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Mountaineering in Argentina- Parte 2

March 6, 2015

This is part 2 of 2, for to read part one click here.

Back in Mendoza, I got some rest for a few days before going to Aconcagua. It felt strange sleeping in a bed again, and I didn’t sleep well for a couple nights. I would wake up late, catching up on sleep lost during the trip, and try to get to McDonald’s for breakfast. I don’t really like McDonald’s, but I lost my debit card and couldn’t get cash, so I had to eat at places that took credit… pretty much just McDonald’s and the local hot dog joint, Mr. Dog.

I’d walk around downtown, eat as much as I could as often as possible, and relax. At night I would have dinner with the group, and with Argentinain dinners being quite late, finish around 11 pm and head back to Plaza Independencia where my hotel was.

It was a good break. I was pretty nervous about Aconcagua. Right before I left, I had heard about two people killed on the mountain that I had been familiar with on summitpost.org (Link to story). I was worried, but determined to give it my best shot. At some level the statistics are irrelevant in comparison to one’s own decisions. It does make you rethink the importance of those choices though.

This time we all organized food and equipment for the trip. We all shopped for the food, sorted it into meals, and got equipment sorted. We stayed four full days in Mendoza, and then packed up and headed back to Penitentes. At Grajales we packed all of our stuff into barrels that the mules could carry. The next morning I woke up feeling pretty sick, and had stomach pain and diarrhea. I would have to guess it was something that I ate, and I was sick for the next five days with stomach problems and the runs. Exactly what you don’t want heading into the mountains.

I felt pretty strong, but I knew that being sick would weaken my and test my reserve strength later on. I kept hydrated and tried to keep my mind off it. I was keeping up with the group, so I was convinced that I was doing pretty well.

We hiked from the trailhead outside of Penitentes and Puente del Inca to the first camp at Confluencia. We stayed two nights there and had a rest day, and most of the time it snowed lightly. Probably 8 inches accumulated, melted in the afternoon, and then another few fell again overnight.

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After the rest day, we packed up our stuff and hiked up to Plaza de Mulas at 4300 m. The sun was shining, the weather was excellent, and I felt pretty strong the entire day, although still had bowel issues. I think this was one of my favorite days of the trip. Early in the morning we walked in snow, and later in the day crossed back and forth between streams of melt.

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We stayed at Plaza de Mulas a couple days, first taking a rest day, and carrying food and equipment to Camp Canada at 4950 m. I felt pretty well, but up at Camp Canada I began feeling very lethargic. I was probably a bit dehydrated, but was surprised that I felt that poorly. Back at Plaza de Mulas I felt a lot better.

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The next morning we moved camp to Canada, and I did not feel very well. When we got up there it began snowing, and the wind picked up. We set up our tents and brought our stuff inside. The snow allow us to get water easily though. I did not sleep very well that night, and felt weak for the rest of the trip.

Unfortunately, as I was not feeling well, the weather was not great, and I am writing this nearly a year later, I do not remember every detail. I’m piecing together what I remember with what makes sense. I usually have a pretty good memory… but I guess this is why I should have written a journal. I also should have taken more photos.

The next day we hiked up to Nido de Cóndores (usually just called Nido… 5500 m). There was a foot of snow on the ground, more coming down, and I was pretty slow to get up there. I felt very bad, but I made it. Just one day at a time. I think we didn’t carry up there, or didn’t carry much, because we had heard that a wind storm was coming in.

I think we either had a rest day or carried a small amount of food/equipment the next day. The weather was clear, and the wind storm had started to come in. The views were great… but I was too lazy to take photos. I was getting worried about altitude sickness, and it occurred to me that this might be the highest I get on this trip. I was scared of getting altitude sickness and of affecting other people’s summit attempt. One day at a time, but lying in your tent 18 hours per day it eats at you.

The next day we decided to descend to Plaza de Mulas. It was too risky to wait out the storm at Canada, and possibly tear up the tents. Back at basecamp I felt a lot better, but I knew that I would not be able to make it to the summit with a comfortable safety margin, another 1500 m above Nido. The group planned to ascend from Plaza de Mulas to Nido in a day, and I knew that I couldn’t make that and be strong enough to summit two days later. So I called it, and hiked out to Confluencia two days later.

Another group member was injured and also had to descend. We made it to Mendoza that night, and the next afternoon I caught a flight to Buenos Aires and from Buenos Aires back home. I felt bad about leaving so quickly, but it was a relief to be back home.

Back in the US, I was really happy to see a few days later that some of the group made it to the summit and back to basecamp safely. I hope to attempt Aconcagua in a year or two, and I think this expedition gave me huge insight into what it takes to climb high mountains.

Overall, this trip has made a huge impression on me. I feel much more confident in the mountains, and feel that a huge amount of terrain and peaks now accessible to me. I would like to thank all of my friends on the trip and the guides for this experience.

Next, a couple of my amigos from the trip are heading out to Russia to climb Mount Elbrus. Until then I’m at school, working, and training.

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