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Entries from Aconcagua

Aconcagua: Cifelli & Team Trek to Last Camp, Enjoy the Moments

Last night we celebrated our return to Basecamp with an incredible meal of salad, eggplant, meat with chimichurri sauce and of course, wine. Most of us connected to Wifi and let family and friends know we were well and they were missed. The mood was celebratory and the conversations light and airy. We chatted, laughed and played Farckle late into the night knowing our task was not complete. We woke early and hiked for a total of 17.5 miles, spending the day processing the experience we are completing and what lessons it has taught us. But, how do you incorporate the lessons of the mountains to make yourself a better person? A better partner? A better parent? A better friend? Can you remember to enjoy the simple and minute moments in your day? Can you filter out the sounds of the wind, the background noise, and focus on what matters? Can you remember to take a break, take care of yourself and take care of your “team”? By the time we rolled into Leñas we were reminded that we have only a short walk out to civilization and all the pressures of the real world will be back but tonight we feasted again and laughed again and enjoyed the moment.  Whether that was petting a mule, watching the light fade on the mountain tops, feeling the cool breeze sweep through the valley or catch the stars brighten in the sky. Maybe that is the lesson of the mountain, being present and immersed in the moment, maybe that’s what keeps bringing us back to the mountains. 

PS: I love you Mama, Teddy and Everett. Can’t wait to give you big hugs and kisses soon.

Climber David Scordino

Leave a Comment For the Team (1)

Hey Team,
I do not know any of you, but I attempted Aconcagua a few years ago but did not summit. I was quietly cheering you all on and have really enjoyed all the blogs. Congratulations to all of you!

Posted by: Dave Kestel on 2/7/2023 at 10:13 am

Aconcagua: Cifelli & Team Enjoy Sunny Skies on Return to Basecamp

As the clouds dissipated and the grapple settled,  we awoke in our tents and decided to hit snooze. We waited for the warm kiss of the sun to dry our tents and only then, did we creak our sore muscles and joints into working.  Our walk down was a welcome change from the cold, damp weather of our night spent at Camp 3. The cool breeze, sunny skies, and grand vistas made our travel easy as we descended to Basecamp into open arms and champagne showers. 

We’re settled into Basecamp after a delicious asado and will sleep soundly tonight. Tomorrow, we start the walk out of the Vacas valley. It will be our final full day on the mountain. As pretty and rewarding as it’s been out here, we’re excited for the creature comforts that Mendoza has to offer.  

Tomorrow is a long day, but we’re excited to see the views and experience the valley without the nerves and trepidation that the beginning offers. 

Thanks for following along! 

RMI Guide Dominic Cifelli 

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Aconcagua: Cifelli & Team Summit and Return Safely to High Camp

Why do we climb mountains? It’s a pretty common question anybody in the mountain community gets asked. The beauty of the answer is that for each of us, it’s different. There is a common thread though. Being in the mountains, for all its tropes about toughness, grit, and partial insanity,  is uniquely vulnerable. Among the towering peaks and grand vistas it’s easy to feel small and that’s what we like about it. When you step out the door for an expedition you don’t know if you’ll come back successful, but the unknown and discomfort in each step is the allure that draws us back again and again. We find truths  about ourselves in the discomfort and vulnerability of mountain life that we can’t tap into in our everyday lives. The real truth is,  that being comfortable is overrated, and being vulnerable, the opposite. We summitted Aconcagua today. It was the best summit day I’ve ever had on the mountain. Windy, shaded traverses, that usually get my toes numb just thinking about them, were calm and warm (ish). Instead of hiding behind a buff or neoprene face mask to save skin, it was swapped with sun screen and lip balm. We made our way up the Stone Sentinel slowly, but surely, and stood atop at around 2:30pm local time. We were likely the highest people touching earth at the time. As we descended the clouds came in and by the time we were back in the safety of our tent we were happy to not hold that title any longer. Thunder, lightning, grapple the size of marbles started as soon as the last zipper zipped. We had timed the day perfectly. We will sleep well tonight, or as well as you can at 19,600 ft. Tomorrow we will descend to Basecamp and enjoy the food, warmth, and company.

