Aconcagua Trip Report (#22416)

  • Signed By: Sven Bugarski
  • Date submitted: September 29, 2013
  • Date(s) climbed: 11 February 2005
  • Number of People Encountered:50+ people
  • Recommend to a Friend: Highly

Before going to Aconcagua, I have had the idea to go there "one day" for quite a while till finally a year before my climb I made the decision to try it. One problem was to find a climbing partner, because in those days I did not have the financial means to do the tour in a guided and organized trip.

I made up a schedule and posted on two mountain webpages my plan and the request to find a climbing partner. Several people answered, but only two of them were determined enough to do it and met me in person. The first one changed his mind after our meeting, but the second one agreed. We both felt that we could do it together both in terms of sympathy and experience.

We met in Mendoza in the end of January 2005, got our permit, some ramaining equipment and took a bus to the foot of the mountain near Puente del Inca.

In the 1-2 weeks before our first climbing day, there was terrible weather in large parts of Argentina including Aconcagua. We met a large and well-experienced group from the Czech Republic, who told us horror stories from their attempt to reach Aconcagua summit. According to some of the guys, the temperature had tropped to below -30°C, with snow fall and heavy winds on the upper slopes. None of them had reached the summit and several of the group had frost bite.

While we knew that the weather had recently improved, we still feared that conditions might be tough on the uppermost slopes. But they weren't. We were 13 days on the mountain and had 13 days of sunshine and blue sky. The wind was tolerable, only night-time temperatures seemed to us lower than usual.

In a very structured and well-planned way, we ascended carefully to get the best acclimatization possible. This included sleeping for several nights on certain altitudes and going up and down again to sleep lower than the highest achieved altitude of the day.

In between we felt the symptoms of the high altitude sickness, but were generally fine. The symptoms always disappeared after 1-2 days, telling us that we were adapted to the height and can go further up.

On our way up we met many very friendly people to chat with, to share experience and in some cases also to share food, shelter and equipment. We heard success stories as well as failures. According to some rough statistics of all the people we met, only around one third of all attempting the summit made it. One guy had died during our period on the mountain and several climbers got severe high altitude sickness - the worst being one brain edema and two lung edemas.

Our toughest day was for sure the summit day. We started at 5am from Camp Berlin (around 6000m) and encountered at around 8am such a heavy wind and cold temperatures that we nearly completely lost feeling in our fingers and toes although we had very good gloves and shoes. We agreed that we would have to descend, if conditions would not improve. Fortunately the conditions improved significantly and the wind chill temperature of below -40°C went up to -5°C with sunshine, blue sky and no wind in the summit area. Before the last steep ascent, we were very exhausted, felt weak and a little dizzy. In one part of the last steep section (known as "Canaleta") there was rock fall and one football sized rock hit my friend at the shoulder. The result was a huge blue mark and pain, but no serious damage. We continued and made it to the top of Aconcagua in the afternoon around 3:30pm.

We were very proud to stand on the highest point of South America, nearly 7000m high! We made some photos and enjoyed the fantastic views. After 15 minutes of joy and excitement the fatigue came back and we started the descent. While the ascent to the summit was extremely strenuous, the descent was fairly quick.

When we arrived to Camp Berlin, some Argentinians we had made friends with greeted us and asked us with excited voices whether we had reached the summit. I was so exhausted that I just said "yes", went straight to my tent, opened it, took of my shoes and slept until the next morning. It was the deepest and best sleep in days and I felt nearly completely refreshed the next morning. Ready to descent and get into the civilized world again.

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