Greetings from Mendoza, Argentina!! We are happy to report that our latest expedition to Aconcagua was another great success! On January 11, 2011 nine members of our team stepped out onto the highest point in the world outside of the Asian continent. We want to offer a big congratulations to Brandon Bowser, Andrew Good, Jason Lund, Phil Murphy, Rebecca Radcliffe, and Jon Schumacker along with SMI guides Lindsay Fixmer, April Mayhew, and Kurt Wedberg.
After last updating our progress from Camp 1 many events took place. Among other things the battery on our satellite phone went dead preventing us from making subsequent updates. Thank you to everybody who kept us in their thoughts and prayers during this time even though we didn’t get a chance to continue updating this blog.
After acclimatizing at Camp 1 our team packed up to move to Camp 2 at 19,127 feet on January 9. The weather made several dramatic changes on this day starting off windy, then turning sunny, then it settled on producing a snow storm that remained with us the rest of the day and evening. The team rose to the occasion and did an excellent job of staying focused with the task at hand. We moved from Camp 1 to Camp 2 in a very respectable 4 hours 45 minutes. We then pulled together and got everybody’s tents set up while battling winds of over 40 mph and snow blowing constantly sideways while we worked. The team cleared spaces for tents then settled in laying out sleeping bags and pads plus organizing their gear. Everything needed to be anchored securely or brought safely inside tents to avoid anything getting blown away by wind or covered in fresh snow. Meanwhile SMI guides Lindsay, April, and Chris prepared hot water and dinner for the crew. We served hot drinks and dinner in team member’s tents so they could eat and drink in relative comfort.
During the middle of the night winds finally subsided and on January 10 we woke to clear skies and snow drifts of over 1 foot that had blown in and around rocks and tents while leaving other areas completely scoured. The team remained strong and healthy in spite of a few headaches during the night, which is not uncommon for somebody’s first night sleeping at this elevation. We took a leisurely morning organizing our camp and personal gear while taking the time to hydrate and continue eating food, which is the fuel that will power us up on our summit attempt. In the afternoon the team took a walk out on the Polish Glacier. We took the time to give our gear a final tune up including examining the fit on crampons and climbing harnesses while t aking a walk to the “Edge of the World”. Mid afternoon we were back at camp making final preparations for our summit attempt. The weather was looking promising in spite of snow plumes prevalent on the high flanks of Aconcagua. The plumes would indicate gusty high winds above but the guides believed the weather trend was moving in the right direction so the decision was made to prepare to go and if they deemed conditions less than favorable lead guide Kurt Wedberg would make the decision to postpone the summit attempt the following morning.
During the night Kurt poked his head out of the tent to examine the weather and seeing conditions looking favorable decided the summit attempt was a “go”. The guides prepared hot water and breakfast for the team. Donning crampons on our boots and ice axes in our hands we began the steadily and methodically pacing as a team from our high camp en route for the summit. A slight breeze was present but visibility was completely clear. A dramatic colorful sunrise offered a beautiful backdrop to our climb. Taking breaks at regular intervals as we moved increasingly higher on the mountain as the weather remained stable allowing the team to keep making progress higher on the mountain. By early afternoon the team found itself at “The Cave” at 22,000′ taking a break looking up at the final 841′ that leads up “The Canaletta” to the summit of Aconcagua. After refueling ourselves we set out up the 25-30 degree chute that will bring us to the summit. The Canaletta was full of fresh snow that allowed for some of the finest conditions we’ve seen for climbing in recent memory. The snow resembled styrofoam allowing our crampons to gain excellent traction offering us excellent footwork and pacing. In the thin air at 22,000’+ we were taking 4 breaths for each step we took uphill. Finally at just after 4 pm there was no higher point to climb as the team stepped out onto the highest point in South America.
A few pictures are below. The entire photo gallery can be found here: Aconcagua January 2011
Congratulations to the entire Last Well team, Kurt and the Aconcagua climbing crew from SMI! Well done everyone.