RMI Guide Dominic Cifelli

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Go Mary Beth and team! You are awesome. She saw the mountain, and it was climbed. I’m so excited for you! Ellis

Posted by: Ellis Richman on 2/5/2023 at 3:45 pm

Good luck team!  Be safe and enjoy!  Love you Dom!  Uncle artie.

Posted by: Arthur Cifelli on 2/5/2023 at 12:14 pm

Aconcagua: Cifelli and Team Make Their Move to Camp 3

Hello from Camp 3, Colera!

Today, we woke up to a beautiful day with low clouds blanketing the valley below us. We packed all our gear and headed uphill. We walked in and out of cloud cover with the slightest breeze. We all appreciated the cooler temps and reprieve from the harsh sun.

After a few hours, we arrived at 19,600 feet. Everyone was feeling great, and we all worked together to get our tents set up.

Shortly after we arrived, the clouds filled in and the thunder rolled. Every time we’d hear the rumble, the whole camp would yell “tranquilo” which definitely helped because the clouds moved by and now, we have clear skies again.

We are all tucked in our tents and ready for our early morning start for the summit. Here we go!!

Jess and team

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Pulling for you Team!  Can’t wait to see pictures from the top.


Posted by: Cameron Presley on 2/4/2023 at 3:39 am

All of Alaska (me) is excited for your summit climb and will be thinking about you all. Much love.

Posted by: Floyd Spinner on 2/3/2023 at 9:30 pm

Aconcagua: Expedition Memories that will Last a Lifetime

Our hearts are heavy tonight and the dinner conversation a bit more somber. Some of our party went down with a guide to head for base camp early. All for different reasons, their decision to descend is the most respected choice in mountaineering, one that takes strength, maturity, and courage. Climbing tall peaks is never about how far we can push ourselves, but about respecting our limits and knowing when, for the sake of our team, to call this day our summit. And that is why our hearts are heavy.

Since we began this trek two weeks ago, we have come to deeply care for one another. Conversation has flowed beyond the biographies of our lives to the maps of our souls and the gentle silence reserved for only the most familiar friends. We do not climb to reach summits alone but to plumb the depths of our inner lives as well.

That’s why this note is to our group six months from now, when everyday life feels routine, and the memories of this trek will have faded:

Dear Friends,

By the time we read this on August 2nd much will have happened since our cold nights and card games on the mountain. Mary Beth and Jess will have summited Everest and brought needed attention and funding to Ovarian Cancer. We’ll all have read Tim’s book, Jack will have a fresh harvest of greenhouse tomatoes, Dom might finally have a sunburn from his beach vacation, David will be signed up for Denali, Cameron will have spent the better part of the summer in Costa Rica, and Gator will be a legend on Mount Rainier. The infrequent emails we share will take us back to this moment and our memories together. But we won’t remember the hard parts, for that tends to fade.

Instead, we’ll remember the early dinners, deep laughs, nicknames, and lessons that brought us home different people from when we left. We’ll remember our gratefulness for those who spent their careers serving our country and the allure of Alaska. We’ll remember the basics of geology 101 and the majesty of how the Andes first reached for the stars. We’ll remember trying to avoid sunburn and yet yearning for the first kiss of morning sun on our tents before breakfast. We’ll remember going to bed at seven pm, rationing batteries, forgetting if we filtered our water, and the magic of a Garmin inReach. We’ll remember the Argentines who sacrificed months from home to make this climb possible, and we’ll remember the loved ones back in the states who picked up the slack so we could chase our alpine dream.

