One person who has it all sorted is Ben, he’s called in Rob to carry his bag. 

The part of the body that doesn’t get a rest day is your brain - have I packed everything, have I included enough food, can I carry that monster a.k.a 100-liter rucksack, should I snag a porter?  And this is supposed to be a vacation.  

The wind at base camp was pretty raucous today - a couple of tents (not ours) were seen blowing across the camp being hastily pursued by wildly gesticulating would have been mountaineers. 

All in all, a good restful (?) day, only interrupted by a vigorous stroll up to the start of the glacier at 14,500ft - a new high for a member of the team. However, the altitude is having an impact.  Last night the team was playing cards, after about 1 hour of playing rummy Andy commented

“is this Rummy, I thought it was Euchre, it’s seem a lot like rummy”.  It was time for bed. 

Climber Myles O'Neill

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Simply Amaze me today!!!!

Posted by: Julie Couturier on 1/19/2024 at 6:27 am

One more question for some of you, ‘should I have trained more?!’ But you are all experienced and will be awesome. What a marvelous experience. Ultreia!

Posted by: Mary McKinley on 1/19/2024 at 6:19 am

Aconcagua: Cifelli & Team Finish Trek to Base Camp and Enjoy the Luxuries

Day three of our trek to base camp began with an alpine start, getting up before sunrise. After breaking camp and a quick breakfast we were at our first, of two, river crossings just as the sun was rising. The glacier-cold water caused a sudden shock to the senses, making it painful and difficult to continue crossing. As the water got up to our knees, the painful cold made it impossible to move our legs, and we needed the encouragement of our fearless guides to get us across.  

After that we were wide awake and ready to leave the Vacas valley and spend the day hiking up the Ralenchos valley. Not long after the river crossing we soon got our first glimpse of the size and grandeur of Aconcagua. After hiking up the narrow valley, safely getting through a few exposed sections above the river, and our last river crossing, the valley opened up to high desert plains dotted with large boulders and low thorny bushes.

A few times throughout the day, we had to move out of the way of the stedfast burros carrying gear to and from base camp. Mostly following the path, some would misbehave and try to go another direction, requiring the gauchos to yell and whistle to get them back in line. 

After making it to base camp, we were greeted by the wonderful Grajales staff. We all sat down in the dome tent where we eat, and were brought fresh fruit, sodas, and we made coffee and yerba mate (a local highly-caffeinated tea that guide Ben introduced us to). This was followed by a delicious lunch of pan-fried pork belly, potato salad, zucchini, and cup of fruit for dessert. 

We then set up all our tents at our campsites, got settled in, and relaxed as we are getting used to the thin air of 13,800ft. 

Base camp is even better than our prior two camps. In addition to the dome tents to eat and hang out in, bathrooms (which can be a challenge for some to get out of), solar-panel power to charge our electronics, and wifi that is faster than at home, there are showers! At 13,800ft!

This evening's dinner was exceptional as always! 

Broccoli soup, steak, wine, and crepes (Myles did not have wine, Fionnuala). 

We'll all sleep well tonight, now that everyone has their sleeping bags.

Shout out to Eddie!

Climber Andy Green 

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

You know it’s getting real with a 50lb pack on your back and a glacier-melt river up to your knees. I also heard that Ben is willing to assist the porters with any additional gear needing to get to carried to the next camp.

Posted by: Ed DaPra on 1/18/2024 at 6:28 am

I love these posts!  Thank you for keeping those of us who are with you in spirit in the loop and with all the detail.  The river crossings sound so painfully cold. Now rest and recharge as you acclimate to the altitude. Buen Camino Mikayla!

Posted by: Michelle DeMers on 1/18/2024 at 5:11 am

Aconcagua: Cifelli & Team Enjoy Their Trek through the Vacas Valley

Life is a series of stories, so you might as well make them good ones. We’re only three days, but pretty sure this will be a good one. 

Fueled by last night’s asada feast and our bellies full of Malbec, and well rested after a night slept tentless under a show of stars unrivaled by any planetarium or AI manipulation, we set out this morning for 11 miles of the high desert’s finest. 

Led by the galloping gait of our fine Irishman, an unreasonably large number of doctors, the poet who engineered yesterday’s post, a reformed lawyer and our hockey-stick-wielding air force officer, we owned the trail like the parking lot scene in Reservoir Dogs. 

The Vacas valley treated us to long views of the mountains to come, galloping burrows, a lone guanaco and the Rio Vacas flowing with enough force to make us eager to walk upon the snow that must be powering it. 

That same river forced us into our first sketchy scramble and our first bit of exposure. Good to get the juices flowing.  

After finally rolling into our campsite - with another posh welcoming spread - Dominic choreographed a photoshoot in front of our first view of the great mountain we hope to summit. 

All in all, today we showed that although we are dirty,  and sweaty, and stinky … this group is STRONG and worthy of this mountain. 

