Month: December 2010

Aconcagua Expedition #2 Is Ready to Go!!

After our successful climb of Aconcagua in December we have recovered and are now geared up for our second expedition for this season.  SMI guides Kurt Wedberg and April Mayhew from Aconcagua #1 will be joined  Chris Werner and Lindsay Fixmer to lead a very special group when we meet up in Mendoza as a group on December 28.

The members of this next expedition are a group of 11 motivated individuals from The Last Well.  This Washington DC based organization is dedicated to bringing clean water to the people of Liberia and beyond.  Why is this so important?




Yes you read those statistics correctly.  Pastor Todd Phillips of Mclean Bible Church in Washington DC saw those statistics too.  He decided to do something about it and The Last Well was formed.  The almost 4 million citizens of the country of Liberia have been hard hit by the lack of clean drinking water.  The mission of The Last Well is to build water wells throughout Liberia so every citizen has access to clean drinking water so vital for healthy living.  They are currently about half way through with this project and they don’t plan on stopping until “The Last Well” is built.

The Last Well first came to SMI in the spring of 2008 with a group of climbers and through a climb of Mt. Whitney (14,508′, 4422m) raised money and awareness for their cause.  They have since been to Kilimanjaro and are now ready to tackle the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere to raise more money and awareness for this very worthy cause.  These 11 motivated individuals have raised over $100,000 for The Last Well from this climb alone!!

We invite you all to follow our progress through this blog, with your positive energy, and prayers of support.  Feel free to explore the links above to learn more about this worthy cause and the people behind it.  If you feel led to get involved with The Last Well there is information on their web page about how to do so.

The climbing team with SMI guide Kurt Wedberg at a gala fundraiser in Washington DC for The Last Well in October.

Pastor Todd Phillips speaking at the October gala fundraiser for The Last Well.

Kurt Wedberg inspecting the expedition's dining/kitchen tent.

This Mountain Hardwear 18' dome tent will serve as a comfortable place for the team to eat meals and enjoy team fellowship on our way into Base Camp.

SMI guide April Mayhew just stood on the summit of Aconcagua on December 15 and is psyched and ready to go again.

SMI guide Chris Werner at 15,000' on Aconcagua January 2010.

SMI guides Kurt Wedberg and April Mayhew at 19,300' on Aconcagua Dec 14, 2010.

Aconcagua December 2010 Wrap Up

Our first of two Aconcagua expeditions is now successfully in the books.

We want to give a big congratulations to team members Ralph Drollinger, Fred Simmons, and Bill Simon for a job well done on this expedition.  Congratulations to Bill and Fred to reaching the highest point in the Western Hemisphere and to SMI guide April Mayhew for her first summit of Aconcagua!!  Well done everybody!!

Thanks to everybody for following along with us.  All your prayers and positive energy could be felt from high on Aconcagua located deep in the Andes.

The photo album is now completed with 1627 photo for your viewing pleasure.  You can view it here:  Aconcagua December 2010

Below are some photos from this memorable journey.  The entire photo album can be viewed at the link above.

The team at the trailhead psyched and ready to begin. From left to right: Bill, April, Ralph, Fred, Kurt

Fred, Ralph, and April enjoying the hiking on day 1.

Ralph, Bill, Fred, and April pause for a photo. Pleasant temperatures made for an enjoyable walk up the Vacas Valley.

Fred and Bill in the kitchen tent enjoying a laugh during breakfast of day 2.

Bill on the crossing of the Vacas River on day 2.

April on the bridge crossing the Vacas River.

April has all the team's attention for some instruction on day 2.

Mules with our loads passing us by on day 2. Mules hauled all our gear into Base Camp.

The team gets their first look at Aconcagua near camp on day 2.

Bill psyched up for the icy glacial fed river crossing at 7:30 AM on day 3.

Fred, Bill, and April ascending the Relinchos Valley on day 3.

Ralph crossing the Relinchos River on day 3.

The team celebrating getting to 13,000' on the way to Base Camp.

April and Kurt at 13,000 feet approaching Base Camp.

