Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ryan, Hazel, Karin and out guide Chris on the way to C1 with big smiles and lots of energy. I think it is round about here that Ryan lost one of his poles.

Thank you to everyone at Mountain Trip that contributed to a fantastic experience in Argentina!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Back in Mendoza and on their way home!

Sorry for the delay in posting, but the holiday sort of interfered...

Everyone is off the mountain, and Ryan and Hazel are in the air, flying home. Karin and Chris will tour a couple of vineyards tomorrow and might bring home some nice bottles of Malbec.

I'd like to thank everyone for their comments and for supporting the climbers. We had a lot of fun with this and hope you enjoyed the posts. I'm heading to Mendoza in a few days, and might open this blog up to the climbers, so they can post their thoughts and photos. We've never done this before, but it might be fun.

Have a safe, happy and fulfilling New Year.


Monday, December 29, 2008

In Base Camp

The team called from the Plaza de Mulas Base Camp to say that they all made it down safe and sound. They, once again, made very good time, descending in about 4 hours. This is a tough day, and packs are the heaviest of the trip, but when I asked Chris how everyone managed, he said no one complained about their pack weight.

They had a nice dinner and are all heading to bed. Tomorrow is a nice warm-down hike of about 18 miles with light daypacks. It is really nice to be able to contrast the Horcones Valley that they will hike down tomorrow with the Vacas Valley which they hiked up a couple of weeks ago, as the two are very different. The Base Camps are different as well, with Plaza de mulas resembling a bustling city complete with taverns and a hotel located across the valley.

We had another guide call in who had driven the road from Chile to Mendoza today. He said the upper mountain was completely shrouded in clouds. Chris reported that they descended out of the snow level at about 17,000 feet. Good timing crew!

Packing up and heading down

The team is beginning their descent down to Plaza de Mulas, almost 6,000 feet below. Everyone seems to have recovered from their hard day climbing high yesterday. Though the trail goes downhill, their packs are heavy today, and the recent snowfall will necessitate careful footing.

It snowed more last night, and today the sky and upper mountain are shrouded with clouds, but the teams who had been roughly parallel our climbers are feeling the need to head to the summit. One team is attempting to summit from Helicopter Camp, in a display of ...interesting decision making...

Everyone is feeling pretty good, and will feel better with each step downward. By the time they walk into the Plaza de Mulas Base Camp, the air at 14,300 will feel as thick as syrup. A fine steak dinner prepared by our local logistical outfitter will taste pretty good after a grueling day hiking downhill. I suspect there might be a well-deserved cold beverage or two consumed as well.

Congratulations to each and every one of the climbers. We're proud of you for doing so well and doing your best at every step of the way. That is the true reward of climbing big mountains. Finding that place within yourself where you can go to in order to keep digging deeper than we ever are required to dig during our "normal" lives.

I will post one more post tomorrow, after the team has reached the trailhead and connects with a van to take them back to Mendoza. When Chris and the team return to civilization and can get me photos from the expedition, I will post a number of images from the climb.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The team is back at High Camp

Chris just called to say that everyone is back at High Camp. Ryan, Hazel and Chris all reached the summit. Karin began having some vision difficulties at about 22,000 feet, so she waited for the rest of the team in a sheltered alcove while they went up to the top. Everyone did great, and while we wish everyone had stood together up top, it is important to make conservative decisions at that high an altitude, and everyone is to be highly commended for being one of only a couple of teams to even go for the summit today.

The crew left High Camp for the summit later than planned, as the weather did not allow for an early start. Summit day on Aconcagua is a long one, and the climbers were treated to the experience of descending the long traverse above the west face at sunset. the waning sunlight bathed the team in hues of orange and red, as the snow reflected the evening light. Apparently it was a pretty magical experience.

Chris has the stoves burning ans water heating, so everyone will eat as much as they can (you aren't always too hungry after a summit day) and get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow is a fairly grueling day of descending 6,000 feet to the west side base Camp at Plaza de Mulas. Steak dinner and the ability to sit at a chair are added incentive for the crew to make the long descent.

Congratulations to everyone for a great effort and for working as hard as they could to make this a great day in the mountains.

On their way to the SUMMIT!

Chris called from the base of the Canaleta to say that they are on their way to the top!

The team awoke this morning to high winds and snow, but as they prepared and ate breakfast, conditions improved. By 10 a.m., Chris had a good feeling that, even though plumes of snow were still streaming off the summit, the trend was improving, so everyone in our group packed up and started up hill. They were the only team to head to the top from their high camp, and have only seen two other climbers on their way up.

They put their crampons on at the ruined Independencia Hut and this has proven to be helpful, as they have encountered snow patches regularly and there is snow in the Canaleta.

Hopefully we will get a call from the summit in a few hours.


I have to run out of the office for a bit, and will not be able to post for the next 4-5 hours. Please understand that i'm not keeping you in suspense, but it is Sunday and my kids want to go skiing. I will receive phone calls from Chris on my cell, so there is a good safety network, but I won't have my computer on the ski slopes.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

La Escoba De Dios

It goes by different names, El Viento Blanco (The White Wind), La Escoba De Dios (The Broom Of God), and by several rather more... street names. The notorious winds of Aconcagua picked up in earnest last night. 50 mph gusts buffeted the tents throughout the night and have only just begun to taper off.

There was no decision to make this morning, as huge plumes of snow and crystallized moisture streamed off the summit in a 2 mile long illustration of the potential fury of big mountains. Everyone is sitting tight, waiting for the weather to improve. The good side of all this is that everyone can benefit from an additional day of acclimatizing, which should help tremendously on summit day.

They won't be heading high today, but hopefully I can post an update tomorrow after receiving a call from the top.

Best of luck to everyone up there. Expeditions are tough on multiple levels, and weather days at 20,000 feet are challenging. Let's all send our warmest wishes and good energy to the team so they can persevere a bit longer and give their best if the winds die tomorrow.