Deeper still than these moments are truths that will form who we become. For together, we’ve learned how to rest and seen that empty days have a joy all their own. When obligations, activities, and emails stack up we’ll remember our slow days as much as our climbs. And lastly, we’ll remember that a group of eleven strangers - folks with little reason to cross paths in our ordinary routines - became friends by sharing our stories and a common goal. We’ll remember that it’s true for most strangers we pass (yes, even that group) and hold a moment’s more space for the serendipity and friendship still ahead on our future climbs and ordinary days. We’ll remember each other and what we shared together with deep affection - and that’s what will matter most.

Climber Hudson Baird & Team 

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

We have held you in our hearts and prayers daily. Blessed to have a seat in the balcony for all of you as your climbing and blogging inspire and instruct us.

Dad and Darla

Posted by: Jerry and Darla on 2/3/2023 at 10:55 am

We’re so proud and excited for you Dada! We miss you and hope you are able summit. Just remember it’s about learning, living, and coming home safely. Hugs and kisses - we can’t wait to see you and get some snuggles!

Mama, Teddy and Everett

Posted by: Jessica Sowinski on 2/3/2023 at 10:40 am

Aconcagua: Cifelli and Team Carry to Camp 3

Last night, we were sitting in the dome at camp 2. Dinner was finished, and everyone was in their tents for bed. The steam of freshly boiled water was rising as we poured the last of it into the hot pot.

We sat as a guide team, looking at updated weather and coming up with a summit strategy when in popped one of our team members,

“Hey, Can I talk to you guys?”

“Sure, sure. Come on in.”

She stepped through the door.

“I’d like to help carry this teammate’s weight tomorrow. I want this for him so badly and he’s struggling.”


This morning, after a breezy night straight into a breezy morning, I sleepily walked from the guide tent to the dome tent. Jack immediately handed me my little 1/2 L Nalgene filled with warm coffee,

“Dom made it for you.”

Packing up our bags to carry a load to Camp 3,

“How is your morning, Reacher?”

“I didn’t sleep well. I woke up early to the wind and helped tie down other people’s tents.”


Climbing mountains is an inherently selfish sport. We work hard to get ourselves to the top. It benefits us, the climber, more than anyone else. And there’s no problem with that.

I found my own healing in the mountains, my own growth, the ability to drive and push myself further than I thought possible.

And I fell in love with guiding because I loved helping others do the same - get out of their comfort zone, try really hard, take a really big risk.

But if there’s one thing this team keeps teaching me, one tiny miracle at a time, is that there is more than just our own little dreams happening. Even though 14 days ago we were total strangers, we are now people who have built deep relationships, so much so that we’ll offer to help carry another’s weight because we already believe in that other so much. We’ll share our bag of banana chips at every break, even though instinct tells us to hold fast to those calories we hefted all the way to 18,000 feet. We’ll tie down tents in the lonely early morning just because we don’t want our friends to blow away after a windy night.

And today, when all of us felt a touch alone in our struggle to Camp 3 at 19,600 feet, I looked a little closer and saw the sort of miracle that was a team coming together. Climbing a mountain not just for ourselves but with and for those we are inspired by. I saw that whatever has happened between us is profound and no matter if we stand on top or not, we won’t leave here unchanged.


RMI Guide Jess Wedel

Leave a Comment For the Team (1)

That is an Awesome right up about your Team and climb to high camp! Very heart felt l!! Best wishes getting to the Summit!!

Posted by: Dave Kestel on 2/2/2023 at 5:23 pm

Aconcagua: Cifelli and Team Enjoy Rest Day at 18k

I thought that some of our followers at home might enjoy an insider’s view of daily camp life. So, here it is:

The evening began with a six p.m. dinner of pasta lightly tossed in olive oil with sautéed bell peppers and onions and topped with grated Parmesan cheese. You could smell the delicious aroma circling the camp. After crawling into our tents, some of us watched videos, others read books, while Pops wrote poetry. Although we were tired and the weather was good for sleeping, we are each faced with a nightly dilemma - waking up with an urge to use a bathroom (which doesn’t exist above base camp).

