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Entries from Aconcagua

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

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 

Leave a Comment For the Team

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

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