Kurt, April, Ralph, and Bill arriving at Base Camp at 13,747', 4200m

April serving up bacon cheeseburgers at Base Camp. Yum!!

First acclimatization hike above Base Camp.

April straddling a crack on the glacial moraine.

Icy lakes on the glacial moraine

Bill, Ralph, and Fred next to an icy lake on the glacial moraine at 15,000'.

Fred and Ralph at a rest break on the glacial moraine near 15,000 feet. Aconcagua looms high above.

The team on the glacial moraine with Aconcagua behind.

Bill and Ralph psyching each other up for the climb to Camp 1.

Bill looking strong and happy at 16,000 feet on the way to Camp 1

Ralph, Fred, and April at 16,000' heading towards Camp 1.

Ralph, Bill, and Fred near Camp 1.

Bill flanked by Fred, Ralph, and April at 16,400' cresting the hill to Camp 1.

Team photo at Camp 1 at 16,700'.

April cooking dinner at Camp 1.

The team at a rest break at 17,500' on the route to Camp 2.

April setting the pace for Fred and Bill at 18,300' en route to Camp 2.

April feeling great at 18,500' en route to Camp 2.

Bill and Fred happily settled in to Camp 2.

April at Camp 2 getting ready for our summit bid the following day.

Bill and Fred sporting their alma mater at Camp 2, 19127' on Aconcagua.

April, Bill, Fred, and Kurt enjoying the prep day for the summit bid tomorrow.

The team on a short "tune up" walk to test equipment in preparation for our summit bid.

Bill and Fred at "The Edge of the World" near Camp 2.

Kurt and April at "The Edge of the World" near Camp 2.

Summit day has arrived!! Bill and Fred gearing up at camp.

Bill on summit day 6:30 AM.

The sun rising over the Andes provided a breathtaking backdrop to our climb.

Bill at 20,500' on summit day!!

Fred, Bill, and April at 21,000+ feet on summit day. A slight dusting of new snow fell the night before and added a beautiful decoration to the landscape during our climb.

Fred at 21,500'

Fred at 21,500'.

Looking up at our route from 21,600'

Bill at 22,400'. With only 481' to go the air was so thin we were taking 4-6 deep breaths for each step we took up hill.

22,770'... less that 100' to go to the summit!!

Fred taking the final stops onto the summit of Aconcagua with Bill close behind!!

Bill topping out on the summit of Aconcagua!!

A picture's worth a thousand words. April's smile as she reached the summit says it all!!

Team summit photo. Well done everybody!!

Kurt and April celebrating an elated and emotional moment on the summit.

Merry Christmas to all from the top of Aconcagua (22,841', 6962m)!!

First Aconcagua Summit Photos!!

Greetings everybody!!

We reached the summit of Aconcagua (22,841′, 6962m) on December 15, 2010.  We were blessed with wonderful weather for climbing.  Winds were light and the sun remained uninhibited by clouds above.  As the afternoon progressed clouds gathered below giving us a feeling of being on top of the world.  We were in fact on the summit of highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere!!

Pictures are currently being uploaded to the SMI photo gallery web site.  We should have all of them organized within a couple days.  Below is a sneak preview of the photo gallery featuring a few summit photos of the team.  We will post a note when all the photos are ready to be viewed.  You are welcome to follow progress here:  Aconcagua December 2010

A big congratulations on a job well done are in order to Fred Simmons, Bill Simon, and April Mayhew.

Way to go!!!

Fred Simmons taking the final steps to the summit of Aconcagua. Bill Simon is shortly behind.

Bill Simon stepping on to the summit of Aconcagua.

SMI guide April Mayhew is all smiles upon reaching the summit of Aconcagua.

Team summit photo. Front row left to right Bill Simon and Fred Simmons. Back row SMI guides Kurt Wedberg and April Mayhew.

Aconcagua, December 11

Upon arrival at camp one Dec 8 three days ago we got settled in and the next day took a hike to 17050 feet and it was a successful acclimatization hike.