The thoughts running through your head include: do I really need to get out of the warm comfort of my sleeping bag? Can’t I just go back to sleep and go later? It’s too cold outside! Will I disturb my tent mate? It takes too much energy. Where’s my toilet paper? Is my pee bottle already full?

These thoughts are on an endless repeat in your head until you finally give in and stumble out of the tent to take care of business.

With a sense of relief, you crawl back into your tent and kick yourself for wasting a half hour of sleep and not just getting up at the first urge. But the night continues with lots of twisting and turning as we try to find that perfect position until our arm or leg falls asleep - necessitating another turn. We still manage to get enough rest to climb upwards and onward.

Speaking of business - choosing a place to poop.

At camp, we do have a designated poop tent; however, there are many things to consider. We are each issued a big plastic bag which we can use in the poop tent by putting it into a big plastic bucket or finding a private spot and squatting. The upside to the tent is having a seat and the privacy of a tent. The downside is trying to separate pee from poop.

The other option is walking away from camp and squatting over the bag. The downsides are missing the bag, your private spot isn’t so private, and the huffing and puffing that occurs during the search. The upsides are the beauty of nature, no smelly hot tent, and easier to separate the pee from the poo. That’s probably TMI but this is part of camp life.


This morning we were gently awoken by Dom’s door to door tent service with hot drinks. It was the coldest night so far and none of us were particularly interested in leaving the warm sanctuary of our sleeping bags. Making the tent service much appreciated.

As the sun rose, our tents began to warm and we mustered the courage to emerge and begin our day of relaxing, recovering, and acclimatizing. The day started with another amazing breakfast of hash browns scrambled with bacon, peppers, and onions. Cooking this type of breakfast is no easy feat with limited pans, scarce utensils, and camp stoves that burn like jet engines.

We ate seated on rocks arranged in a circle while wearing gloves, hats, parkas, and puffy pants, as the morning remained cold. One moment, we are putting on layers and the next, we are taking them off. It’s a constant rotation of clothing. Conversations around the circle included what it’s like to be a cowboy, crazy outhouse stories, and how delicious rocky mountain oysters can be when fried over a campfire.

During the day, we take short walks around camp, eat more food so we don’t have to carry it, nap during the heat of the day, listen to music, read books, enjoy a variety of conversations, and play cutthroat card games. This recharges our batteries as we prepare for a carry to our last camp at 19,600’ tomorrow.


Mary Beth Kempner, aka “the editor”

PS Don’t worry Floyd, I’ve only temporarily taken over your job as editor. You are the editor of my life!

PSS Angela - thanks for your encouragement.

PSSS Shout out to Hudson for taking on the role of editor tonight

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Good job MBK!  Our best to all of you for the summit push.  Karen, Micki and Bart

Posted by: Karen Loeffler on 2/1/2023 at 3:48 pm

Thrilling you are that far. Go for it! love and light to the top! What a breathtaking experience this must be, and unforgettable. I know your tired and worn, we know climbing is more than just the summit. Your incredible courage and accomplishment will be felt for a lifetime. You GOT THIS! Love you Teri

Posted by: Teri Derr on 2/1/2023 at 7:29 am

Aconcagua: Cifelli & Team Moving to Guanacos Tres (Camp 2)

Monday, January 30, 2023

It takes the sun seven minutes to send its rays to Earth. It likely took the same amount of time for those rays to wake up the team once the sun was shining upon camp. We awoke to sapphire blue skies with out a cloud to been seen. The temperature quickly began to climb as the solar radiation has little to deflect it at this altitude. We too would soon be climbing but not quickly! Here on this mighty stone sentinel, we are but turtles, slowly but surely heading uphill. A symphony of grunts, moans and creaking joints was heard as the team emerged from their tents. A most excellent breakfast of bacon, eggs and bagel sandwiches was served slowly, giving everyone time for their coffee to kick in and to slowly stretch and limber up their bodies. Today is our third day on the move and the team is feeling the repeated days of exertion at these high altitudes. This continued movement uphill with no rest days since basecamp is not a punishment for poor expedition behavior, but instead a strategic move. Getting to Camp 2 (also known as Guanacos Three) will put us within striking distance of Camp 3 and the summit. We will rest here, acclimatize, and wait for the best possible summit day to appear. Tonight we will settle into our new altitude, enjoying each others stories during dinner while we sit outside basking in the pleasant weather, taking in the magnanimous views of the Argentinian Andes laid out below us, as far as the eye can see.

