From My Journal: Aconcagua (22,823 Feet)

Where: Argentine Andes
When: January 2007
Partners: Mike Cressman, Rick Kent & Scooter from Jackson, WY

Cuerno (17,716 feet)

January 1, 2007 - (USA)
-Departure, while listening to Led Zeppelin on my new iPod.

-Enjoying a light nap on the plane, I'm starving by the time we get to Miami. There, Rick Kent and I enjoyed lunch, I called home, and we tweaked our itinerary for the mountain. This, we hope, will take us higher than any of us had yet been.

-Mike Cressman eventually joins us in Miami, sporting a map he'd created with the nifty topo program he wrote.

January 2, 2007 - (Chile/Argentina)
-Feeling like the walking comatose, we arrived in Mendoza, Argentina via Santiago, Chile and stumbled around for a bit, excited about having our first view of the big mountain on the flight over from Chile.

-Walking around, we stopped in to buy our permits ($330 a person), water, matches and sunscreen (as mine had been confiscated the TSA people in the U.S.).

-Not much of a steak eater, Argentina prides itself on its gigantic steaks. The three of us enjoyed a round of steaks and red wine in a beautiful sidewalk cafe.

-Returning to our hotel (called Nutibara), we sorted our gear and talked more about our itinerary, with lots of climbers milling around in anxious anticipation of the climbs to come. A few are proudly showing their faces, having already returned successfully from their respective efforts.
One of the lagunas on the approach into Horcones Valley

January 3, 2007 - (Mendoza/Confluencia)
-After sleeping 10.5 hours at Nutibara, me, Rick and Mike piled into a van we'd arranged to take us to Puenta del Inca, where we'd hire mules to carry our gear up to basecamp.

-Eventually arriving at Confluencia, our first camp, we discovered a tent city. We settled in there for the night, buddying up with Scooter, a young dude from Wyoming who was taking a year to tour the Third World and turned out to be a really decent guy. He'd hang with us for the duration.

-Meeting with the camp doctor, my blood saturation level was 85 and my blood pressure was 150/100

-Before settling in for the night, I tried calling home. No service.

January 4, 2007 - (Confluencia/Mulas)
-In the morning, we packed up the mules and I returned to the doctor, a cardiologist. My saturation was 95 and blood pressure now 160/100. The doctor told me to stop taking my Allegra and to see the doctor when we got up to Plaza de Mulas, our basecamp.

-Hiking up to basecamp, I stopped often to enjoy the peanut/chocolate nugget cookies I'd brought from Trader Joe's, not to mention the fine views along the Horcones Valley.

-Eventually arriving at Plaza de Mulas, we found it delightful. An internet cafe, telephones, several restaurants, and even an art gallery! I fired off an email home.
Footbridge on way to Horcones Valley

January 5, 2007 - (Plaza de Mulas)
-I slept poorly but woke feeling great and enthusiastic.

-Wandering around camp, we learned that snow was in the forecast for the following day. Our tentatively warm-up climb of Bonete might have to be postponed.

-Heading to the Refugio, a large(ish) hotel with showers, a restaurant, phone and internet, a mere 20-minutes away, I called home and played around online for a bit.

-Before heading to the doctor in the afternoon, I dozed against a boulder, occasionally opening my eyes to enjoy the views of Cuerno, the Horcones Glacier, Manso, and the big west face of Aconcagua.

-After visiting the doctor (sat. 83/bp 150/100), the winds picked up and large, fluffy clouds started to float in. The sounds of the wind meter, drying clothes and flags flapping, and dogs stirring in the sun initiated a sense of loneliness I began to feel.
Miles upon miles of hiking in the hot and dusty Horcones Valley

January 6, 2007 - (Plaza de Mulas/Bonete)
-Waking to a beautiful day, we summited Bonete in fine style and in warm weather, though clouds started to brew in the distance. Returning to the Refugio, we celebrated our first Argentina summit with pizza!

-Again visiting the camp doctor, I learned my saturation was 87 and my blood pressure was 130/80. My morale improved, having been more than a little concerned that my body was not handling our ascent well!

-Rick, Mike and I again reworked our itinerary, decided to stay fewer nights high and more nights low.

-A bit of snow in the evening, we saw two avalanches in the distance and heard a third.
Scooter, CP and Mike on the summit of Bonete

January 7, 2007 - (Plaza de Mulas)
-Eating granola on a rock, amidst the cold and wind, clouds swirling in the valley below us, I spent this rest day feeling a bit anxious and rather bored. My style has always been fast and light -- Is this expedition stuff for me?

January 8, 2007 - (Nido de Condores/Manso/Plaza de Mulas)
-In the morning, we did a 5-hour carry to Nido de Condores (18,500 ft.), our high camp on the mountain. Afterward, I headed over to nearby Manso, an 18,000-foot minor peak on the shoulder of Aconcagua. Terrific views!

-Returning to Plaza de Mulas, I started to feel the urge to leave the mountain. Despite the carry and a second warm-up peak, the feeling of boredom was really beginning to weigh on me.

-In camp that evening, we met the first black women (a party of two) to summit the mountain, having just returned. One of the women was hoping to finish her Seven Summits bid with Everest in 2008.

January 9, 2007 - (Plaza de Mulas)
-We spent our last rest day before moving up to Nido de Condores lazing around. Eventually heading to the Refugio to call home, I found the phone out of order. I played on the internet for a bit, then goofed off in front of the webcam for an hour.

-I decided to visit the camp doctor again. My blood saturation was 85, my blood pressure was 130/80.

January 10, 2007 - (Plaza de Mulas/Nido de Condores)
-Sleeping very well, I woke and casually started my move up to Nido de Condores. Arriving at about 2:30 p.m., I found it cold, windy and lonely as hell.
Plaza de Mulas, our home for a week

January 11, 2007 - (Nido de Condores/Plaza de Mulas)
-Rendered sleepless by hurricane-force winds all night, sunrise found me with a pounding headache and a complete lack of enthusiasm for the mountain. Not one to waste my time on something I wasn't enjoying, I told Rick, my tentmate, that I'd had enough and was heading down.
-Stumbling back into Plaza de Mulas at 9:45 a.m., I learned that I couldn't get a mule to carry my gear out until the following day. Nothing to do but sleep, and I did -- for 14 straight hours!
Carrying up to Nido de Condores (18,300 feet)

January 12, 2007 - (Plaza de Mulas/Penitentes/Mendoza)
-Rising early, I finished packing up, finished up the mule details, put Tool on my iPod and hiked 15+ miles out to Penitentes. Hitting the pavement, a family gladly accepted my $20 offer to tote me the last two miles to Puenta del Inca, where I'd catch a ride back to Mendoza.

-I enjoyed a steak and soda at a restaurant at Puenta del Inca while waiting for my 6:00 p.m. ride to Nutibara.

January 13, 2007 - (Mendoza)
-Getting a good night's rest, a shower and a shave, I made arrangements to fly home that evening.

-Lunch in the outdoor cafe, steak, eggs, vino, I bought a couple of alpaca rings and some native seed necklaces in an outdoor market.

January 14, 2007 - (U.S.)
-Five airports; 29 hours – I arrive back in Las Vegas. the days that followed, Scooter, Rick and Mike summited Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the world outside of Asia. Congrats! Job well done!
Mike and Rick on the summit

Photos courtesy of Rick Kent