We are not, however, without weakness. In the last few days our greatest fears have temporarily shifted from “how are we going to handle the extreme altitude?” to irrational anxiety about the elusive scorpions, the phlebotomist black flies and whether we lost our toothbrushes. 

Until tomorrow … onward!

Postscript: Best snack of the day - yellow bell pepper stuffed with leftover carne asada. 

Climber Chris Lind

Leave a Comment For the Team (1)

Seems like the start of a great joke: “a doctor, a lawyer, and a poet go into a bar.”  What’s not a joke is your team’s pace. You all are crushing it.  Keep up the great work!

Posted by: Ed DaPra on 1/17/2024 at 2:57 am

Aconcagua: Cifelli & Team Begin Trek to Base Camp

Greetings from Pampa de Lena's! We awoke this morning at the rustic Hotel Ayelene eager to start our way up Aconcagua. We busily made final adjustments to our packs as questions about readiness filled our minds. Are we trained enough? Do we have the right gear packed? Will those croissants from this morning make it till break tomorrow? Will present Chris get in the way of past Chris helping future Chris pack?

But as we started walking questions like these fade away. Fueled by sweet bell peppers as we arrive at camp in style.

Climber Jon Honda

Leave a Comment For the Team

Aconcagua: Cifelli & Team Arrive Mendoza, Prepare Gear

Welcome to the Blog! This first one will be written by me, Dominic Cifelli, but throughout the trip we pass the torch to all the climbers in order to gain different perspective on the day in/day out of the trip. Keep a lookout for your loved one's name on the blog and please enjoy!

We're off! Landing in Mendoza, we were greeted with the warm temps and long days of the South American summer. A far cry from the cold snap our loved ones are experiencing in the U.S.A. The day was filled with long lunches, a siesta or two, and perusing the local markets for gifts and very late Christmas presents.

The first days of an expedition are exciting and quite hectic as we prepare, check, and recheck our equipment for the journey ahead. I always find that once we start walking, everything gets simpler because we can no longer quadruple check that we packed that favorite pair of socks or brought the right mittens. What's packed is packed and the job will become putting one front in front of the other.

That's for tomorrow's enjoyment, however. The rest of the day will be filled with prepping the duffels and food for the rough ride they take on the mules to Basecamp.

We do this in the "town" of Penitentes, close to the entrance to Aconcagua Provincial Park.

Stay tuned and wish us luck as we try to finish up the monstrous task of packing for a three-week trip.


RMI Guide Dominic Cifelli

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Get it!  Wishing you all enjoyable and safe travels.  You all trained and prepped so diligently, now it’s time to enjoy the trek to the top. Prayer and encouragement from Seattle.

Posted by: Ed DaPra on 1/16/2024 at 6:18 am

Good luck!  Praying for a safe summit!

Posted by: Michelle DeMers on 1/15/2024 at 4:38 am

Ecuador Volcanoes: Wittmier & Team Turn Around at 18,000ft on Antisana

Monday, December 11, 2023 - 8:45 pm PT

So it goes with climbing sometimes we take what the mountain gives us and unfortunately that isn't always the summit. The team awoke around 11pm to beautiful weather and had an incredible few hours of climbing under the stars on the upper slopes of Antisana. Every member of Team Cuy Frito showed off their impressive strength navigating a breathtaking and complex glacier, it was really a sight to see. As the team got just above 18,000 feet, we encountered some instabilities in the snow and made the decision to turn around due to avalanche concerns. While we didn't get to stand on top of this one, it was still a wonderful day of climbing. It has been a joy to watch the team come together as one big goofy family over the course of this adventure. We will all be coming back with memories to last a lifetime and our head's held high knowing we kicked some serious butt in the mountains along the way. Thank you for all the support at home and we will be seeing you all soon!

RMI Guide Michael Murray

Leave a Comment For the Team (1)

Hey Dustin & Team!
You gave it your best and Im sure it was an Incredible experience! Being a farmer Mother Nature is always the boss and sometimes she will over rule us!
Farmer Dave

Posted by: Dave Kestel on 12/14/2023 at 2:55 am

Ecuador Volcanoes: Wittmier & Team Arrive at Antisana Basecamp

The team has arrived at Antisana base camp and we are organizing gear for our summit attempt tonight. We are hoping for favorable weather to get this thing done. Wish us luck up there and send us some positive energy and clear, dry skies!

RMI Guide Michael Murray

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Good luck Laura, and to all of you!!!  Sending you lots of positive energy.

Posted by: Rich-E Schafer on 12/11/2023 at 9:50 am

Hey Dustin and Team!
Here is me sending Best wishes for Strength, Stamina, big Strong Lungs and legs and most of all a Star filled sky and light breeze and a Spectacular Sunrise!!
Farmer Dave

Posted by: Dave Kestel on 12/11/2023 at 2:45 am

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