That evening the winds picked up in a big way and our tents were hit by gusts up to 80 miles an hour

This wind storm has continued unabated ever since.

Last night and this morning we had wind gusts that pushed a hundred miles an hour.

When we arrived at camp one on Dec 8, I calibrated my Suunto Core altimeter watch to 16700 feet it has since risen over two hundred feet and this morning it was reading 16965 feet. This would indicate a substantial drop in barometric pressure.  The good news is, the team remains in great spirits and we are using this opportunity to acclimatize while remaining strong and healthy in anticipation of more favorable climbing weather to come.

We received a weather forecast calling for drastically reduced winds as soon as tomorrow. Assuming this is the case we anticipate moving up to camp two sometime in the next couple of days and preparing for a summit attempt soon after.

Thanks  to everybody at home for your prayers and positive thoughts, we can feel the love all the way here at 16700 feet on Aconcagua.

Aconcagua, December 9

The team made it to camp one on Tuesday Dec 8 at 16700 feet.

We set up tents and settled into camp and everybody was feeling great at dinner that night.

Today, we woke up and took a acclimatization day hike to 17700 feet.

Everybody on the team did an excellent job and everybody is acclimating very well.

This hike put us in position for our next move, which will be to carry loads to camp 2 at 19127 feet.

If weather remains good we anticipate sleeping at camp two some time in the next two to three days.

We will assess a summit attempt after that.

Currently we are back at camp one after our acclimatization day hike and April is preparing a cheese tortellini dinner for the team.

Thanks to every body at home for all your support and we will check in again sometime soon.

Camp 1

Aconcagua, December 7

The team left the Vacas valley trailhead on Dec 2 and had a beautiful 3 day hike into Aconcagua base camp at 13,747 feet

On Dec 5th we rested and acclimated and on Dec 6 we took our first acclimation day hike to 15300 feet.

Dec 7th we carried loads to camp 1 at 16,700 feet

Tomorrow our plan is to move up and sleep at camp 1.

Everybody on the team is doing great we miss everyone at home. Bill Fred and Ralph say hello to their spouses Cindy Olga and Danielle

Thanks you everybody for your thoughts and prayers

We will update again in a couple days.

The team will venture up the Vacas Valley for the next two days. The Vacas River is a glacier fed river that has its origins at 18,000+ feet on the flanks of Aconcagua.

Our trail sometimes goes right next to the river and sometimes climbs above it offering pretty views of the winding Vacas River below. The color of the river is made from silt that comes from the glacier where the river begins.

The lower part of the Vacas Valley is decorated with many pretty wildflowers along our trail.

The mules arriving at Camp 1.

Aconcagua, December 1

This morning the team had breakfast then packed up and drove from Mendoza to the resort village of Los Penitentes located at 8465’ / 2580m.  The drive took approximately three hours.  Upon arrival we spent the afternoon organizing all our food and equipment for the trek into Base Camp.  The trek will take three days to reach Base Camp at 13,747’/4200m.  Our equipment needed to be packed into loads to be carried by mules onto the mountain.

After finishing all our organization and packing we had some time to relax before having dinner.  The team enjoyed a nice pizza and salad dinner.

After all the planning and preparation leading up to this trip the time has come to start our climb.  We are all psyched and ready to start walking!!

Thanks to everybody for at home for your prayers and support.  We will try to update this blog when we can.

A couple pictures from today are below.

The team loaded up and ready for the drive from Mendoza to the resort village of Los Penitentes at the base of Aconcagua.

Los Penitentes

The team in Los Penitentes

Ralph, Bill, and April in the midst of organizing our gear for the mountain. All our equipment needs to be divided into loads that will be carried by mules for the 3-day trip to Base Camp

Bill and April discussing final load preparations.

Ralph loading barrels with our food and equipment that will be carried by mules into Base Camp.

All our loads are carefully packed so each piece weighs between 20-30 kilos.

The teams equipment and food for the next 2+ weeks on Aconcagua packed and ready to go!!

With all our gear packed the team enjoys a nice meal of pizza and salad.