With much love from high above,

RMI Guide Jack “Gator” Delaney and the team.

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Aconcagua: Cifelli & Team Carry to Camp 2 & Enjoy their Mountain Family

When I first climbed a mountain years ago.  I did it to help a friend with a late life mid life crisis.  After that I continued to climb but never had an answer to the question “why”?  Today I found my answer. Today we trekked from Camp 1 to Camp 2.  A gain of around 2,000' in elevation.  On the walk it came to me that we have formed a mountain family. We have Dom the Dominating.  The father figure and leader of the group. Toothpick, the moral foundation.Gator. Charles Darwin. Origin of species. THE living fossil. David, the doc. Jack, the nephew that always says one more rep at the gym. Rossi, the long lost cousin from Europe.  Mary Beth, the aunt that always knows if your telling the truth or not.Hudson, hair = Epic!, Tim, the crazy uncle willing to medically treat your cats for everything. Cam, the strong but silent type. Today as we moved up the mountain.  We did it as a group with everyone matching speed and ability perfectly.  No one was left behind and all were in good spirits and willing to help anyone with anything. There were words of encouragement, and a sense of belonging - the likes you do not see very often. It is in this spirit that I can say everyone here is a Lion King compared to what you will see in an average day of work. Except Gator, he is more of a Gator King.

Signing out from Camp 1 with everyone in good spirits and health.

P.S. Jane I’m fine.

Climber Shane Chidester

Leave a Comment For the Team (1)

Mary Beth is the best! So proud of you! Ten cuidado y te amo cuñada!

Posted by: Angela Spinner on 1/29/2023 at 5:01 pm

Aconcagua: Cifelli & Team Ascend to Camp 1, Leave Comforts of Basecamp

Buenas from Camp 1 family and friends!

We have began our ascend up Aconcagua with the first familiar, yet challenging, climb to our new temporary home on the mountain. The day began with quick and strategic balance between gear packing and tent breakdown to allow for some overnight frost to melt. We devoured one of our last five star breakfasts for the next week, provided by our basecamp support team Ezikiel, Nadine and Laura! Truly the unsung heroes of expeditions. See you laters and thank you’s exchanged shortly after, the uphill climb started. Familiar zig zags and moraines appeared, quick breaks to refuel followed and meaningful conversations made the hike up enjoyable! Basecamp team had one more surprise for us upon arrival - tents already set up. With gear secured and camp established, we are all enjoying a new viewpoint of the Rallenchos valley below and a pristine snowfield above. Alternating between naps, reading, or podcast listening we are all replenishing energy. As we get ready for dinner and a restful night in this new rugged environment to my teammates I say ‘ Po paten vqtur’ / may the wind be with you/ , and those at home Obicham te/ We love you.

Camp 1 over and out.

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

To Pops and team, Amazing work everyone! You had a group of 10 yr old boys all very impressed. Xander was telling his friends how his grandpa is climbing the tallest mountain outside of the Himalayas. One friend said he imagined his grandpa climbing a mountain and there NO WAY he could that. He said he’d like to meet you when you return from your expedition. I think you’re starting a fan base. Keep up the good work.
Love, Noel

Posted by: Noel on 1/29/2023 at 9:59 am

Really appreciate the updates!! -Be careful - don’t slip - take lots of pictures!
Love my John,  Jack R’s mom

Posted by: Elizabeth Roelofs on 1/28/2023 at 9:59 pm

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