The snow was blowing sideways as the temperature flirted with 10 F. The drifts were small but the ground was covered with a lite blanket of white. I stepped gingerly outside my protection to find it icy and dangerous. With that I scurried back into the garage and into the car for the drive to the airport. No I was not on the mountain but at home.
As Cathy and I navigated the slick roads of Colorado, I was concerned about making my flight but I was more worried about her driving back home in the worsening conditions. But everything turned out fine and I am on my way to Argentina. I am at stop 1 of 3 on my way to Mendoza.
Cerro Aconcagua, 22,834' (6,959 meters) is the highest mountain outside the Himalayas and obviously in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres. Its name probably came from the Inca word "Ackon Cahuak" which means "Stone Sentinel." Aconcagua does not lie in the actual Andes, but in the heart of the Chilean-Argentine Central Andes, at a latitude of 32 degrees 40 minutes South.
Aconcagua was first climbed in 1897, up the Northwest side of the mountain by Swiss mountain guide Matthias Zurbriggen. This route is now the most popular way to climb the mountain, and is known as the "Ruta Normal" or Normal Route. Most routes are not technical in nature but the extreme altitude, severe winds, and cold temperatures are the primary issues.
I will not be on the normal route but on the Polish Traverse. In 1934, this route was established by a Polish team who approached the mountain up the Vacas and Relinchos Valleys to Plaza Argentina, and summitted via what is, known today as the Polish Glacier. The Traverse follows this approach but joins with the normal route to the summit.
About 4,500 climbers attempt the summit each year. The success rate is only about 30% mostly because climbers underestimate the climb and conditions given it is 'only' 23,000!
Our team will meet in Mendoza, a Napa Valley styled city with vineyards and winery's all around. Next we will take a mini-bus to Penetentes - basically a ski resort at 8,500'- but remember it is summer down here so there is no skiing. After a rest day we will begin the trek to the 13,800' Base Camp via the Vacas Valley. There are three camps in the Valley and we will get our first view of Aconcagua from the third camp. I saw Aconcagua from here the first time in 2005 and was shocked at how big it was!
Next we climb to the 13,800 camp and take a rest day. Over the next four to six days we establish three more camps with the high camp being the launch point for the summit bid. The summit bid is an 18 hour day - again not technical but can be dangerous with altitude, wind and harsh temperatures.
So, I will be gone on New Year's day - not Christmas or a Birthday or Anniversary but still gone on a holiday. Three weeks away from home. Snow falling, driveways needing to be shoveled. Yes, Cathy is a Saint. And we all know this is more than just climbing a Hill.
I am excited about this climb for that reason - the training and fitness and bonding with Ryan for the Everest climb.
I will be posting mostly audio dispatches since data is difficult and expensive with Iridium. But I will be taking high quality pictures with my Canon G7 and will post them plus some videos when I get home. Everest will be the normal full dispatches. Pictures from my 2005 climb can be found here.
Thanks as always for your support and positive energy.
This is Alan